Monday, April 27, 2009


Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Today I made quite the observation, Bolivian dog poo is NOT the same as American dog poo. I woke up this morning at 3AM so that I could have 4 full hours to go over my business plan and financials due this evening for DePaul’s Venture Challenge. Call me crazy… this I know (I didn’t even want to think about the possibility of the Internet not working tonight; the possibility is quite high. You know, the power of positive thinking). Well anyways, after 4 hours and lots of Bolivian chocolate I had to run to the town to change some money and get some kind of exercise to make myself feel better about eating all the chocolate. The walk was great, Cochabamba has the best weather. I was practically skipping, smiling at everyone walking by, “Buen dia!” Nothing could be better in that moment. And then it happened… all of a sudden I couldn’t lift my foot. It was stuck to the side walk. I looked down. I had stepped in dog poo (!). This wasn’t just any dog poo, it was Bolivian dog poo. This stuff is more potent that gum. You are probably thinking exactly what I thought at first, “No, that couldn’t have been dog poo. You would never stick to the side walk like that.” I can assure you it was. Being the curious person I am, I immediately began a search for some more poo to confirm my observation. Sure thing, Bolivian dogs must be eating the craziest things. Not only does their “poo” look quite interesting…I believe this could be a new raw material source and market opportunity, Bolivian dog poo glue.

DAY 5: La Cancha, keep your eyes open and your purse close.

Today is La Cancha day with my college’s non-english speaking wife and then lunch with two fantastic people and board members of Puente de Solidaridad (Solidarity Clothing’s partnering Bolivian non-profit). La Cancha, means “The Market” in spanish. It should mean “Small, over populated town.” This market is the craziest, fast paced, noisiest place I have ever been. Monica (the wife of my colleague) came to pick me up in (really) small car. The first thing I thought when I saw it was, “Oh my goodness… How the heck will I fit in there (I am 5’11”)?” Some how I managed to get myself in the car. My head was literally touching the ceiling. Immediately we connected, Monica is such a wonderful woman (and speaks incredibly clear spanish). She drove us right into the middle of the market. HA! (laughing outloud as the a visual appears in my head) One of the main streets was closed for road construction and there was this big yellow ribbon blocking the street. “Jennifer, get out and hold the ribbon up. We are going in, that’s the street we need,” she told me. Um, ok. I got out and held the ribbon up as she quickly drove under. I can’t even tell you how many people were yelling at me. I didn’t even try to understand what they were saying. I just got back into the car as quickly as I could. “Perfecto!” she replied as if she couldn’t hear any of the curses. We drove a little way and parked (we were the only car on the blocked off street, such Royalty). Monica looked at me and said, “Keep your eyes open and your purse close.” Then she just started walking, never looking back. For as little as she was, man did she walk fast. We walked past meat stands, aisles of candy, bread, shoes, sunglasses, fabrics, you name it, it was there. Finally, as if it appeared out of nowhere we approached this hidden aisle of great Bolivian artifacts. Man where they excited to see me. “Pregunta me! Pregunta me! (ask me a question)” Flew at me from all angles. Though I felt completely overwhelmed, I found some beautiful jewelry, placemats, and small artifacts.

After la Cancha I had a wonderful lunch with Carlos and Marie Eugenia (Puente de Solidaridad board members). These are two of the nicest, most admirable people I have ever met. They welcomed me into their home and greeted me with the fanciest lunch I had ever seen. I tried so hard to speak in spanish but my head was so tired from my time with Monica. All my sentences came out making absolutely no sense. They were so patient with me. I have learned that Bolivianos are such loving, patient people. These two are no exception. Marie Eugenia made this wonderful avocado salad that I just couldn’t get enough of. They were so pleased with how much of it I ate that they brought out two more avocados just to satisfy my love. These things were the size of my head! I have NEVER seen avocados this big. Just another reason to love this country, Bolivia. After a wonderful lunch I was ready to return to my hotel, submit my business plan (have it FINALLY out of my mind), and get my self ready to fly to Santa Cruz to meet back up with the doctors. I learned earlier in the week that I would be the “official Operating Room photographer” during tomorrow’s open heart surgeries (!!). Whose said that with 9 years of schooling I could have been a doctor? This artist, world traveler, business student, hippie, entrepreneur, etc., will be in the operating room! My mother should be so proud.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

