Welcome to Handmade Expressions. Who are we?.
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Handmade Expressions is a sourcing partner for socially and environmentally responsible products, based in Austin, Texas. We work with underprivileged / disadvantaged artisans around the world and strive to improve their economic and social standing by creating self-sustainable employment following fair trade practices.
We partner with grass-root level NGOs/ artisan cooperatives and help them create high quality, trendy, hand-crafted goods that are tailored for international markets. We empower the artisans with market and fashion information that allow them to create functional products. At the same time, we encourage them to use natural fibers and recycled material wherever possible. We then partner with retailers and socially responsible non-profits across North America to provide them with these high quality products for conscious consumers.
Welcome to Handmade Expressions
Fair trade is a market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. It aims to educate and empower disadvantaged producers and connect them to a market, so they too can participate in global trade. It encompasses principles like:
• Anti-slave, anti-child labor
• The conservation of the environment
• A respectful relationship between producers and buyers
• A fair wage
• A healthy working environment
• Gender equality
• Sustainable development of communities
A market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability
Mission: To improve the economic and social standing of underprivileged people in the world by reinforcing local economies and creating self-sustainable employment through just and responsible practices.
We believe that we can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of artisans in rural India. We provide them with help to design products that appeal to a Western market. We then find a market to sell their products. On top of that, we provide them with help (such as health services, energy needs, etc) so they can develop their communities. Finally, we want the artisans to make artistic products, to keep their traditional arts alive. This way, their culture does not die out.
We are a FOR-PROFIT company. We think fair trade is NOT charity. It is a practical way to make a difference and make a living.
HME is based in Austin, TX. The Austin teams consists of:
Manish Gupta, who started HME in 2005 after leaving his position in operations management at Dell
RuchiAgrawal: she is trained as a fashion designer and designs our new products
Juan Portillo: handles marketing and designs the materials
Mark Ostroth: he is in charge of operations and IT
Jennifer Lucas: she is the head of the sales department
Scott Yankhe: he is in charge of shipping
We also have a team in India, which is headed by Manish’s sister, RashmiDhariwal. They constantly communicate with artisans, make sure production goes smoothly, identify new artisan groups, and carry out DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS (please click on the link to learn about HME’s development projects). They are a true jewel to HME, as they insure quality control before products get to us.
The newest part of the company is you! As a sales rep, you are helping us reach new markets.
Your role in our organization is to help us provide socially and environmentally responsible alternatives to as many retailers as possible. This will help us provide a broader market for our artisans, benefitting entire communities.
You will educate retailers so they learn about fair trade, why they should carry fair trade products, who benefits from fair trade, and how our organization can help them carry these products.
You will make it easy for the customers to transition into fair trade. You will also sell them something that will benefit their store, so as to encourage re-orders.
You will be the face of Handmade Expressions in your region. You will represent a social movement with realistic ideals that can benefit everyone in society, from retailers to customers.
Sales of eco-friendly and fairly traded products are growing in the United States as consumers begin to ask where their products are coming from, what types of materials they are made out of and whether their purchases are making a difference in the world. To answer this demand, Handmade Expressions works with artisans in India to develop high quality gifts, home accents, women’s accessories and tree-free stationery products that appeal to the U.S. marketplace.
Carrying these fairly traded substitutes and eco-alternatives creates a sense of respect and loyalty within the retailers’ customers. At the same time, by buying our products retailers really are contributing towards improving the lives of people.
In 2006, the global market for fair trade was $2.17 billion, and in 2007 more than $3 billion (And this is only the certified products).
A 2007 BBMG Consumer Report stated that 87% of customers support fair labor and trade practices, and 81% identify fair wages and safe working environment as a top issue in the world.
We work directly with artisans from various regions. Each region has its unique art forms, different culture and means of communications. We spend time understanding and establishing a connection with them, then use this partnership to connect them with the world. This reduces the costs for our customers, makes the communication faster and makes lead times shorter.
We are a truly global company with teams across the world. Working with us will save you on traveling and communications expenses, product experimentation, logistics and most importantly time.
It is also good to know that HME is a part of the Fair Trade Federation. This is a trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. Manish sits on their board. Also, Manish was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine in October 2008. Click here to read the article.
Fair trade-savvy customers will sometimes question your role as a “middle-man” or “middle-woman” (middlemen are sometimes seen as bad in the industry, since some middlemen have been known to take advantage of poor producers). It is important for you to know that your role is actually helping create MORE work for the artisans. Your commission comes out of HME’s profits and does not affect the pay of the artisans. They are paid long before the products reach your hands.
We can give customers a catalog with all of our products. The catalog has our contact information, and “how to do business” info. Orders can also be placed online at www.handmaeexpressions.net. The login buyfairtrade will allow customers to see wholesale prices.
