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Wen King is the founder of the Fair Trade brand, Rover + Kin. I first met Wen at the Fair Trade Federation Conference after stumbling upon her table at the expo. Her gorgeous fair trade clothing literally stopped me in my tracks. Wen has combined her incredible eye for design with a passion for supporting artisans and their stories. Join me as I hear from Wen about living in Northern India, building a Fair Trade small business from the ground up, and taking her business one step further to explore education, health care, microfinance, and more.
4:50 – The Wen 101
- After college, Wen was faced with the question of whether to go to graduate school or find an entry level job. Instead, she decided to flip the script by moving to India. She started her first business and lived in India for more than eight years.
- Wen sourced local handmade goods for her café, and found herself drawn to both the traditional craft and artisan stories behind the products she sold.
- When she and her husband moved back to the US, Wen knew she wanted to bring those crafts back with her, and she and her husband opened their first store in Berkley, CA.
- Rover + Kin started by growing a business to support as many artisans in India as possible.
- It’s important to Wen to understand the process of creating traditional textiles in India, as well the time and attention necessary to create a hand-made article of clothing.
10:44 – From Cafe to Clothing
- The name Rover + Kin came from Wen being the “Rover” who goes place to place visiting artisans or “Kin”.
- Sustainability on both sides is very important to Wen. Rover + Kin artisans are paid around 35% higher than the average wage of the industry in India, receive access to full healthcare, educational resources for their children, community microfinancing, and capacity-building initiatives.
- Wen creates simple, timeless designs knowing that they will remain popular despite trends that come and go.
- Rover + Kin clothing is made in woman-owned and managed co-op in West Bengal, India. The co-op has been around for 34 years, long before Fair Trade became popular in the West.
- Wen and the women work closely together to create a mutually understanding of the process of making sustainable, fair trade clothing.
28:43 – Telling The Stories
- Wen would like to work with nonprofit partners on the ground in India to grow the story-telling side of her business to share more artisan stories with the world.
Getting To Know Our Guest
- Find out who Wen would choose to sit next to her on a 10-hour flight, what she would do if she knew no one was judging her, what she’s reading right now, and of course, what it means for her to run a business with purpose.
ABOUT Wen-Yan King
Wen is the founder of Rover & Kin, a fair trade fashion brand that incorporates modern design with traditional artisan techniques. Wen was born in Taiwan and raised in Minnesota. But curiosity of the world got the better of her so she spent most of her 20s backpacking around the world. Wen eventually settled in northern India where she lived and ran her first business for nearly a decade. During her time in India, she fell in love with the craftsmanship of artisan made and witnessed first hand the impact of fair trade. Since then, she has been a proactive advocate for fair trade as one of the most effective methods of sustainable development. Wen is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area and is also the co-owner of Koraa, a fair trade brick and mortar based in Berkeley, California.
Connect with Rover & Kin
12:53 “I was always very attracted to the idea of fair trade because it’s not a charity, it’s not a handout. It’s a sustainable business model that works for both sides.”
13:00 – “It was always really important to me that it wasn’t a handout. The artisans are proud of what they do, and they grow alongside us. It’s a mutually beneficial business partnership.”
15:06 – “You can see how through these resources and all these benefits of fair trade, that families are actually able to get out of the cycle of poverty and do incredible things with their lives.”