Mercado Global, the first-place nonprofit winner of this spring’s Y50K Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, is poised to expand into national markets with the release of a fair trade accessories catalogue to reach retailers Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Pier 1 Imports, Nordstrom and Pottery Barn.
The catalogue — a collaboration between co-directors Benita Singh ’04 and Ruth DeGolia ’04 and model Summer Rayne Oakes — indicates a shift in emphasis for the year-old organization, which markets traditional goods produced in Guatemalan cooperatives and invest profits back into communities there through educational scholarships.
“To be honest, I don’t care if people know that our products are fairly traded,” Singh said. “We want to market something appealing, something — cool, and we believe no other fair trade association has done that.”
Rayne Oakes said she used her contacts to enlist the help of hair stylists, photographers, and makeup artists.
“There have been many studies showing that putting products on a model instead of just listing them bring in that extra element for better purchase power,” Rayne Oakes said. “The idea is to link fashion with humanitarian initiatives.”
Singh said the organization supports a worthy cause.
“All of the women we’ve worked with have been affected in some way by the 35-year civil war in Guatemala,” Singh said. “There’s one community with no males over the age of 12. It adds a human rights perspective to fair trade, and allows us to emphasize both consumerism and social responsibility.”
The Yale Entrepreneurial Society awarded $10,000 to Mercado Global for placing first in the nonprofit division in the Business Plan Competition. Since then, the company received an additional $90,000 grant from the 2004 Echoing Green Fellowship.
“They offer a winning combination of marketability and humanitarianism,” Echoing Green consultant Lara Galinsky said.
The company is also pursuing a partnership with the nonprofit company StartingBloc in hopes of sending students on service learning trips. In a joint effort with another nonprofit, Global Youth Connect, leaders plan to combine educational outreach and sales by giving presentations during the group’s conferences and establishing a Mercado Global chapter at Global Youth Connect locations.
In addition to Yale, Mercado Global is now represented on campuses at Harvard University, Baruch College and the College of William and Mary. Singh said Mercado Global’s goal is to have 10 to 15 chapters established by the fall of 2005.
Group leaders stressed opportunities for student involvement in both the Yale chapter and their national office on Church Street. Internship positions ranging from catalogue distribution to marketing research are available, Singh said.
Mercado Global will be at the Chapel Street Dandelion Market, a street market featuring over 40 regional merchants, for the next two Saturdays.
The catalogue will be published November in conjunction with a release party at Bottega Lounge.
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