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Let's Talk About Chicago Fair Trade

You already know Sandpiper Imports is a member of Chicago Fair Trade (it’s right there on our homepage!). What you might not know is that our founder, Erika, has had a huge impact on the organization’s growth -- and the CFT community has also played a role in Sandpiper’s success!

Chicago Fair Trade gives women entrepreneurs a strong community of fair trade business owners to network and partner with

First, a bit of background: Chicago Fair Trade is a coalition of fair trade supporters (businesses, schools, congregations, non-profits, and individuals) in the Chicago area. The CFT community has grown immensely in the past 10 years -- the Chicagoland area has the largest concentration of fair trade businesses in the country and each year on World Fair Trade Day, CFT hosts the largest fair trade celebration in the USA. Over the years, as CFT has worked to increase access to fair trade products and advance the interests of ethical businesses, general awareness of fair trade has grown by leaps and bounds in the region. In 2006, CFT led the successful effort to have Chicago named a Fair Trade City. Then, in 2014, CFT ensured that Chicago became a Sweatfree City, and the next year, Cook County followed suit, becoming the largest Sweatshop-free municipality in the country.


Erika founded Sandpiper Imports in 2012. Shortly thereafter, in 2013, she joined Chicago Fair Trade as a business member. She quickly joined the organization’s Membership Committee, using her networking skills to share the message of fair trade with more people. In the spring of 2014, she was chosen to sit on CFT’s Board of Directors, and she loved the membership committee so much that she quickly took on the role of volunteer Membership Director, leading the committee’s outreach efforts. Under Erika’s leadership (and in just 2 years!), CFT’s business membership doubled -- from 25 business members to over 50! And, just this past January, Erika assumed the role of co-chair of the Board of Directors. She now leads board meetings, assists the executive director with crucial decision making, and represents the organization publicly.


Katherine Bissell Cordova, the executive director of CFT, says, “Erika is one of the hardest working, committed fair traders I know. She is a natural leader in the fair trade movement. Warm and welcoming to all, I love that Erika’s always happy to meet for a cup of coffee and strategize with people interested in starting a fair trade business. She’s a collaborator at heart and a delight to work with!”


Erika’s contributions to CFT have been amazing, but the CFT community has given back to Sandpiper Imports as well. Erika says, “Being a small business owner is full of surprises, challenges, and days of self-doubt and fear.  However, I have been so fortunate to receive ongoing crucial support from an amazing network of passionate fair trade advocates right here in Chicago.  CFT has been instrumental in providing me with business growth opportunities, like participating in holiday pop up shops, and connecting me with a community of positive and hard-working individuals trying to make a difference in both the world and our own backyard.”


Are you inspired yet? If you’re reading this from the Chicago area, we’d love to welcome you to our fair trade community! CFT hosts quarterly meetups, where members and supporters can mingle and get to know one another and find ways to collaborate, and our biggest event of the year is happening in Chicago’s Loop tomorrow & Thursday - World Fair Trade Day! You don’t need to be a member to join in the fun, but if you’d like to learn more about membership, click here. And you can always feel free to reach out directly to Erika via email with questions. We hope to see you soon!

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