Carlos and Sarah Teran Pineda, owners of Fair Trade Alliance, are passionate about sharing beautiful Ecuadorian Artisanal products with Canadians.
Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) grew out of Sarah’s vision to support Ecuadorian artists who “are putting their heart and soul into their products,” she says.
FTA operates using the principles of fair trade, which ensures the artisans are paid fairly for their work.
“People in Ecuador who work and made this bag, for example, they’re getting a fair wage for what they’ve done,” explains Sarah. “Their families are going to be fed properly for their work.
“For [the artisans], it’s a daily living and they have to sell some products to feed their kids or send them to school,” says Carlos, who is from Ecuador. “If FTA can help them figure out ways to promote what they’re already doing, we can see some big changes on the other side.”
FTA carries a variety of beautiful Ecuadorian products from 15 different communities: hand woven rugs in a wide range of colours and patterns; soft alpaca blankets; handmade leather bags featuring embroidered designs; intricately beaded jewelry; alpaca sweaters that are machine washable; and more.
Carlos and Sarah have worked with the artisans to help develop products that will “fit Canadian needs and tastes and sizes,” says Carlos.
“We can’t teach them how to weave, because they’re amazing,” he says. “But we can help with designing and blending materials to make them washable.”
FTA also carries Kichwa Coffee, which is grown by more than 400 families, including Carlos’ family, in the Chocó region of Ecuador. The specialty, direct fair trade coffee is shade-grown without chemicals, certified organic, and the beans are hand-picked when ripe.
The production of Kichwa Coffee helps preserve Kichwa culture and language, while providing positive changes towards sustainable development.
FTA began as a small business in Sarah’s home community of Norway House and opened in Winnipeg in the fall of 2013.
Carlos and Sarah are hoping to expand their business by exploring the possibility of opening two locations in northern Manitoba. They’re also part of the endeavour to make Winnipeg a fair trade city.
FTA is about relationships—“we are a people people,” says Carlos. He and Sarah have developed relationships with the artisans and they are looking to find ways for Canadians to connect with the artisans as well.
One of their ideas is to include a story about the artisan with the product they’ve made, which will provide a point of connection for the buyer.
“We have some new bags made of straw material that have been customized with the artisans’ signatures,” says Sarah. “We would like to get more products with people’s signatures on them.”
“For us this is about making a difference to the shoppers’ and buyers’ experience—we want to keep a connection that people have with artisans,” says Carlos.
They’re exploring the idea of offering FTA memberships to engage local shoppers with supporting the FTA principles and the communities they support, with the hope that FTA will become known and supported more widely.
“We dream lots—it’s beautiful to dream,” says Carlos. “If you don’t live your dreams, there’s nothing else left.”
This article originally appeared on Community News Commons, which was a Winnipeg-based grassroots public media project that ran from 2012-2017.

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