What do you do when someone admits to you in an email that they are going through a divorce and “needs to make their ethical business work before having to look for a ‘day’ job”?
You arrange to call them.
Emailing back and forth just didn’t seem the appropriate response for a disclosure this honest. It was under these circumstances that I found myself talking to Melissa Gray, proud mum, avid op-shop treasure hunter and Sydney-based founder of Kaleidoscope Global an ethical business that sources hand crafted fashion jewellery and accessories from around the world for the Australian market.
Establishing a fair trade business.
Melissa started Kaleidoscope Global a couple of years ago as a way to create her ideal job that also fits in with responsibilities as a mum. With a love of travel and interests in sustainability and ethical trade, it seemed only natural that she establish a business that incorporated these three things. “I went to visit my sister in the UK and saw fairtrade products everywhere. I wondered why I never saw it in Oz, Googled it and had an ahha moment realising this was the direction I wanted to go,” explains Melissa. It was then that Kaleidoscope Global was born.
Melissa admits she has always operated with an alternative mindset. “Fairtrade was a similar concept to attachment parenting and alternative education where you respect and trust the child’s ability to learn and grow in their own way and their own style and time frame. Fairtrade is similar in that the artisans are given a chance to create a life for themselves and their families and villages through business.”
We discussed fair-trade as a way of empowering people and communities. “It is not disconnected credit card giving, where charities decide where the money should go. The producer groups and individuals are running their own lives.” Traditional trade sees middlemen taking good chunks of profit for themselves with little concern for fair pay, environmental issues and work conditions. Melissa sought to change this model of exploitation by establishing a business that prioritised fairness, ethics and sustainability.
Since starting the business, she has made some successful strides, doing the trade show circuit and creating her own website to sell her ethical fashion accessories. While she uses technology to connect artisans with real buyers, attracting people to purchase from the website continues to be her biggest challenge.
It’s a small ethical world.
I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘six degrees of separation’ meaning that everyone in the world is separated by everyone else by six links. In the ethical fashion world, it is even less. I learned that Melissa is good friends with Rachel Pines from Moonbird, an Australian designer who creates ethical pyjamas, and whom I met at an after party for a sustainable fashion runway show a year and a half earlier. Even though I only met Rachel briefly I thought she was lovely and her pyjamas just as adorable. So it’s nice to learn that they’re friends. I hold Melissa in high regard and knowing she is acquainted with other mindful souls only further cements my high opinion of her.
A real example of authenticity.
Divorce is a sensitive topic. Before I finalised this piece, I was confused as to whether I could make mention of it. So I decided the right thing to do was to check in with Melissa. She replied that she was fine with this fact being published. She wanted to be open and transparent, as this story is a part of her truth. I realised then that Kaleidoscope Global represents so much more than just fair trade. This business embodies courage and hope, not just for the women in Swaziland, but for Melissa too.
Disclosure: This post was created for and sponsored by Kaleidoscope Global. Eco Warrior Princess is wearing Tintsaba earrings and ring in emerald green which was gifted as part of this relationship. We only support brands that meet our high ethical standards. For more information, click here.