Your investment in the cycle of fair trade helps skilled people excluded from the global marketplace gain access to economic opportunities through sustainable, meaningful livelihoods. Through long-term partnerships, we have seen how communities thrive when entrepreneurs thrive.
in international artisan investments over the last 19 years
of artisans are women
How it Works
Ten Thousand Villages’ ethical artisan investment model puts the maker first. Every aspect of this model is designed to give artisans opportunities to gain a safety net of financial stability and escape the cycle of poverty.
Transparent price agreement
Commitment to fair wage pricing, paid despite economic changes.
Interest-free microfinance investment
50% payment upfront enables raw material purchases, handcraft production, and maker protection from exploitative loans.
Crafting of product
Strong partnership promotes artisan development and business growth.
Payment before export
Full payment is made before product is shipped, removing all financial risk for makers.
Marketplace for product
Handcrafted products from around the world are made available to the marketplace, established and maintained by Ten Thousand Villages.
Empowered makers and thriving communities
Made possible by a safety net of dependable income and the foundations built through artisan development.
When people have access to economic opportunity and a fair wage …
Food is on the table
Children stay healthy and go to school
Families build homes and save for the future
Communities are strengthened
It Takes a Village
“I’m just a woman trying to help other women.”- Edna Ruth Byler
A simple idea, a single action has the power to bring monumental change. Our founder, Edna Ruth Byler, began with that sentiment more than 75 years ago.
On a trip with her husband to Puerto Rico, Byler bought hand-embroidered textiles from the women of La Plata Valley who didn’t have access to a market in which to sell them. She paid a fair price for them, took them home, and sold them to friends and neighbors on their behalf.
What started as one woman selling textiles from the trunk of her car and telling the stories of the artisans who made them, grew into lasting partnerships and ignited the global fair trade movement. 75 years later, Ten Thousand Villages has grown into a national network of passionate retail staff, volunteers, and advocates who bring the handcrafted work and stories of our artisan partners to the homes and hearts of conscious shoppers. Every sale and every donation helps correct economic injustice and empower entrepreneurs.
As founding members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), a commitment to safe and ethical practices are at the forefront of who we are as a verified fair trade nonprofit retailer.
When establishing partnerships, we verify that physical workspace conditions and production practices are safe for artisans; free of exploitation and child labor, so you can be certain your purchases and donations do not further systems of harm.
Many of our partner organizations are themselves WFTO members, formally committed to safe and ethical practices for people and planet, with their own social and community betterment programs. Your support of Ten Thousand Villages funds jobs and provides opportunities for communities around the world.
We pride ourselves in maintaining long-term, sustainable partnerships.
PERU – ALLPA
Working together since 1988
VIETNAM – MAI
Working together since 1994
GUATEMALA – UPAVIM
Working together since 1994
PHILIPPINES – Saffy Handicrafts
Working together since 1986
KENYA – OTICART
Working together since 2001
INDIA – Noah’s Ark
Working together since 1992
One Maker’s Story
At Association for Craft Producers (ACP) in Kathmandu, Nepal, 90% of their nearly 1,000 artisans are women. They receive savings programs, a medical allowance, education assistance, paid maternity leave, clothing allowance, and on-site meals with clean drinking water. ACP ensures safe and sustainable working conditions through the use of solar panels, their own wastewater treatment plant, and a rainwater harvesting system.
“When women have money, they have a say in the family… and their voice is heard. She gains confidence. Life becomes important for her. And so that’s in the real sense, that’s economic empowerment.” – Meera Bhattarai, CEO and founding member of ACP.
ACP and Ten Thousand Villages, working together since 1987.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you instill customer trust?
At Ten Thousand Villages we passionately uphold and adhere to the 10 principles of fair trade as outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization:
- Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
- Principle Two: Transparency and Accountability
- Principle Three: Fair Trading Practices
- Principle Four: Fair Payment
- Principle Five: Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
- Principle Six: Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment and Freedom of Association
- Principle Seven: Ensuring Good Working Conditions
- Principle Eight: Providing Capacity Building
- Principle Nine: Promoting Fair Trade
- Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment
Not only are these values in line with our mission, but we are held accountable to them to maintain our fair trade verification. We ensure we live out these principles through close contact and collaboration with our partners, including in-person visits.
Doesn’t taking donations prove that fair trade doesn’t work?
Fair trade works. Through decades-long partnerships, we have seen the impact that economic opportunity has on individuals and communities.
But our mission is much bigger than the one-for-one purchase and sale of product. It is a mission focused on sparking social change, to subvert harmful cycles of poverty and manifest economic justice on a global scale. That’s a lot more than importing wares! Our model is rooted in relationship, education and advocacy as we strive to help customers and communities understand what it means to live life fair.
Your donations not only deepen our capacity for artisan investment, but they help Ten Thousand Villages to find new partners and push for a shift in the way the world does business.
How do you figure out a fair price?
Our partnerships are built on mutual respect and collective conversation. When purchasing from our partners, we are not intent on haggling the lowest price possible, but on coming to the most mutually beneficial price. Fair prices are calculated based on the wages, time, and raw materials needed to produce the product.
How much goes back to artisans?
Ten Thousand Villages operates on a unique Artisan Investment Model that includes full payment for products before they leave the workshop. Profits from sales as well as donations fund this continual cycle of investment. Therefore, purchases of product and donations do not go directly back to the specific artisan group that made that product because those partners have already been paid in advance.
Your donations become investments in this cycle. They continue to fuel our up-front investment model, fund new orders, and provide more wages for our partners around the world.
How much do artisans get paid for this piece?
Being that we purchase a multitude of varied products, there is no one answer to this question. The prices that Ten Thousand Villages pays for handicrafts are based on the raw materials involved, wages, time investment, shipping costs, and geographical location. Prices are set by the varied enterprises and workshops we partner with and we pay the agreed upon prices.
In addition to committing to fair wages, we pay for the labor, and often the raw materials upfront. We do not want our partners subject to the whims of a changing market, so if a product doesn’t sell or gets lost in transit, we absorb the cost so that they do not lose earned wages in the exchange.
We put people first every step of the way.
Why Ten Thousand Villages?
Our mission is based on perpetuating maker investments and programs.
Revenue reinvested in perpetuating our maker-to-market mission
Revenue applied to administration and other costs
We are the experts.
The US pioneer in fair trade, Ten Thousand Villages has more than 75 years of small-to-medium enterprise funding and fair trade know-how. We are a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, and we have a proven approach to social transformation through the sustainable development goals we helped to author.
A time-tested, trusted partner.
Unlike traditional retailers, we do not abandon artisan partners or redefine fair pricing when markets demand change, trends shift, or economic health declines. Our enduring partnerships with artisans – some for more than three decades – mean that makers trust us. You can, too.
We get results.
The history of artisan partners shows that we have broken the cycle of generational poverty and enabled sustainable development opportunities for tens of thousands of artisans globally. Our direct, non-interest bearing, upfront amounts to $99 million in international artisan purchases and just $31,000 in default accounts over the last 16 years. That’s less than 0.15% in any unmet artisan commitment.