the cause behind the craft

Fair trade proves that greater justice in world trade is possible. It highlights the need for change in the rules and practice of conventional trade and shows how a successful business can also put people first. It is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and economic crisis.

How does fair trade work?

Ten Thousand Villages’ artisan investment model puts the maker first. It is designed to give makers opportunity to gain a safety net of financial security and escape the cycle of poverty.


It all starts with the maker. Sometimes a cooperative of artisans. Sometimes it's just one person. All of our makers are working towards improving their communities with sustainable business practices. These makers present us with a product sample built on their skill, tools, available materials and market design.

conversation & agreement

We talk with makers to figure out how to ensure sustainability for both of us. Quantity and timing are discussed, and we make sure that the makers' profit is factored in when we agree on a price that works for everyone.

advance payment & financial security

When the product order is placed, we pay 50% of the agreed price as an interest-free advance to help cover the cost of materials and production and to protect makers from exploitative loans.

When the products are packed up and ready to ship to America, we pay the final 50% of the agreed price. This may sound like business as usual, but it’s actually quite unconventional.

By completing the financial transaction before items are exported, we take on all the risk. If products are lost at sea, trends change, tariffs rise, or the market becomes flooded with knock-offs, the artisans will not be burdened with loss. They’ve already been paid in full.

  • Where do my dollars go?

    Your purchases help to fund the entire artisan investment model and to maintain a U.S. market for handcrafted goods. All donations are focused directly on the upfront microfinancing that is so crucial to makers’ ability to produce their goods in a stable and nonexploitative business environment.

  • Does it matter where I buy my gifts?

    Absolutely. The global market has become a very competitive place and that has put enormous pressure on craftspeople all over the world to make their products cheaper and faster. Choosing to purchase fair trade is a way of saying that it’s important to you that the person who made your product is not exploited. By your action, you are investing in the dignity of others.

    Ten Thousand Villages is committed to creating opportunities for artisans in developing countries to lift themselves from poverty, work consistently, and earn income at a fair wage by bringing their handmade crafts and their stories to you.

  • How much does Ten Thousand Villages “Give Back” to makers?

    Nothing. What we do isn’t about charity; it’s about investment. We turn the entire business relationship upside down so that the craft makers are paid first and paid fairly.

    As a fair trade buyer, Ten Thousand Villages removes the financial risk from the artisans who make these beautifully handcrafted items. We work as a business partner to provide fair and consistent incomes for the work artisans do.

  • How does Ten Thousand Villages define a fair wage?

    Artisans tell us what they want to be paid for their work. After they give us their price, we confirm that they are covering their costs and building sustainability into their businesses.

    Our buying team works with the same people over many years to develop an understanding for what a fair income is in their local community. We talk to the people making the product and ask them what they are being paid, how it compares to their neighbors, and what their wage means for their family.

    If the price the workshop asks for is untenable in the market, then we work together to adjust the product or the materials. It’s a dialogue that builds incomes that help families thrive.

  • Do artisans have safe working environments?

    Yes. A safe working environment is essential to improving the lives of people in developing countries where there are few jobs. It is a guiding principle of fair trade.

    Many of the products that Ten Thousand Villages offers are made in people’s homes, on their porches, or in small workshops. Women artisans often take materials home with them in order to balance childcare with their work. Most of the working spaces are not fancy, but they are safe and everyone is free to come and go as they choose. Formal workshops have fire extinguishers, and dedicated drinking water and toilet facilities.

    As a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Ten Thousand Villages visits the workshops where the handmade crafts are made. We see the artisans do their work and provide feedback for ways to improve safety and health standards.

    Through partnerships and capacity building efforts, Ten Thousand Villages has paid for water effluent treatment plants, improved tools, lighting and ventilations systems at some workshops.