DAY 4: OH-La-La Cooperative.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

First I need to apologize to all of you for not getting this post up Wednesday (I especially need to apologize to my mother who has been religiously checking my blog to ensure I am ok… Mother, lo siento), I am a few days behind on my posts. The internet connection I was using has not been the best lately. Wednesday proved to be quite the busy day. This was the day I was waiting for, Ulala day. Not only is it a fantastic word to say (Ulala is the word for the cactus flower here in Bolivia. It is pronounced: Ooh-la-la), it is a wonderful cooperative to visit. I also had to work on my business plan… Back in the US, I am a finalist in DePaul University’s Venture Challenge with Solidarity Clothing’s other line, My final plan was due the next day, Thurday. I always turn in things at the last minute. Not because I procrastinate, but because I have to re-read it a million times.

All the doctors left to Santa Cruz Tuesday night leaving me to fend for myself. I love this feeling… I THRIVE in this feeling. How better to challenge your mind, courage and strength than to submerge yourself in an uncomfortable situation (the uncomfortableness being my very limited spanish vocabulary)? My spanish is improving each day and I am learning that a good giggle after a completely ridiculous sentence works quite well. Bolivianos are so patient and don’t mind my favorite word, “despacio (slowly).” I do have to say, I am surprising myself.

DAY 4: Ulala Cooperative.

This morning Jose (my colleague) came to the hotel to pick me up. The hotel staff wouldn’t let me leave until I ate some breakfast (of course I would never tell them the breakfast always gives me a stomach ache). They are so wonderful and just love hearing me attempt spanish. I have worked with Jose for a little more than a year but never really had a good conversation with him due to the language barrier. I have learned so much about him in this last week through our broken spanish/broken english conversations. This is such a wonderful thing. I feel so much closer to him, hearing his goals, and hopes for Solidarity Clothing. I know that together we will create such a positive change in the world. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with every thing I am doing; running two companies while taking five classes at DePaul University. Never again will I complain when I this feeling approaches and I have to go to my three hour spanish class every Friday. It has certainly paid off.

Ulala Cooperative is one of my favorites. These women are true entrepreneurs who show so much pride in their work. Every time I visit they are quick to show me their new styles, asking how I think they can improve and increase their market. In my previous visits I have had a translator. This for some reason made the visits feel very professional and business like. This time, it was me and my spanish. WOW! This visit was truly amazing, AMAZING. I now am able to communicate with them (and they could actually understand me). Because of this, so much energy filled their bodies. Women who I thought were shy wouldn’t stop talking. At one point we were all huddled around the table, shoulder to shoulder, laughing and all talking at once. I had a permanent smile on my face. They were so pleased that I learned spanish and could understand what they were saying. Nobody could ask me enough questions. They wanted to learn all about the US, my family, and the style women wear. I had them do a product sample for Lola-ola (my love and golden retriever) with out them really know what it was (only because I really couldn’t explain it at the time of the request). The sample turned out fantastic and when I explained what exactly it will be used for, they couldn’t believe it. “Who would buy a product for their dog? That is crazy,” they said. Ha! As you all know, we Americans are crazy when it comes to our dogs. I showed them a picture of Lola as I explained the American dog market… pet hotels, manicures, grooming, massage, pet psychology, etc. Many hands were brought to their mouths in shock. As I was laughing at the reactions I noticed one of the older women in off to the side with what looked to me as a look of complete disgust. Oh, my laughing stopped. Maybe I offended her with my crazy American spending habits… All of a sudden she stood up and said, “I love dogs! This is very interesting. Tell me how we can get into this market. Show me your dogs. What sizes do I need to make? Let’s make sweaters. What colors?” We then went on to talk about dogs for a good hour. HA! Even when I was getting ready to leave she pulled me aside and said, “Please tell me the size of your dogs. This is a great thing.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I had the hardest time waking up this morning. I had such vivid dreams last night as I always do when I am here in Bolivia. In my dreams I had such big hands and my face wasn’t visible. This may sound strange… but I know EXACTLY what it meant. My hands are so much more powerful than my face… you can only do so much with a beautiful face; with beautiful hands, you can change the world.

