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Inside the Winding Road

August 29, 2019

The Little Traveler's Fair Trade+ Gallery is about much more than bringing unique artisan goods from around the world to our Geneva store. It's about changing lives for the better. Marla Showfer, founder of The Winding Road, one of our Fair Trade vendors, recently shared a story that we want to share with you because it shows how your purchases help improve lives.

Economic Opportunity

Madhav, Archana, and their two children.

Marla first met the husband and wife team Madhav and Archana in Nepal in 2011, when they were only 21 years old. They're from a small rural village and had recently gotten married and moved to Kathmandu for better economic opportunity. When Marla met them, they were painting the walls of their tiny new shop in Kathmandu. She bought felt goods from them and brought them to the SF Gift Show, selling the items to gift shops at the J Paul Getty Museum in LA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Eight years later, both museums continue to be avid customers.

As The Winding Road, Marla brings Madhav and Archana's goods to markets around the US, giving these unique and beautiful creations exposure to tens of thousands of retail buyers. They're now available in around 500  stores, including The Little Traveler. Because of this success, the husband-wife duo has been able to hire and train more than 75 employees—mostly women who'd been at risk for human trafficking. Most of these women never had a job before. With Madhav and Archana, they receive job skill training, a fair wage, a safe work environment, and long-term employment. 

The Winding Road - Felt Pen Covers

Felted Pen Covers made by Madhav and Archana's artisans. Brought to the US by The Winding Road.

Marla explains, "Madhav and Archana also reimburse employees for medical bills and provide interest free loans to employees. Gender inequality in Nepal means women can't just go to a bank and open a bank account and get a loan."

Overcoming Illiteracy

Last year, Marla created a scholarship to pay school tuition for two of the workers' children.  "Illiteracy has been a big problem in Nepal," Marla says. "In the fifty+ age group, about fifty percent of adults are illiterate and do not know how to read and write. Their families could not afford to send them to school, and the government did not provide free education.

"The illiteracy rate is about ninety percent among women over fifty in rural villages.  Today, that is changing as almost ninety percent of boys and girls under the age of 18 in Nepal are going to school.  This has to do in part with women having jobs in the growing handicrafts export business. They now can have a two-income household."

A New Factory

Felted Wool Mobiles inour Fair Trade Gallery. Brought to the US by The Winding Road.

Marla continues to be amazed by the tireless efforts of the young Madhav. "He meets my big production demands with good quality products on time. He is a supportive husband and involved father of two kids and is still only in his twenties! Much more than I could have done in my twenties, and now he is going to build his own factory!"

With the help of a bank and people who believe in him, Madhav has raised the funds to build a space that he will own rather than rent.

"We are having discussions about clean drinkable water and hygienic bathrooms in the facility, ventilation, and temperature control" Marla says. "Things that we take for granted here but are not always thought of there. It's an interesting experience being involved in planning for a new production facility in Nepal. I have seen how all of this work we are doing here to build a market for their goods is changing many people’s lives for the better."

Ata Grass Bags Handcrafted in Bali

The Little Traveler's Fair Trade+ Gallery has recently brought in another of Marla's amazing discoveries, which she brings to the US via her Winding Road label.

Ata Grass Bags from Bali with Felted Wool animals from Nepal. Brought to the US via The Winding Road.


The purses you see above, and many more styles, are handcrafted by master weavers working from their homes in the Tenganan village in East Bali. These weaving skills have been handed down and perfected through generations.

After the ata grass is woven, it's set in the sun to dry for several days. The warm golden color is achieved through slow smoking over a fire of coconut shells. Ata grass is durable, and these bags are made to last a lifetime. 

Little Traveler
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