Handmade Expressions is made up of 2 teams. One team is located in Austin, TX, and is in charge of product design, web control, shipments, sales, marketing, and operations. The other team is located in India and is in charge of artisan relations, production, quality control, and most importantly, upholding Fair Trade practices. Because of our two international teams, Handmade Expressions is proudly classified as a true global company.
This section will help you learn more about the team members who work toward better Fair Trade sourcing solutions.
US Team | Austin, Texas
Manish Gupta | Founder
Avid leader, motivator and eco-freak.
Loves the outdoors and staying in tune with spiritual practices.
After completing his undergraduate Engineering degree in India, Manish attended the University of Michigan in 2003 to complete a graduate program in Operations Management. Shortly after this completion, Manish moved to Austin for a position as Operations Manager at a technology company. In 2005, he came across the concept of Fair Trade and began to learn more about its business model. When he took some time to travel in India, he began to notice the challenges artisans faced and the impact it created on their social well being and long term development. Shortly after, Manish founded Handmade Expressions from his one bedroom apartment. He continued his pursuit to build a fair trade company and learned sales, marketing and product merchandizing skills along the way. Every following year, Manish would return to India to meet and discover new artisan groups. What started off as just one man has evolved into a team of experts in both India and the United States. Now, Manish’s main areas of focus are overall business development, building a strong and motivated team that work together to fulfill the Handmade Expressions mission and spreading awareness supporting sustainable practices.
Manish believes that responsible trade is a powerful tool and can build a sustainable planet for our global community. “Every artisan visit is more inspiring than the previous. Seeing the resilience of people in difficult conditions is inspiring. Seeing the impact of our work and the meaningful changes it brings to the lives of so many people keeps me motivated.” says Manish about his trips to artisan communities to India. Taking time from his busy schedule, Manish mentors others who share his aspirations and provides the knowledge he has gained throughout his journey. Manish has served on the Board of Directors for Fair Trade Federation for 4 years and is actively engaged in discussions all round the country focused on sustainable products. Along with Manish’s dedication to responsible global trade, he believes in healthy and sustainable living in his personal life and is a strong supporter for his local community and an active volunteer.
Ruchi Agrawal | Lead Designer
A lover of adventure, being outdoors and embracing different cultures. Always
looking to learn something new, whether its a new artform or a new language.
Ruchi graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi, India, where she won project awards for her school work. Ruchi continued to work in India as a designer for labels such as Mango, Zara and Guru before moving to the U.S. to work as Lead Designer for Handmade Expressions. Now, Ruchi is responsible for overall product design, understanding the skills and challenges of partner artisan groups and developing constructive solutions and successful products for the market. Bridging the gap between market trends and artisan capability is a key aspect of Handmade Expressions’ mission to create sustainable employment for marginalized artisans. Ruchi’s innovative thought process and design skills have won awards for Handmade Expressions for Product Design and Trade Show Booth layouts.
Ruchi’s passion for cradle-to-cradle approach is evident not only in her professional approach to creating solutions but also in her personal life. She’s motivated to live her life sustainably and is passionate about finding new solutions to reducing waste for the benefit of people and the planet. Ruchi’s frequent visits to India and other countries like Guatamala, where she sees prevalent poverty, drive her to always do her best to correct these issues through her work at Handmade Expressions.
Jessica Otwell | Senior Designer
Jessica Otwell has been in the Industrial Design profession for over 12 years. Prior to joining the team at Handmade Expressions, she designed product collections for Southern Living at Home, Willow House, Saks Incorporated, Martha Stewart Everyday and Wal-mart (just to name a few). As Senior Designer at Handmade Expressions, Jessica is responsible for synthesizing trend data, evaluating artisan resources and market demands in order to design and introduce new, relevant products for wholesale catalog collection and for private label customers
Talented photographer with an obsession for home interiors
and enjoying the outdoors. Loving mother and wife.
Jessica’s travels to places such as South Africa, ZImbabwe and Botswana have offered new appreciations for wildlife and the spirit of people even in hardship. She aspires to keep the planet healthy and happy for her daughter’s generation and beyond. She also believes that fair business practices and sustainable growth are key to positive economic development.
Nicolette Perez | Assistant Product Designer
Well rounded artist who enjoys various types of art and design including:
photography, graphic design, painting, and exploring new art forms and crafts.