I don’t consider myself a “religious person.” I don’t go to church and I have a hard time following one religion’s views. I follow my heart, earth’s energies, my passions, and intuition. I know I have a purpose and I want to make a difference. Each time I come to Bolivia, I am reassured of my life’s path and that I am being guided (by whom/what… I can’t say for sure).

Today we lost one of the patients in the operating room (I am traveling with, my partnering non-profit). I have never felt so overwhelmed with sadness together with such a strong presence of faith in my life. This patient was a mother of seven, less than 50 years old. She was on her path to death before we saw her; we hoped we could give her more time on this path so she could continue to be with her children. I have never been so close to death before. After she passed, I could feel her energy circulating around the room drawing all the doctors (Bolivian and American), her family, and our staff together as one force moving forward.

DAY 2: Tata Esteban Cooperative

Before heading to the hospital to be with the patients and help out the doctors I visited our cooperative, Tata Esteban. Also know as Sipaskuna (pronounced SE-CA-ME-SPA), the Quechua word meaning “young women,” Tata Esteban is located in Tiraque a small mountain town of 2,000 in the heart of Bolivia. The young women, owners of Tata Esteban, are alumni of a training center affiliated with the local church. I love visiting this small town and talking with these young, playful girls working at this cooperative. Each time I visit I see another young girl (between the ages of 14-25) in the cooperative with a newborn baby strapped to her back as she works. It is another classic case of a young girl impregnated by just as young of a boy who is unable to man up to the responsibility of a baby; she is then is left to take care of the baby by herself. Without the proper sex education and preventive measures available, this is an unfortunate reality for Bolivian girls.

As we started to talk, again the biggest concern was work. They need more work. The American company they produce many goods for and we help coordinate, no longer needs their services. There has been many quality issues with their work and they haven’t been able to source the correct fabric. They asked for my help in getting one more chance. They need this work to support their cooperative. Together we talked about new styles, quality, and how we are going to approach this company to reassure their cooperative is capable of the company’s requests. We came up with a plan and have some great new samples coming back with me to give to the American company. Solidarity Clothing is also starting a new line, GREENOLA ( and the girls and I had some great conversation around new products that allowed them to utilize their creativity and innovation. They are so funny… they were really excited to show me a new “dress” they created. This was not much of a dress, it was quite sexy. I tried to hold back my look of shock when they asked if I would wear it (Basically it was two panels that barely covered the chest area that flowed into a incredibly short skirt). As politely as I could in Spanish I told them it was too cold in Chicago for such a dress.

Monday, April 20, 2009

K'anchy Cooperative, DAY 2

Monday, April 20, 2009

So, remember when I mentioned I realized I forgot something? I am very disappointed to say I forgot my camera cord… you will not be able to view my photos until my return. UGH! Oh, the suspense…

Last night I arrived to my hotel in Santa Cruz at 11PM. Of course I was not able to go right to sleep; I had to figure out the internet so that I could post my journal entry. I suppose I didn’t HAVE to… but I did tell my mother the only way she would know I was safe was to read my blog (this was to force technology on her, make her actually use her Facebook account, and to raise the number of viewers to my blog. Sneaky, I know). With a 6:30AM flight to Cochabamba today, the morning came WAY too early. I had a total of three hours of sleep. As soon as the plane began to roll, so did my eyes. I was out like a baby and didn’t wake up until we aggressively touched town in Cochabamba. I love this city, but geez, every time I arrive at this airport there is a new challenge to face. We were unable to bring the medical supplies through security (!). We were told we had to leave the supplies (that were needed today for surgeries) at the airport until we return with a “doctor’s note.” It didn’t matter that we had one of the top heart doctors in the US with us along with all his credentials. I mean, come on! Would this distinguished doctor come to Bolivia along with HEART VALVES for any other reason than to perform surgeries? Apparently they didn’t trust us (or someone needed to feel important). Long story short, after we arrived at our hotel we were able to send someone back with a note and the boxes were recovered. This was great news, since we had four Bolivianos waiting at the hospital for us today to begin surgery.

