2009.07.02: July 2, 2009: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Small Business: Artisans: Fair Trade: Asheville Citizen-Times: Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : Peace Corps Ecuador: Newest Stories: 2009.07.02: July 2, 2009: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Small Business: Artisans: Fair Trade: Asheville Citizen-Times: Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures

By Admin1 (admin) (98.188.147.225) on Sunday, July 26, 2009 - 9:00 pm: Edit Post

Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures

Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures

Shepherd can often be seen near the Flat Iron sculpture on Wall Street with his pushcart stocked with ivory-colored figures and children's clothes. Each piece comes with a story from its village of origin, and he sends the profits back to the makers, taking only enough money for expenses. He generates more revenue by peddling other wares. "I became interested in making the tagua my focus because I met the families, lived with them," Shepherd said. "Being in the Peace Corps, I had a certain appreciation for someone who struggles at that level." Four years ago Shepherd was running a charter boat business in the Florida Keys and looking to start marketing imports when his family made a trip to South America. During that visit, he ran into an old friend from the Peace Corps who was organizing a co-op called Feel Good Exports with four families in rural Ecuador. Plenty of agencies operate in Latin America under the title of "fair trade," acting as middlemen between craft makers and businesses in the U.S. that sell the items. While the fair trade movement has helped many artists in the developing world, few American businesses can have a physical presence in the place where their products are being made, said Marianne Fry, who acts as Shepherd's exporter. "Feel Good Exports' role is not only exporting tagua, but my physical presence in country assures that the products I produce and export are fair-trade products," Fry wrote in an e-mail. "So my importers like Bob rest easy knowing that I am immediately accountable for the product I provide."

Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures

Street vendor makes fair trade a little more personal

By Josh Boatwright July 2, 2009 04:22 PM

Caption: Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer, sells Ecuadorian fair-trade crafts from a push-cart in downtown Asheville. Photo: John Fletcher/Jfletcher@citizen-times.com)

ASHEVILLE - Some purveyors of imported handicrafts have only a vague idea of who made the items and how much the artists were paid.
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But Bob Shepherd, a former Peace Corps volunteer-turned-street-vendor, makes annual trips to a village in Ecuador to visit the families who carve tagua palm tree nuts into the intricate forms of owls, turtles and other creatures.

Shepherd can often be seen near the Flat Iron sculpture on Wall Street with his pushcart stocked with ivory-colored figures and children's clothes.

Each piece comes with a story from its village of origin, and he sends the profits back to the makers, taking only enough money for expenses. He generates more revenue by peddling other wares.

"I became interested in making the tagua my focus because I met the families, lived with them," Shepherd said. "Being in the Peace Corps, I had a certain appreciation for someone who struggles at that level."

Four years ago Shepherd was running a charter boat business in the Florida Keys and looking to start marketing imports when his family made a trip to South America.

During that visit, he ran into an old friend from the Peace Corps who was organizing a co-op called Feel Good Exports with four families in rural Ecuador.

Plenty of agencies operate in Latin America under the title of "fair trade," acting as middlemen between craft makers and businesses in the U.S. that sell the items.

While the fair trade movement has helped many artists in the developing world, few American businesses can have a physical presence in the place where their products are being made, said Marianne Fry, who acts as Shepherd's exporter.

"Feel Good Exports' role is not only exporting tagua, but my physical presence in country assures that the products I produce and export are fair-trade products," Fry wrote in an e-mail. "So my importers like Bob rest easy knowing that I am immediately accountable for the product I provide."

Feel Good Exports is part of CHF International, a Maryland-based economic development agency that operates in 30 countries worldwide.
(2 of 2)

Shepherd picked Asheville as the new home for his business in part because of its location between members of his extended family in New York and Florida.
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It also seemed like an ideal place to market the products.

"The biggest plus was Asheville itself being a center for culture and art," he said.

"We knew probably it would have people who are educated and well-traveled, and they would probably be interested in products that are imported under a free-trade premise."

In addition to his cart in downtown Asheville, Shepherd runs a craft emporium in Brevard called Gravy and attends festivals throughout Western North Carolina.

He also markets the products wholesale in Florida and New Jersey.

Being new to the street vending scene, it took him up until the past year to actually generate a profit from his sales.

Feel Good Exports has annual gross sales of around $25,000, and Shepherd estimates his tagua sales provide $200-$300 a month for the families that make them, about the salary of a schoolteacher in Ecuador.

This income won't make them rich, but Shepherd said it allows the families to remain in their home village instead of moving to a city.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: July, 2009; Peace Corps Ecuador; Directory of Ecuador RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Ecuador RPCVs; Small Business; Fair Trade; North Carolina





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Story Source: Asheville Citizen-Times

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Small Business; Artisans; Fair Trade

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