Each product has an informational tag that explains that the product is fair trade, and a little information about where it is made and it’s eco aspects (retailers like this). It does not have our contact information (retailers fear that).
We offer posters that tell a artisan stories related to the products the customer has ordered. They can display this poster next to the product, which helps tell the Fair Trade story.
Our website has ARTISAN STORIES, information of WHAT IS FAIR TRADE?, our press coverage, etc. Check it and learn it! It’ll help you sell the product, because what sells is the story behind the product as well. Customers are welcome to use images and information from our website to help sell the products.
Tree-free journals: the paper is made by recycling cotton waste rags from the textile industry in Rajasthan, India. The hard covers are made of the same paper. Manish started HME as a handmade paper company. We still sell paper, and journals can be created from any of our paper deigns. If anyone is interested in creating custom stationary, boxes, journals, or packaging, put them in touch with Jen. You will be paid commission on any custom order in your territory. Journals sell really well!!! People love the tree-free aspect. Most journals are also refillable, making them even more eco-friendly. All journals have a paper band around them stating that they are Fair Trade and tree-free.
We also have leather-bound journals: The leather is “cruelty-free”, since it comes from animals that dies of natural causes. They come from an area in India that is strictly vegetarian, and the animals serve important household roles. Custom leather journals can be embossed with a company’s logo.
We have a large range of bags: Some are organic, some are made from recycled materials. An important thing to say is that they are all made functional, with a North American audience in mind. They have pockets, zippers, cell phone pockets (in some), etc. By going through the product descriptions you’ll learn more details.
Accessories: very varied selection. It includes bells, key chains, bags and boxes.
Scarves: we have scarves made of cotton, wool and silk. Again, going through their description on the website will help you understand how they’re made.
Jewelry: all of our jewelry is made of locally sourced materials. Some are locally sourced metals/stones, and many are made from polished tree-resins. Tree-resins are a sustainable material, making the jewelry “green”. We have necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Home décor: we have wall hangings, cushion covers, quilts and more. Again, check our website for more information.
There are some products that everyone likes to buy, and they can be cash cows:
Eco shopper: This is a re-usable shopping bag made of natural cotton and dyed with natural dyes. The minimum order is 12 bags, and they come completely assorted. It is a beautiful alternative to the plastic or synthetic bags others offer. It is safe for groceries since all the dyes are natural. The words “Fair Trade = Justice + Peace + Love” are printed on the inside. These bags can be customized with a store’s logo, at no extra charge, if they order 200 bags. The lead time is 8 weeks. We normally use the pinkish/red ink as you see in your samples, but other colors can be used upon request. We can help design the logo if they don’t have one on hand. Customers usually keep our Fair Trade tagline on one side and put their logo on the other. These details can be changed to their wishes. Nearly all of our customers carry these bags. They came about when Rashmi, Manish’s sister in India, met a man making hand block printed bed sheets. He couldn’t make a living at it since people in India now have access to mass produced goods, but we knew these sheets wouldn’t sell in the states. So, he said he had lots of scraps from the sheets and the idea of sewing them into a bag developed. Now, the production of the Eco Shoppers employs 50 families in this small village. Best of all, the artisans can make a living using their traditional art…and they’re eco-friendly!
Newspaper Bags: These bags are made of recycled newspaper. They are lined with recycled cardboard inside to make them sturdy. The newspaper is in Hindi, but English Indian news can be used upon request. We can print the customer’s logo and messaging on both sides of the bag. We typically use the red ink as it shows up the best on the news print. Minimum order on plain bags is 100, 500 to customize. Again, no extra charge to customize and the lead time is 4-5 months. The Fair Trade tagline is usually kept on one side with the store logo on the other. Again, this can be changed to meet the customer’s wishes.
Bound in Leather journals: These are the best-selling journals. They are not refillable, but they have more pages. People love these!
Ruchi can help you with the customization questions/issues. You can reach her at email@example.com
All of the applique bags sell well. The peace bags are hot right now. In case you don’t know, applique means that the entire design (Tree of Life for instance) is one piece of fabric that the artisan has cut by hand and stitched on. This is most impressive with the wall hanging (to come).
The Om and Shiva bags are new and are doing well. Om is a word chanted at the beginning and end of most yoga classes. It’s a complicated thing to describe, but the sound of Om is said to encompass the entire universe. Om is very popular with new age retailers and yoga practitioners.
The Sanskrit Bag comes with the 2 smaller bags.
The Shanti and Dharma bags are popular with younger women. Please note that any bag that says assorted means that the fabrics may come in a color different than what is shown in the catalog.
The Cosmic Messenger bags can be ordered by color.
The Sufi and Classic Messenger bags are assorted.
WOVEN THREADS not available!!
Green Computing bags are ordered by color. These are all natural dyes done with hand block printing. These are good sellers.
