The Importance of Networking
You can add value to your products and your image by becoming a member of an organization that shares your company’s values. These groups offer great support in the form of informal mentoring, newsletters with industry information, special advertising and shipping rates, access to editorial coverage for magazines, etc. At the same time, you can contribute to the Fair Trade movement by participating in events organized by these 3rd party organizations or members within the organizations. Many of these events also involve the participation of potential customers, which you should always try to network with.
There are several ways to connect with like-minded customers and other businesses like yours. The first thing you should do is join an organization that unites businesses with the same values and commitments as yours. If you are in North America, you can join the Fair Trade Federation, regardless of whether you market crafts or agricultural products. This trade association brings together companies fully committed to Fair Trade practices. If you want to get your produce or food products certified, then you should look into Fair Trade Certification from TransFair USA. You also have the option of joining the World Fair Trade Organization, formerly known as IFAT. Even though this is more expensive, becoming a member of this organization can help you gain global recognition. Finally, Green America (formerly known as Coop America) also brings together people interested in sustainability. Many members of the Fair Trade Federation also belong to Green America, since the values of both organizations are very similar.
NOTE: FTF, TransFair USA, Green America and many other organizations hold annual conferences. These events present great opportunities to network with other businesses like yours.
If you are a retailer, it is advisable to connect with your local community. By attending green fairs, sustainability fairs and fair trade fairs organized in your town or city, people will start seeing your business as a responsible and caring one. These events are usually organized by people who want to promote the green or fair trade movements. Students and places of worship are big promoters of fair trade, and therefore great allies for any retail shop.
If you are a wholesaler, you should try to get exposure to retailers. Most of the year you will be mailing catalogs or calling people, but the bulk of your sales can come from trade shows. The New York International Gift Fair will provide you with one of the biggest opportunities to network with retailers. Other big shows, depending on your industry, include: the California Gift Show, the San Francisco International Gift Fair, and the National Stationery Show.