My name is Colleen. I am a wife and mother of four children, and was a graphic designer in my “former” life. Eighteen years ago I left the workforce to care for my growing family. It has been all things wonderful- my kids are awesome. I marvel at who they are becoming and I love molding and guiding and raising my kids. However, sometimes as a work at home mom, I have found myself struggling to find meaning and purpose in laundry, dishes and the mundane that often accompanies a job whose benefits are not often seen or felt until much later in life. Once in a while, an opportunity comes along that gives the WAHM a meaningful diversion while still allowing her full access to care for her family. Often that presents itself in the form of volunteering, which, with four children, I have abundantly partaken.
Recently I had been searching and praying for some kind of different opportunity, something that offered flexibility, summers off, a little pay, and well… world-changing possibilities. I think I offered it up as some kind of dare, figuring the powers of the universe would laugh at my rather outrageous request and I would somehow be off the hook and remain complacent in my safe little world. And laugh He did. The answer to my prayer came in the form of one of those “Home Party” invitations. You know, the ones you receive, you groan when you open it up realizing what it is and immediately begin to think of something else you have going on that day so that you have a legitimate excuse not to attend. Spending money on things I never knew I needed in the first place was not my cup o’ tea. But something about this invitation caught my attention immediately. This was a party with a purpose: Trades of Hope, Empowering Women out of Poverty. I went to the party and I was blown away by the beauty of the products and the stories of the magnificent artisans that made each one. I brought my ten-year-old daughter with me that night. She was enamored as well and set her sights on a bracelet that later appeared in her Christmas stocking.
I found myself contemplating joining this company. But direct sales? Really? I couldn’t sell an iPhone to a teenager! That night as I was mulling this over in my head, the answer came to me out of the mouth of my daughter. You see, we adopted Elizabeth four years ago from China. Her family had not been able to care for her medical needs so they took her to the safest place they knew, a hospital. Two years later she became part of our family, she now had two parents and three crazy brothers and we were blessed with one sweet amazing resilient child.
Elizabeth crawled into my lap that night and said, “Tell me again, Mom. Why did my China mom have to leave me in that hospital?” Right then I knew that what I had really been looking for was a way to help women, mothers like my daughter’s birth mom, on a global level. Mothers should not have to relinquish their babies just because they cannot afford to feed, clothe and care for them. I had just stumbled upon the perfect opportunity.
Trades of Hope was founded by four women: Holly Wehde, her daughter, Chelsie Antos, Gretchen Huijskens and her daughter Elisabeth. As a result of personal experiences of their own, they were looking for a way to impact the world’s poor, but in a sustainable way- not in the form of charity. Through much prayer and deliberation, the idea of Trades of Hope was born. Neither Gretchen nor Holly was particularly drawn to the idea of home parties, feeling much the same about them as I do myself. But, they studied this particular business model and found this really would be a great way for a large force of sales people to reach and educate the general public about Fair Trade and the economic impact their purchases can make. The added benefit is that we, the sales team, feel so empowered ourselves as the work we do on behalf of the world’s poor, especially women, really is changing lives.
I was able to see this first hand when Trades of Hope offered its Compassion Entrepreneurs (direct sales reps) to accompany them on a Vision Trip to Haiti. I travelled last February and was able to meet the many wonderful women who make our gorgeous products. We are their sales force, and in doing so one artisan was now able to send a daughter to University and another artisan was able to care for her baby even after her family all succumbed to Cholera, all because they had work for their hands to do.
I am astounded and humbled by the love and determination of our founders, Gretchen, Elisabeth, Holly and Chelsea. Their hard work and self-sacrifices are leading this company in an amazing direction. My family, and especially my daughter, are all proud to have a mom and a wife who is working hard to change lives. We Compassion Entrepreneurs are all so excited to be counted among the first on board with Trades of Hope and I personally cannot wait to see what we as world changers can accomplish.
Colleen Biegger is first a wife and SAHM of four incredible kids. She is a Compassion Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope and uses the extra time in her life to promote Fair Trade and teach others about how sustainable business and fair wages can dramatically alter the lives of the impoverished, especially women and children. As consumers our dollar is an economic ballot for the kind of world we want to live in. She hopes that one day, no mother will have to relinquish their child simply because they do not have the means to care for them. She is working hard to change the world, one party at a time! She invites you to Change the World, too. Click here for more information.