DAY 2: Visiting K’anchy cooperative.

When our small group arrived to our hotel in Cochabamba we were greeted by Puente de Solidaridad staff’s (my Bolivian partnering non-profit and Solidarity Bridge’s Bolivian staff) hugs and kisses. Immediately I was told they would not be speaking English to me (group laugh), and they wondered why my hair was no longer blond, and why I looked like I wasn’t eating as much. In Bolivia blond hair is a rarity and a little more “meat” on your bones implies you are living a good life. I assured them I am living the life of my dreams and that I am trying to be healthier so I have better luck with a husband (every time I visit they wonder why at 26 years old I am not married. In Bolivia this age is really old. They worry that I will soon be too old for a husband). Of course I don’t share the thought that immediately races through my head each time this question is asked “Are you kidding! I am ONLY 26 years old!”

We have a great breakfast and Jose (my college who coordinates all Solidarity Clothing’s orders) and I separate from the medical group and head to K’anchy cooperative. Just a quick background… K’anchy is the cooperative that produces the polo shirts, t-shirts and canvas shopping bags for Solidarity Clothing. I am especially excited to visit and share all the recent excitement surrounding our last order.

K’anchy: On the ride to the cooperative Jose and I discuss the many challenges we have been dealing with importing (Jose in broken English, Jen in broken Spanish). Each time there seems to be something new. After many confused looks and interesting sentence structures we are able to create a plan for future orders. We arrive at a half finished building which is now the home of K’anchy. This is really hard for me to see. In the last year they were forced to move out of their previous building because the owner decided to no longer rent the space. I walk up the steps to the fourth floor of the building and I am greeted by the now 6 member cooperative (we used to have close to 12 members). The US isn’t the only country experiencing the hardships, lack of work, and price increases due to the current economic crisis. Bolivia has been hit just as hard. Solidarity Clothing is not the only organization providing work for this cooperative. Thankfully we have been able to keep our orders somewhat consistent. Unfortunately, the work load from other organizations has been lessened a great deal due to the economy.

After our hugs, kisses, and hellos we all sit down to talk. This is where it got really emotional for me… Times are rough, and they are not happy with their current building. “How am I going to provide them work?” they asked. They amaze me with their commitment to each other and their craft. I want so bad to tell them it’s ok, we have more work coming, but I can’t. There is so much uncertainty. Sometimes I feel like so much pressure is on my shoulders. In a way, I am the one controlling their future. The harder I work in the US, the more work they are able to receive and the easier they are able to rise out of poverty. This is a lot of pressure… but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way I look at it is that these people are my family. Just like any family, we need to work together to survive, grow, and support each other. Never would I give up on them, and never would they give up on me. We talked about how we are going to get future orders and I shared with them the new marketing materials I recently distributed. It was great to see hope start to fill their eyes as they viewed the FANTASTIC photos of their shirts that were donated by a photographer friend of mine. “WOW!” They said. “How could we not get more orders with these photos?” We also talked about the recent Coleman Center order ( and all the great feedback I received. I realized that even though I may not be able to say everything I want to say, just me being here in Bolivia taking the time to visit with them gives them hope and confidence that together we will make Solidarity Clothing work. I need their presence, energies and reassurance just as much as they need mine.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sunday, April 19th as recorded by Jen Moran.

My Journey to Bolivia Begins:

Though this is my third trip to Bolivia, my excitement, anticipation and feelings of complete happiness are not lessened. In fact, as I was driving to the airport at 5AM this morning (!) my feelings were heightened. Perhaps these feelings stemmed from a quick thought of escaping the craziness of my life, the ridiculously early hour, the sleep deprived state I have been living in for the last year, or the venti coffee I splurged on with hopes of making to the airport in once piece… No way man, it was the sudden realization that I will be returning to the country that allows me to share whole self and that has put so much passion, hope, beauty, and strength into my life.

