Global Indigo helps small co-ops make a difference through fair-trading

A year ago Ella Huffman and Angela Marker, two young graduates from Devon, set up Global Indigo, a small community-interest company, that supports small-scale co-operatives fighting causes from...

A small community-interest company from Devon makes a real difference to local communities across many developing countries through fair-trading.

A year ago Ella Huffman and Angela Marker, two young graduates from Devon, created Global Indigo that supports small-scale co-operatives fighting causes from around the world. 

Unlike many other recent graduates who chose to move to bigger cities, the two founders of Global Indigo stayed in Devon to bring something to the local community. Ella explained how the idea of setting up Global Indigo came about: “A passion for international development and frustrations about fairness in the world of business led us to set up Global Indigo. After many experiences in the developing world, we both shared the desire to make a difference and help to improve the lives of others."

They first started with a small amount of funding of £2000 from Unltd — a charity that supports social enterprises — which enabled them to support their first producers. The two founders currently work part-time on a voluntary basis to develop the business.

“We work across Devon, selling our producers’ wares while raising awareness about ethical trade, global affairs and responsible shopping. We also support local artists. Our personal links to the producers and the leaflets given with each purchase, alongside our awareness-raising sets us apart from other fair-trade shops, and also enables us to connect the customer to the cause."

The two founders of Global Indigo have travelled and volunteered in various developing countries. They have established contacts with small co-operatives in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, all of which produce crafted goods, but struggle to market them alone, due to a lack of access to the right customers or to the internet. This is where Global Indigo intervenes by enabling the small producers to get access to the market. Global Indigo supports eight groups of small producers, which all follow Global Indigo’s Ethical Practice Policy. These co-ops are too small to be fair trade accredited.

“Angela has lived with the Waorani Tribe in Ecuador, who we now support. I also volunteer for a local charity Exeter-Ethiopia Link," said Ella. Global Indigo supports groups and coops from Nepal, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Kenya and they plan to expand to other countries.

“Unlike most Fairtrade shops, we are not-for-profit, and support groups too small to be accredited. Our groups are spread across the globe and deal with a range of issues: from women’s groups, indigenous producers, and peace fighters, to orphaned children.

“Our ambition is to expand to have a permanent venue to increase the benefit we can generate,” explained Ella. Indigo is also piloting a new idea to create a community-driven interactive venue in Devon that will offer the locals the chance to participate and volunteer.

Ella gave a few details on the new project: “It will not only sell the co-operatives’ products, but will include a coffee corner, locally-sourced produce, reading material on worldwide issues, local artists’ wares, music, workshops and documentary showings”. Through the Cultural Hub they also aim to reduce prejudices and encourage cultural harmony within the local community.

Global Indigo is driven by the belief that small co-operatives are an essential, but often neglected, area of development and business. Global Indigo supports people in these communities who have joined groups or co-operatives and who have been trying to make a difference.

“This moves them away from (often corrupt) aid reliance, the producers work sustainably, they are rewarded and not reliant on hand-outs,” said Ella.

Global Indigo also works towards raising the awareness of the young people with regard to responsible shopping methods. It has recently linked up with the University of Exeter to promote fair-trading.

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