the T+I Story


"I am incredibly inspired by the women-led social enterprises in the craft and natural cosmetics sectors in Africa and the Middle East. They are true pioneers of social enterprise having a profound impact on their communities and beyond.”

-Kathleen Holland, Executive Director & Visionary

Like most stories, the story of Trade+Impact is comprised of many elements. It's a story of collaboration and synergies. A story of determination and patience. A story of perseverance and inspiration. And it started when our Executive Director, Kathleen Holland, met a few inspiring women across Africa who embodied these ideals.

The concept of Trade+Impact started in 2006 when Executive Director Kathleen Holland had a serendipitous meeting with a woman named Rose.

Kathleen and Rose at the 2016 Trade+Impact Summit Morocco, September 2016

Kathleen and Rose at the 2016 Trade+Impact Summit
Morocco, September 2016

Rose was a scientist with an MBA working with a US-based cosmetics company. Hoping to feel more fulfilled, she left America to return to Tanzania, and patented a miracle skin oil from the leave of the moringa tree. Rose built a small, committed team, and reinvested all she had in her business and the lives it touched.  She was building ‘a social cause on a business platform’ – a social enterprise.

That same year, Kathleen met other extraordinary women leading social enterprises, including Sheila Freemantle, Kathy Marshall and Sara Abera. Despite the distances which separated them, each woman was focused on business beyond the bottom line. These women were interested in creating jobs, increasing wages, positively impacting their communities, and practising environmental stewardship. They were enterprising, accomplished, capable, and clever in their approaches to product development. They worked with what they knew and what they had, in sectors that were relevant and accessible to women.

But they all faced barriers:  access to global markets, access to investment and access to international best practices.

Kathleen saw a solution: take the access to Africa. Over the years that followed, she worked with local and global organizations like CAABWA, CAWEE, SWIFT and TFO Canada to develop an internationally renowned Summit + Trade Expo to Africa. The turning point came upon sharing her dream at a Vital Voices conference when Shareefa Fahdel introduced Kathleen to Khadija Idirissi Janati from Morocco. Sophie Otiende and Daniella Mastracci joined the three and the vision became a reality. This small-but-mighty group of women along with a dedicated group of volunteers united to serve these extraordinary social entrepreneurs in Africa and the Middle East.

In September 2016, the inaugural launch of Trade+Impact Summit + Trade Expo occurred in Morocco. The energy was palpable and transformational for buyers and sellers alike. It generated leads and created connections profitable to everyone. It was 'magical'.

The Trade+Impact Association was co-founded in July 2017 with the help of Daniella Mastracci and the Founding board members. Trade+Impact is a community where everyone is encouraged to contribute, consider, and cultivate women-led social enterprises in the craft and natural cosmetics sectors. Trade+Impact was established to support and champion these women-led social enterprises, raising awareness and advocating for these extraordinary businesses which both create exceptional products and make deep and profound impacts on their employees and their communities.

Become a part of the movement to grow these sectors and their impact across Africa and the Middle East.

Join the movement.

Founding Board Members