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About Us

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HumanKind Fair Trade is a nonprofit retail store located in downtown San Luis Obispo, CA.

As a non-profit retail store, HumanKind has a unique business model.  Our mission is to provide vital fair income to artisans in the developing world by selling their Fair Trade products and telling their stories here in San Luis Obispo.

A volunteer Board of Directors provides guidance for the store.  Together the Board oversees various aspects of the store including finance, personnel, marketing, and volunteer coordination, etc.  The Board has gone through many changes in the past six years and continues to evolve.

The paid staff consists of a full-time manager, part-time sales associate, and part-time graphic designer.  The manager does the buying, scheduling, merchandising, volunteer training, store design, marketing, and events.

Volunteers work in the store daily.  We depend on dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers to educate the store’s patrons about the importance of Fair Trade and the work of HumanKind. Their dedication and passion for spreading the message of Fair Trade is the lifeblood of the store. We are lucky enough to have a volunteer accountant, a volunteer web-designer, a volunteer display builder, and a volunteer Art After Dark event coordinator.

History of HumanKind Fair Trade

HumanKind Fair Trade began as the idea of teacher and mother Elizabeth Aebischer who helped to organize an alternative holiday gift market at First Presbyterian Church in San Luis Obispo beginning in 2004. 

In 2007, a non-profit corporation with the goal of opening a fair trade store in downtown SLO was formed.  The initial Board of Directors started a fundraising campaign and began to raise awareness about the importance of supporting Fair Trade farmers and artisans.

As the world-wide financial crisis began to unfold in 2008, the Board wrestled with fears about starting a retail business, but news from the Fair Trade cooperatives strengthened their resolve.  With inflation rising and orders from North American consumers dropping, the Fair Trade cooperatives were suffering.   Many of the cooperatives supported vital community needs including health clinics, schools, transportation, and wells.

HumanKind Fair Trade opened on July 1, 2009.  The Board hired Sarah Leonard, the first store manager, who offered a wealth of retail experience and customer service skills.  Under her leadership and with the help of many dedicated volunteers, HumanKind Fair Trade became a destination for shoppers who wanted to support artisans in the developing world.

In January of 2013, the Board happily reported that HumanKind generated a small profit for the first time.  Alison Cebulla, the store manager hired in December of 2011, initiated many creative changes including the addition of a wide variety of clothing to the store’s inventory.  Under the leadership of current store manager LynAnne Wiest and with the guidance of a skilled Board of Directors, HumanKind continues to grow and meet its mission to provide income to artisans and farmers in the developing world.

Many thanks to all of the Board Members, staff, and volunteers who have helped make HumanKind a success!

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