I invite you all to share this journey with me as I travel around the Bolivian cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba meeting with men and women entrepreneurs (just like me). Unlike me, they are not given all the opportunities that America has to offer. These men and women are living in dire poverty, fighting for their lives, homes, and their children’s futures. Follow me each day as I share stories, adventures, and pictures (if I can figure out how to upload them) of my journey.

DAY 1: I swear I didn’t pee my pants.

Today started at the early hour of 4:30AM. Last night I had the hardest time falling asleep as the excitement of my trip overwhelmed my thoughts (and the worries of forgetting something important. Just as I type this sentence I am realizing I did forget something. DOAH!). I had my best friend over to help calm my mind and facilitate the packing process. I must not be the best company when I pack, he fell asleep the moment he sat on my bed. Ha!

After 4 hours of sleep, I practically jumped out of bed at the sound of my alarm, ready for my travels. The plan was for me to drive to my brother’s house in Chicago, leave my car with him for the week (minus all the dog hair, his number one request) and have him drive me to the airport. We arrived (VERY) quickly to the airport where I met up with the three heart doctors I am traveling with from my partnering non-profit, Solidarity Bridge ( These doctors are truly amazing. They are all donating their time and expertise to perform as many heart surgeries and check-ups FREE OF CHARGE to the poor of Bolivia in this next week. They not only have magical, powerful hands, they also have magical, powerful hearts. Each one of us brought two full suitcases of medical supplies with us (AWESOME).

ON THE PLANE: As mentioned before, I woke up way too early for proper brain functioning… so of course the first thing I did when I sat down on the plane was to prepare myself for sleep. Sounds great, right? Oh, it was… let me tell you. I was so tired that after I finished taking a drink of water prior to my comatose I failed to screw the cap on my water bottle tightly on before placing the bottle next to me. After about a good hour nap I woke to find myself in a complete puddle, pants completely soaked. Immediately I thought I had peed my pants in my sleep. But why would I still have to go to the bathroom so bad? As I sat there thinking about what exactly went down, I found the culprit, my water bottle. Sigh of relief… but wait, I still had to go to the bathroom. Do I get up and walk to the bathroom looking like I just peed my pants? Or do I hold it and wait for my pants to dry a bit, saving myself the humiliation? I had to get out of my head and ask myself, “WWJD, you know... What would Jen (the confident one) do?” She would stand up, and walk tall. Besides, all the cool kids pee their pants, right? And that's just what I did... (not the peeing pants part).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Create a Fair Trade Flavor Contest!!

This is SUPER COOL!! mmmm.... I would choose a Fair Trade, Green Tea flavor with Almonds. My mouth is watering thinking about it!!

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Macadamia won’t be the newest Fair Trade flavor for long. Fans can enter their own funky flavor ideas using the ‘flavor generator’ on the company’s web site until the contest ends on May 26th, 2009. ENTER YOUR FLAVOR at
At the close of the global contest in June a lucky winner from each of the seventeen participating countries selling Ben & Jerry’s will be chosen to win a trip to the company’s Fair Trade cocoa cooperative in the Dominican Republic. On the trip, the grand prize winner and the winning flavor will be announced, and then appear on shelves as pints and in Scoop Shops in March 2010.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We CAN change the world!

This movie is AWESOME!! Together we can change the world :)


written by Jen Moran

"Fair Trade leverages the power of people working together across the supply chain (" Every person involved in a Fair Trade transaction helps to empower producers while ensuring their health and well-being. Fair Trade transactions also invest in communities and our environment.

Often we are unaware of the effects our purchasing desicions have on people, and the planet. By subsituting/adding more Fair Trade products into our current budget, we take power away from big corporations who seek the lowest possible cost at the expense of workers and our environment. Fair Trade products allow consumers to support producers with a living wage while building stronger communities and promoting a healthier planet.

Fair Trade is not the same as "Free Trade."