Nicolette Perez is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a Bacherlor’s Degree in Fine Arts - Design. While earning her degree, Nicolette gained internships with companies such as The Butler Bros, Blue Genie Art Industries, and Arthouse at the Jones Center gaining knowledge in several areas of design. As Assistant Product Designer with Handmade Expressions, Nicolette works closely with the Senior Designer on product design while also managing resources, maintaining quality checks and ensuring effective communication with all departments.
Nicolette spent time in Milan as part of a study abroad program to study architecture, product design and furniture design. Being in the design center of the world was an eye-opening experience that fueled her desire to continuously be more creative and curious towards new ideas and forms. Nicolette is encouraged by the increased amount of people who want to make efforts towards taking care of our planet. She feels good being a part of an effort that is taking responsibility in this positive shift.
Aileen Hagert | Business Development Manager
Serious about soccer, work and travel. Energetic spirit with a "go for it" attitude.
Aileen Hagert has been involved with Marketing and Brand Management for over 12 years. After getting her MBA in Marketing from the Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison, Aileen joined the big leagues, working for companies such as: Tyson Foods, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft Foods, Spectrum Brands and HEB. Through her extensive experience, Aileen has become an expert at analyzing data, managing brands and creating products. Now, as Brand Development Manager at Handmade Expressions, Aileen, who is affectionately known as "the Sheppard"is responsible for the introduction and implementation of the business fundamentals. Plenty of strategy and number crunching go into Aileen's efforts.
Aileen has spent her life traveling to over 36 countries and counting. Her inspiration not only comes from where she has been but also from here day to day surroundings. She chose to switch gears and work in the Fair Trade industry because of the rewarding feeling that comes with it. She loves and respects the fact that her day to day life is working towards positively impacting other people's lives. She is passionate about leveraging her education and professional experience to enable others to achieve the same.
Katharine Harlow | Sales Associate
As fashionable as she is sweet, Katharine can always
be found with a big smile on her face. Loves tennis and reading.
Katharine Harlow graduated from Texas Tech University in 2008 with a degree in International Studies. After spending some time teaching English in Korea and exploring new cultures, Katharine moved to Austin to work for Handmade Expressions as Sales Associate. Now, Katharine is the main source of managing incoming orders and communicating with our partners each day. She is passionate about helping others and enjoys attending Trade Shows and meeting many of our partners in person that she regularly speaks to throughout the year.
Katharine has always been passionate about traveling and learning about new cultures. She has gained an appreciation for other cultures through her travels to Korea as well as other countries and seen the lack of fair employment that existed. Knowing that the work she accomplishes everyday is working to improve the well being of others makes Katharine feel blessed.
Nisha Bhatt | Sales Associate
Light hearted and spirited with a fun British accent. Loves to watch movies, cook
and participate within the Buddhist community towards peace, culture and education.
After graduating from Middlesex University in London with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Nisha moved to Austin with her native Texan husband. She found Austin to be a very forward thinking city and began learning more about sustainability through the community. After gaining extensive experience in counseling roles, marketing and social/environmental auditing with a focus on fair trade, Nisha joined Handmade Expressions as Sales Associate. As Sales Associate, Nisha provides excellent customer support as well as growth and development for the company - which in turn contributes towards capacity building for partner artisans.
Nisha's travels to India and border towns with Austin Tan Cerca motivated her to help end poverty through empowerment. Everyday Nisha strives to improve upon her actions and wants to live a life which positively impacts people and the planet. Nisha is an active committee member of Fair Trade Towns as well as a leader with SGI-USA Buddhist organization and Keep Austin Beautiful, amongst others.
Michelle Ovalle | Graphic Designer // Marketing Associate
Vibrant personality with a passion for design, photography and crafting.
Loves to travel and practice yoga.
Michelle graduated from Texas State University - San Marcos with a Bachelor's degree in Communication Design in 2008. Directly after, she moved to Sydney, Australia where she worked for ElevenEleven Design Agency, working closely with the director on publication design as well as print material for high-end clients. Upon returning to the States, after 18 months of working and exploring Australia, Michelle worked for Centiv Marketing as Lead Designer in Austin before joining Handmade Expressions. Now, as Marketing Associate, Michelle is responsible for participating in all marketing strategy and planning, photography and creative direction for catalogs, creating marketing processes and maintaining Social Media strategies. Michelle also designs all visual communication pieces.
