the T+I Story
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.
It started in 2006 with a serendipitous meeting with a woman named Rose.
Rose was a scientist with an MBA, and was working with a US-based cosmetics company. But she had decided to leave all of that to go home to Tanzania to invest her time and talent where she thought she could do more. After discovering and patenting a miracle skin oil from the leaves of the moringa tree, Rose built a small, strong, committed team of young farmers and reinvested all she had in her business and the lives it touched. She was attending the conference to confront and overcome the barriers to trade and investment she encountered in Africa, and to learn how to advocate for her business and for those she employed and served. Rose wanted to succeed and serve, and to not compromise one for the other. She wanted to build 'a social cause on a business platform' - or a social enterprise.
That same year, Kathleen discovered other extraordinary women leading social enterprises, including Sheila Freemantle from Tintsaba, Kathy Marshall from Sabahar and Sara Abera from Muya Ethiopia. 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 the concept of bringing 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'.
Because of the magic of Morocco, the natural evolution was to form a global collaborative community which is the Trade+Impact Association: a community where everyone is encouraged to contribute, consider, and cultivate women-led social enterprises in the craft and natural cosmetics sectors. Partnering across the globe, 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.
Executive Director & Visionary
Kathleen is a strategist, management consultant and trainer specializing in providing organizations with the tools to sustainably build their capacity and effectiveness based on a triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) platform. Kathleen’s career has spanned leadership roles with major Canadian corporations to consulting roles with the US State Department and Vital Voices to small craft companies in Africa. Kathleen has seen first-hand the impact that social enterprises have on their employees and communities; working in Afghanistan, Latin America and fourteen countries across Africa. Kathleen’s passion is to support the growth of women-led social enterprises globally and launching Trade + Impact with the team is a dream come true.
"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. I believe my purpose is to support them to have even greater impact."
Founding Board of Directors
Trade+Impact would like to recognize our committed volunteers who collaborate with us generously through their time, talents, resources, and extensive networks. They are our lifeblood and we thank them for being the plus for T+I.