  • A system that favors big businesses.
  • Wages fluctuate as businesses search for the cheapest labor and highest profits.
  • Free Trade agreements allow businesses to avoid internationally recognized environmental standards.
  • A system that favors small farmers and cooperatives.
  • Producers are guaranteed a floor price that is a living wage, building stability for workers.
  • Fair Trade insists on adherence to international environmental standards, often directing fair trade premiums to environmental education.


In the US, Fair Trade Certified products have the label of the TransFair USA and craft businesses operate under the label of the Fair Trade Federation.

  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Tea
  • Sugar
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Rice
  • Vanilla
  • Spices
  • Sports Balls
  • Wine
  • Fair Trade Crafts
  • Clothing

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are Fair-Trade Goods Recession Proof?

By Jeff Chu

Global economic crisis. Financial collapse. The current climate. Whatever term you want to use to describe our present state of affairs, I've heard it in the halls and meeting rooms at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship [1]. Funding is down, outlooks are uncertain, and people are worried. Except, perhaps, for the fair-trade folks. Demand for sustainably made, socially responsible products seems to be growing even as the global economy staggers.

A few weeks before the forum, candymaker Cadbury announced that, by this summer, all of its flagship Dairy Milk bars in Britain and Ireland will be made exclusively from fair-trade cocoa grown by Ghanaian farmers. By the end of the year, every cup of coffee that Starbucks sells in the U.K. will be brewed with fair-trade beans, and in 2008, the company doubled the amount of fair-trade coffee it imported into the U.S. Wal-Mart is quadrupling its purchases of fair-trade bananas this year, and eliminating non-FT bananas from hundreds of its stores. Transfair USA is planning to certify up to a dozen new products in 2009, including avocados and olive oil, and will begin a pilot project for cotton apparel--its first beyond food. So is fair trade recession-proof?

Prices for fair-trade products may be higher, but one Harvard study [2] has showed that consumers expect them to be: Sales actually increased when the price went up. "Not only is this consumer segment--which is growing, trend-setting--willing to pay a little more for products that speak to those values, but they expect to pay more," Transfair USA CEO Paul Rice said in a session at the forum. It's as if the higher price signals that the certification isn't just a marketing gimmick but guarantees the veracity of the claim.

Rice thinks that companies investing now are being particularly forward-looking. "Companies who are announcing big increases in FT product lines are really trying to position themselves for when we come out of the recession," he says. "They're positioning themselves now, at this unlikely moment, to establish credibility." He believes there's good reason to do so, citing studies that show up to 30% of U.S. adult consumers--some 60 million people--regularly shop for products "that are consistent with their values."

Earlier in the week, Oxford development economist Jim Cust [3] told me "there's arguably no altruistic act in the world. Economists look at the underlying utility you derive from doing something." That's as true of the consumer, and especially the corporation, as it is of the social entrepreneur. Fair trade is certainly seen by corporations as a differentiator for marketing purposes. "We've done something that's far beyond what any coffee company in the U.K. has ever done before," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said last fall. "This long-term commitment … will give our customers the assurance that the coffee they're buying in Starbucks in terms of espresso-based beverages is at a price that will allow sustainability for those people who need it most."

The conventional wisdom here at the forum seems to be that the ranks of the ethical shopper are growing. The question is whether this is just what one of my acquaintances calls "an ethical corsage" (thanks, Dan McQuillan [4]!) thanks to clever marketing and corporate strategy, or whether the growth in fair trade really presages some kind of permanent shift in the way we consume.

Maybe fair trade seems recession-proof because the people who tend to buy those products are less vulnerable to the rises and falls of the broader economy. The one problem with the Harvard study that Paul Rice cited was that it was done at ABC Carpet & Home, an upscale Manhattan home-furnishings store/yuppie magnet frequented by folks who are a little more insulated from recession than your average consumer. They're not living paycheck to paycheck. People using food stamps aren't buying fair-trade coffee. Let's say there comes a time when smarter, fairer shopping isn't just a yuppie lifestyle choice--not the only option, but the generally preferred one. That actually could mean that fair trade becomes less recession-proof, not more.