Wednesday, 12 October 2011

interview series #2: the little sparrow

I am very excited to be bring you the second post as a part of my new interview series. Today I have an interview treat with friend and co-creator of fair trade Australian label The Little Sparrow, Megan Johnston. Along with her business partner Allison, Megan first dreamed-up The Little Sparrow in 2008 and has been on the journey of building a fair, ethical and fun business ever since! Their range is lovingly made by women who are paid fair wages to support themselves and their families, providing you with beautifully handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Describe yourself in 5 words: passionate, hardworking, loving, learning and tired!
What TV show are you watching, what music are you listening to and what book or blog are you reading right now? I'm watching Mad Men (and getting through it slowly!), listening to a lot of Jill Scott and Amy Winehouse, reading Super Freakonomics (again) and this blog keeps me entertained on a daily basis!
When you're not busy building your business and selling your wares, what do you do with your time? That seems to take up most of my life so any down time usually involves eating, relaxing and playing with friends!
You mentioned that you are a passionate person, what are you most passionate about? In a nutshell, trade being used as a positive tool for long-term social and economic development.  
Who inspires you? My Nanna. She's a woman who just loves.
So tell us about your business, The Little Sparrow... We create fair, ethical and fun product for kiddies. We design our products and then we work with various fair trade groups in Bangladesh, India and Nepal to create our products. The women we work with have been rescued or are at risk from trafficking, are living in great poverty or are marginalised due to disability or even just for being a woman.
What led you to start your business? I’ve always been a lover of ethics and business – the thought of people working in conditions we would never, ever accept, just so I can get a pair of Jeans for $10 is obscene. Allison and I met in 2007 through a mutual friend, Lorelle. We shared a love of fair trade and justice and talked about her vision of launching an ethical kids brand. Fast forward a year and we were meeting again at Sydney International Airport to head off to Bangladesh together to meet and research suppliers!
What obstacles have you had to overcome so far? Practical things such as finding and continually communicating with suppliers in developing countries (computers and internet aren’t so easy to come by!) Managing our first import was an experience. I have many new friends at Customs purely for the amount of time I spent out there! Obstacles seem to stay there but change as we grow. It’s just a matter of trying to work with them!
What myth about Fair trade do you wish you could dispel? That fair trade is only for tea, coffee and chocolate! There are so many fair trade products available (certified and otherwise). It sometimes takes a bit of research but it’s encouraging to see you can make an ethical choice about outside the food industry.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own fair trade business? Do it! It’s hard, joyful, tiring, amazing, heart-breaking and encouraging and probably every other adjective at some point! There will always be reasons not to do something, you just have to start. Just make sure you love it because you’ll be spending all your waking hours working or thinking about it!

To see Megan's beautiful product, visit The Little Sparrow website at www.thelittlesparrow.com.au. Website includes stockists and upcoming markets.  

The Dreamer x
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