Honoring Tradition: An Entrepreneur Supporting Fair Trade
An Interview with Mitla Moda
Dus Katrina is an awesome store owner who fell in love with the traditions of Mexican artisans, and has turned that passion into an online business. In addition to holding a full time job, she stays inspired through Mitla Moda, which sells fair trade artisanal goods in support of traditional communities. Dus shares her experience with us in her story.
Storenvy: What has been the most difficult obstacle for you in running Mitla Moda? What has been the most rewarding aspect of running your own business?
Dus Katrina: I think the most difficult thing for me has been trying to find the time to work on so many different things at once and accepting that lots of things, such as my social media presence, just won’t be as involved and powerful as it could be because of time pressures. I’ve always worked a 9-5 at the same time, and I know this means I have to prioritize things really well and sometimes make hard trade-offs.
Of course there are numerous rewards, and I think the biggest by far is the wonderful community involved in small businesses. I’ve had wonderful email exchanges with customers that I still remember a year or more later, and I’ve even been able to support customers by purchasing from and promoting their wonderful shops as well. It always seems that on a day I’m particularly discouraged or tired, I’ll get a wonderful comment, whether through social media or an email from someone, saying how much they love my shop mission, and I’m inspired all over again to continue working to support Mexican artisans.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you would offer to other small business owners as they navigate the challenges of starting their own online business?
I would recommend joining a small business owner community group. I’m a part of two on Facebook, and the tips everyone shares there, the questions people ask, and having a place to channel those seemingly-dumb questions has been invaluable. Of course you need to have some sort of business plan starting out, but at least for me, finding small tips that I can implement right away has made such a big difference. Also, letting go of other things, not stressing about keeping on top of all other business/social media news, and setting limits for your social media usage. Of course keep track of your expenses regularly so they don’t pile up, and make sure your products shine with clean, clear backgrounds and pictures.
What has been the most valuable lesson for you through all of this? How have you grown as a business owner?
Even though one of my college majors was in marketing, I feel like I know so much more now than when I first started, and of course, I still have a ton more to learn. One really valuable lesson I’ve learned is regarding criticism, to look at it more objectively and use it to improve what I’m doing, but not take it too harshly either. As a business owner, I’ve really come to understand the importance of prioritizing things, especially to allow time for the little touches that I think are important, such as including a handwritten thank you note with all orders. Maybe next I can prioritize my penmanship.
What have you learned or what inspiration have you gained from working directly with Mexican artisans?
What inspires me the most about the artisans is the story behind each pattern, the traditions, and the community built into each one, how the skills have been passed down from generation to generation, and the time and attention to detail in each piece. I love how embroidering something by hand is not seen as a waste of time, but as a part of daily life that brings women together to chat over needlework. The artisans never make quick, throw-away items that change with each new trend, and their dedication to tradition inspires me to be more appreciative of what I have and to stop and think if I can fix something instead of buying new.
Why is fair trade important for Mitla Moda? What should people know when purchasing items that are considered fair trade?
Fair trade is crucial because it ensures that the artisans are fairly compensated for and benefiting from their talents. My main goal in starting Mitla Moda was to share their beautiful, eco-friendly craftsmanship with a greater public in a way that would benefit their communities and contribute to sustaining their traditional lifestyles. I wanted to use the power I had through my studies and access to the internet for good, and I’m thrilled to see a growing interest in fairly made items and greater consumer awareness overall. As to what people should know when purchasing fair trade – first of all, you’re awesome! I know this saying might get old, but you really are casting a vote with your dollar, so way to go! I also love supporting companies that have an additional mission, such as giving back to the communities, and if you’re interested in specific products and industries, I think the best place to get started is the internet. There are tons of amazing blogs that focus on fair trade fashion, and I’m sure you could find others that focus on everything from favorite fair trade foods and recipes. You can also just take a quick look around your local store for fair trade, and of course support your local coffee shops and restaurants, and encourage them to purchase local and fair trade.