Growing up in the border town of El Paso, Michelle was exposed to poverty at a young age whenever her family would take trips to Juarez, Mexico. Despite witnessing the hardships women and children faced on a daily basis, she was still able to see their strength, determination, and sense of community. This lasting impression caused Michelle to advocate for fairness and equality in her work. Michelle is also passionate about taking care of our environment and appreciating the nourishment we receive from it without taking it for granted.
Alison Hanson | Sustainability and Production Manager
Devoted, driven and intelligent.
Loves biking, being in nature and practicing yoga.
Alison Hanson is a native Californian with an educational background in economics, anthropology and global studies. Her studies were concentrated on economic development, social inequality and feminist theory. Shortly after graduating from UCLA, Alison moved to Austin and joined Handmade Expressions as a sales associate. After working with the company for 9 months, she carved out and spearheaded a new position as Production and Sustainability Manager. Alison is responsible for communications with Handmade Expressions’ team in India regarding production forecasts, shipments, and product feedback as well as developing a holistic understanding of sustainability and setting strategies for logistics and domestic operations to minimize our environmental impact.
Alison’s travels to the Netherlands, Mexico and most recently to India — to visit Handmade Expressions’ partner artisan communities — have enlightened her to poverty and the challenges people face on a daily basis. You will frequently find Alison performing extensive research and reporting on the efforts in sustainability or creating reports and purchase orders in Excel. She is very active in her local community and volunteers regularly with a variety of organizations in Austin.
Matt Mogyrodi | Operations Supervisor
Humorous and quick-witted. Passionate about UT Football and Soccer.
Matt graduated from the University of Texas - Austin with a degree in Economics and a minor in Business and Finance. Shortly after, Matt joined Handmade Expressions and has been with us since. He has been a part of the company growth, has proved to be reliable and always willing to help out our partners with any questions. Matt is in charge of day to day operations that include shipping, office management, accounting and overlooking all warehouse responsibilities.
Matt believes in fair chances and loves the success stories he has been able to witness with Handmade Expressions over the years. You may find Matt at Trade Shows from time to time and loves engaging with our customers! When Matt isn't hustling in the office, he will likely be supporting a UT Football game (his office is even painted burnt orange), or watching European Soccer!
Tyler Pendergrass | Shipping Associate
Reliable, easy going and has a contagious smile.
Jams out to country music and loves sports
Tyler is a Texas native who has worked for local businesses his whole life, including managing his parent’s store for several years. After his father decided it was time to retire, the store was sold and Tyler landed his position with Handmade Expressions. Tyler is responsible for all major upkeep of the warehouse, including inventory, stocking, packaging and quality control. Tyler also manages all other warehouse employees and provides training when needed.
Tyler feels great about his contribution to fair trade knowing that his work is making a positive impact for others in the world. After noticing the amount of materials that went into packing and shipping orders, Tyler took it upon himself to implement a recycling program for Handmade Expressions. He actively reached out to neighboring companies to collect extra boxes and scraps for use to ship out orders. When Tyler isn’t taking care of business, you can find him enjoying Texas’ natural beauty. He loves spending time at the rivers and playing soccer
SETU - The Bridge to Artisans | Jaipur, India
We have a full-time sourcing and artisan development team located in Jaipur, India called SETU - The Bridge to Artisans. The team oversees product development and logistics, schedules shipments and manages relationships with artisans. They work tirelessly to advance artisan development, including organizational training and community projects.
Rashmi Dhariwal | SETU Founder and CEO
Rashmi graduated with her Bacherlors in Engineering and pursued her career as Head of Technical & Quality Assurance at DCM for 11 years before taking the leap into her career in sustainability. While traveling throughout her home country of India in 2005, Rashmi encountered an artisan community with expertise in hand weaving. She became aware of artisans’ struggles competing with large factories and saw room for economic development and social change.
After leaving her secure job at DCM, Rashmi spent some time with the weaving community to help them design modern products and indentify ways to improve their marketability. These small changes began creating success and confidence for the community. Inspired by this realization of the possibilities for economic sustainability, Rashmi founded SETU – The Bridge to Artisans and partnered with Handmade Expressions. Rashmi envisioned SETU as a bridge between underprivileged artisans and the international market, while also working toward social, economic and environmental well-being of the artisan communities. Now, not only is SETU working closely with over 30 artisan communities on such challenges, but Rashmi also founded a charitable society that implements social welfare projects, spreads education and raises awareness regarding various issues amongst the weaker sections of society.
“With Fair Trade, everyone can make a difference in this world!” Rashmi says about her efforts towards a more sustainable future.