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Have you ever thought about the story you are telling with the things you bring into your home? Have you ever thought about what your décor style says about you? I love seeing how different people’s home décor or personal style says so much about their personality, culture, history, where they’ve traveled, and what they hold near and dear to them. My guest today has combined her passion for travel, culture, and fair trade into a thriving business that is helping others tell their stories in a beautiful way. Latoya Tucciarone is the founder and owner of Sustainable Home Goods. Latoya started Sustainable Home Goods in 2017 because she truly believes that one of the best ways to end world poverty is through trade, not aid. Prior to starting Sustainable, she worked for fair-trade jewelry company, Noonday Collection (which is no stranger to this podcast)! During her time with Noonday, Latoya noticed a rise in ethical shopping for jewelry and clothing, but very few fair-trade options for the home. She saw a niche and she wanted to fill it. Sustainable Home Goods can be found online and at Ponce City Market in Atlanta, GA. Latoya graduated from Elon University (just down the road from me!), started a successful photography business, and has traveled all over the world. She’s also raising four amazing kids with her husband Andrew. I loved this conversation with Latoya. We could have talked all day. Sit back, relax, and join me for this great conversation!
Latoya and her husband are beautifully busy in Atlanta, GA with their four children, ages 4, 7, 10, and 11. Latoya grew up in southern California, which fostered her love of being connected to people from all different cultures.
In college Latoya had a chance to study abroad and live in South Africa for a month. That’s when she first fell in love with people groups and really realized her love for the world and for traveling. Between Latoya’s travel and her husband Andrew’s travel for his production company, the two have seen more than 50 countries!
Her experiences traveling also grew her heart for recognizing the need to engage vulnerable communities through fair trade in a sustainable way. That means collaborating with them through trade, not just charity.
Latoya’s family facilitated cultural experiences without leaving the house, whether through music available for the kids to listen to, or art prominently displayed throughout the house.
Populations that are already vulnerable are even more so during a crisis like the one we’re in now with the global Coronavirus pandemic. There are so many systemic issues that still have to change to protect vulnerable communities when things are good!
Latoya and Andrew took their kids to Guatemala last July so that they could meet the artisans and understand the process, love, and tradition that goes into handmade items. The kids don’t think of the artisans as receiving charity, they see them as talented partners.
Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. -Leila Janah
Latoya’s focus is to find talented people and partner with them so that there is an opportunity for their unique, handcrafted work to be seen, celebrated, and purchased! Sustainable Home Goods works hard to create a story-driven experience to show people how each piece was made.
Pieces can be even more treasured knowing that people have the honor of bringing a unique, special item into their home.
Latoya credits her experience with Noonday Collection as the first time she really understood how business can be used for good.
She loved working with jewelry and Noonday Collection, but she was drawn to home décor and creating a warm and inviting space and filling homes for stories. When she surveyed the retail landscape, she noticed there weren’t as many options for purchasing ethically for the home like there were for purchasing ethical fashion.
Latoya knew she wanted to create a space for people to shop safely, knowing there was no exploitation behind the pieces they purchased. She started slowly with basic e-commerce for a year and a half, followed by a few pop ups shops and markets. Seeing people pick up products in their hands and connect with a story made Latoya quickly realize that it was time to open a brick and mortar.
She knew there was only one place she wanted to be. She called the Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia. The location in “the Hollywood of the South” allows Sustainable Home Goods to foster even more meaningful conversations with regular people, celebrities, and scientists about breaking poverty and violence cycles with jobs, sustainable income, and trade.
When people visit the store from other countries, they comment about feeling right at home. Latoya is well on her way toward a goal of Sustainable Home Goods becoming “the Whole foods of ethical shopping.”
Sustainable Home Goods is very mindful about what they bring into the store, and everything is carefully hand-picked and curated. Latoya wants to create a special place for people to shop for modern items while still honoring traditional techniques.
36:23 – The Experience of a Black Woman in Fair Trade
In the past year or two, Latoya has seen more black women engaging in the fair-trade industry. Latoya has had strangers at conferences comment on her looks or even touch her hair!
People also go out of their way to acknowledge her presence. It stands out to Latoya that there are so few black women in the industry that when they arrive, everyone notices. It can feel a bit uncomfortable and lonely to say the least.
Knowingly or unknowingly, the industry treads a fine line of perpetuating the image of the white savior and white people centering themselves.
When traveling, it’s also hard to witness people in other cultures acknowledging a purchase from a white person as having “made it”, equating that metric to success. It’s not the measure of their worth, and it can be a heartbreaking to see.
Latoya and Noonday Collections worked on ways to shift the narrative to use ethnic models and do photoshoots on location where artisans live. It’s important for artisans to see their own people wearing and using their creations.
Seeing people reconnecting to their own heritage through the artisan items is very encouraging and special, especially knowing that connection can also support the artisans around the world who share that same heritage.
The more businesses that follow ethical business practices, the more people are seeing that it’s just a good way to do business, no matter your race. As the industry grows, Latoya’s hope is that we will organically see diversity in the industry grow as well.
You can have good intentions, but if your impact is negative, it’s important to recognize it and change. When we know better, we do better (Maya Angelo).
It’s most important to be in real relationship with people different from us. That’s the best way to learn how to be mindful about how we treat each other, rather than coming in with preconceived notions from something we’ve read in a book.
Being in close relationship is disarming. Being open with each other is the way we were created to live.
Find out what Latoya is learning about herself during Covid-19 (oooh, it’s good stuff), her most unusual talents, who she would choose to play her in a movie about her life, what makes her feel most alive, and of course, what it means to her to run a business with purpose.
18:00 – There are brilliant artists coming out of Africa and telling their story. You just never hear about modern art coming out of Africa. So how do we change that narrative?
22:52 – You’re kind of left with those two tensions … This is a way to live in that love of culture while also being able to engage in ending the poverty and suffering that you’re seeing.
42:20 – We can be connected to our heritage and our people through fair trade and purchasing items that are helping our brothers and sisters all over the world…That’s the narrative that I’m working on: be connected to who you are and your heritage.
50:45 – Be mindful of being culturally respectful, but in the context of relationship. I think sometimes people want to skip over the relational part and just be able to say what they want to say and do what they think is best. There’s some work to be done. Just love someone who’s different than you.
51:27 – Relationships are just so, so important. Before you get on twitter and start spouting about something, or get on Facebook and spouting about something, or putting a sign in your yard, just stop and say, ‘Am I loving and am I in relationship with people who are different than me?’ And if not, then that’s your first step. Go and love and be with people who are different.
ABOUT LATOYA TUCCIARONE:
LaToya Tucciarone is the Founder and Owner of SustainAble Home Goods. She started SustainAble in 2017 because She truly believes that one of the best ways to end world poverty is through trade not aid.
Previous to starting SustainAble, She worked for fair trade jewelry company Noonday Collection. Getting to work with that amazing company really set her on this journey. During her time time with Noonday, she noticed a rise in ethical shopping for jewelry and clothing but very few fair trade options for the home. She saw a niche and wanted to fill it. SustainAble Home Goods can be found at Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia.
LaToya is a graduate of Elon University, started a successful photography business, has traveled all over the world and somewhere along the line is raising 4 absolutely amazing kids with her husband Andrew.
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