Paper gift bags are made by our same cotton rag, tree-free paper. Small bags come in a set of 5, while the wine and large bags come in sets of 3. Wine and large bags can be ordered in a paisley or earth (leaf) designs. Colors for all bags are assorted.
The Wood Log box is made of our paper. The top is rolled and cut paper. This is an example of how we can make custom boxes from our paper designs.
Recyceld gift pouches are made from textile scraps. Each one looks different.
Very Special Folding Bags and Cosmetic Case are made by a school for people with disabilities. They are made with recycled plastic and cotton scraps. The cosmetic case has recycled cassette tape woven in to make it shiny.
The Organic Shoppers are new and doing well. They can be customized; 200 minimum and 3 month lead time.
All of the Fine Embroidery bags are also silk. They come assorted, though customers can specifically order Om bags. Anywhere you see “M” and “S” next to a code, it means the bags can be ordered with assorted mirror work or the spiral pattern.
The Mix and Match series sells well. The cosmetic case has one large pocket and four small zip pouches. The travel kit’s 2 largest pockets are lined in plastic.
Coin purses all come assorted.
The Stitch Sizzle bag is a great seller. Comes slightly assorted, no more than the pictures in the catalog. Has a zipper closing and an inside pocket.
Mirror work sling bag and evening bags come assorted. The evening bags are really fine quality with embroidery on both sides. Made with silk.
The leather card holder is a good seller.
LUGGAGE TAG not available!
The Thread Art necklaces are great sellers and are ordered by color.
The multi ring is made of local white, nickel free metal that is made just for jewelry and will not cause skin allergies. This is the metal that is used for all of our jewelry.
All of the necklaces sell well, especially the Seal Pendant and Half Moon.
All of the resin necklaces are made from pine tree resins. Very eco-friendly.
Flat Pearl and Bold Bead are great sellers, as are all the ear rings, especially Om.
Night and Day is the best seller
Whirlpool, Swirl, and Om are right behind.
All bracelets except the Wood Carvings are elastic.
Scarves are cotton, wool, silk, or a blend. Please note that the following are NOT available:
CWS 206 Shade 5B (code is actually CS 206 B/R)
The Copper Bells come in 7 sizes and all come with a cotton hanging yarn. Also hot sellers
The Tree of Life wall hanging is our signature piece. It is important that the store have a place to display it properly, but most stores are surprised at how many they sell.
Cushion covers come unfilled. Any customer that wants to order inserts can do so. We buy them from Ikea for $4 and sell them for the same.
Table runners, place mats and pot holders are pretty self explanatory.
The quilt are hand block printed with natural dyes, 100% filled with natural cotton (we can’t say organic because it is not certifies, but no pesticides are used on the cotton). King size only for now. Very light and warm.
Life Comes to Leather: come in small and large size, refillable. Blue and orange designs sell best.
Cutwork mirage: refillable. Top one is Daisy, left bottom is Bouquet, and front right is Sun Flower.
Peace journals….GREAT seller.
All the rest of the leather journals are refillable, except the Elephant and Leaf Imprint with tie string.
All hard bound journals not refillable.
The Toy Garden series is really popular, as is everything on page 35.
Everything on page 34 is made of our tree-free paper.
*You are free to use your judgment in making exceptions to MOQs (minimum order quantities) for new customers who want to try the line, but in general we try to keep to them.
**Also, remember that we offer terms to museums, universities, hospitals, and established co-ops. All others will pay via credit card upon shipment unless otherwise approved by Jen.
That’s the line!
Most of our products are always in stock, and we aim to ship out within 3 days of the order.
However, we do work with artisans that make things by hand, so sometimes we might not have a product in stock and it will be placed on back order. It is important to ask customers if they are ok with backorders on their first order. That way, we know how to handle the order if a product is not immediately available. Jen will do her best to keep you updated on any out of stock items so you can pass this info onto the customer when they are ordering.
Target or delayed ship dates are welcome. We will be sure to notify you if the target is not possible.
We ship UPS for domestic and USPS for international . We can ship FedEx if the customer wants to use a promotion or their own account. The same is true with UPS. If they have a UPS account they wish to use, just say so on the order.
Many stores don’t know what Fair Trade is or why they should carry it. It is your job to educate them and help them.
For Operations support, you can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org. He knows when orders are shipped, and what’s in them. He also deals with all billing issues. Mark’s extension is 104.
Your main contact is Jennifer. She can help you with most of what you need. She can be reached at email@example.com and extension 101.
If a customer is asking for support materials, like posters or pictures of the artisans, you can direct them to Juan. He’ll do the marketing. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here to support you. If you are unable to reach us in the office, you can always call Jen on her cell at 512 529-7422 or Manish’s cell at 734 834-7921.
We are happy to offer Marketing help: we can support customer’s events if they need pictures or posters. Tell them to get in touch with Juan at: email@example.com
Good luck! Your work is making a difference in the world!