Meet Sue Knight and Sue Wilbraham from Surrey – two amazing Fair Traders who have been working together to make a difference in their local community since the 1980s!
How did you first get involved with Traidcraft?
The wife of our Assistant Priest had a Traidcraft stall in their house in the late 1980’s. When she moved on we had a coffee morning to raise money to support a school in Uganda and invited a Fair Trader from Guildford to come as well. When this lady told us she was moving away from the area we decided to become Fair Traders too. We have always worked well together and we are good friends
We’ve since been on a Meet the Peoples tour of India, and hearing their stories first-hand made a real impression on us and still drives us on to load the boxes yet another time.
How has your involvement with Traidcraft changed over the years?
We have had three major turning points. Firstly after I got married and moved nine miles from Shalford we divided our stock, selling at our own churches and then joining together to do bigger events. This we found helped to turn over stock although you still have to keep a close eye on the best before dates, and smile sweetly when someone else points one out to you.
Our next turning point was when we attended an AGM and Roadshow in Durham. I had a great weekend and Sue W had part of one, as she went down with a migraine and her new medication didn’t work. We were so impressed by the organisation and the calibre of people who were working for it that we were inspired to do more and persuade people that this wasn’t a fringe charity but a Christian business intent on bringing an end to Poverty through Trade.
Our third turning point was when we took on the financial side of our operation. Initially we had run the stalls through the church and relied on the treasurer to pay the bills and tell us where we were at. Taking on the financial responsibility has focused our minds on quantities we order. Our husbands had to be won over and we had to prove to them we could run it efficiently and not be overstocked! As my Husband had been in retail business he has helped us immensely. He also insisted on us buy storage boxes to keep our stock in and move it around in and also allowed us pricing guns!
Do you do anything different on the run up to Christmas? Anything extra?
Before Christmas we usually hold Open House Coffee mornings in each of our houses. This allows us to show off the Christmas goodies to their best and we sell and take orders over a cup of excellent fair trade coffee and biscuits. Having all the Christmas cards to show and for people to buy and order more increases our sales. It`s also useful to reach another group of people – neighbours are always keen to meet in someone else`s house and sales often take off when someone points out a certain item. We can give a background to product development and resulting benefits for Fairtrade communities receiving the Traidcraft Premium which helps sales.
We know that you’ve also held a stall at a market. How did you find that visitors responded to your stall and the fair trade message?
Holding a stall at the monthly Farmers market has been very interesting. We have had regular customers who have been very supportive in particular buying the wonderful Zaytoun products. We have many who would always try to buy something. We have been engaged in lively discussions and have found having a catalogue close to hand invaluable for telling where products come from. The Recession did hit sales although we found people were being more discriminating in what they bought and were interested in trying to support Traidcraft.
And what’s next for you both?
Sue W proposed that we could be the face of Fairtrade to Guildford Borough Council, having walked through a Farmers` Market and finding no Fairtrade products on sale. We have both worked with a group to make Guildford a Fairtrade Town in 2005, then Fairtrade Borough in 2009 and Cranleigh to become a Fairtrade Village. Just last year we started work towards Surrey becoming a Fairtrade county, the first in South East England. The Council agreed and have given us great support in the form of a small grant to cover Market stall hiring fees plus gazebo and tables, and there is muscle power to help erect gazebo in inclement weather as well as advertisements on its website! Loyal friends helping to mind the stall for 2 hour stints has also helped us to continue.