View Cart

Venture Imports #FairTradeFriday

September 19, 2014



While studying Economics and Third World Development at Calvin College, Jennie Nichols, founder of Venture Imports, nurtured the belief that where a person is born often unfairly dictates their opportunities.  This fostered a desire to do something to help balance the scales. During a college trip to South Africa, she saw that one way to help people in developing countries would be to provide a market for their products.  

venture-importsIn Zimbabwe, Jennie was introduced to the carvings of the Shona people. These sculptures are painstakingly chiseled from stone to create gorgeous works of art. She fell in love with them immediately and knew she’d found a product around which she could build a business. In 2001 she started Venture Imports. It hasn't been an easy road—with obstacles like working out the logistics of shipping heavy stone products overseas and dealing with political unrest in Zimbabwe—but Jennie persisted. Eventually, the company flourished and is now able to provide a fair income to the Shona artisans. 

Shona sculptures continue to be the company's flagship product, but Venture Imports has expanded to bring other exciting items from developing nations to North American markets, like recycled glass jewelry from Kenya. With all of its products, the company expects to earn a fair return on invested capital—because ensuring that the company endures is the best way to continue providing income to its artisan partners in Africa.

Meet some of Venture Imports Fair Trade partners

When Teresa was widowed 13 years ago, she wondered how she'd care for her six children. Then she found a job sanding Shona stone carvings. The stones are first chopped into shape by men using machetes. Teresa wet-sands the carvings until they're smooth to the touch. In this way, Teresa and other women like her are able to provide for their families and send their children to school.

recycled-glass-earrings-fair-tradeRecycled Glass Jewelry: Simon has been working with glass for 20 years. He gathers glass bottles from local bars. After washing them, he takes off the labels and breaks the glass into little pieces before melting them in a kiln into beads of all colors. His wife Alice uses the glass beads to make beautiful jewelry. Kenya has an unemployment rate of 40%, but every 6 months Simon takes on 2-3 apprentices. After 6 months, his apprentices either continue to work with him or become his competitor. Either way, he's proud of them!

See more Venture Imports and other Fair Trade items on Instagram and Pinterest.


Little Traveler
Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter and Get $5 OFF Your Next Online Order

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter and Get $5 OFF Your Next Online Order

Be the first to know about upcoming events, discounts, and promotions. Get a coupon code for $5 off your next order at our Online Shop when you subscribe.

You have Successfully Subscribed!