As the Sales Manager of MZ, I have the pleasure of speaking with my wholesale customers every few months. I am always delighted to communicate, whether by email or phone, with Bev Blasingame, owner of Eclipse Trading Post. She is honestly one of the kindest, most upbeat clients that I correspond with. I always feel more joyful after connecting with her.
MZ had a nice exchange with Bev to find out the story behind Eclipse Trading Post.
MZ: When did you open Eclipse Trading Post?
Eclipse Trading Post opened on November 30, 2013, in a 10 x 10 foot space at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since then, it has grown into a 15 x 10 space (in the span of three months), and six months after opening, hired its first paid employee. Modest gains, yes, especially in a culture that values doing things in a big, splashy way, but I believe that small actions and steps matter.
MZ: What was your inspiration for opening this store?
Eclipse Trading Post started after I literally woke one morning with the idea that I might be able to help better women’s lives through trade. I had recently finished writing a novel in winter, 2013 (that took years to complete), and I felt the need to get back into the world, to stop living in my head and spending days in my room involved in such solitary work. I knew that I wanted to help women — too many horrible things going on with trafficking and conditions in women’s lives that keep us impoverished — but I didn’t know what I’d do. So I had this idea that women can earn money doing what seems to come naturally to many of us — creating things. And I reasoned that I could sell women’s handicrafts. I thought that my inspiration was something new, something unique … that’s how little I knew about fair trade one year ago.
Now, as I learn more about businesses with similar missions — to do good in the world through ethical trade — I become even more excited about what I’m doing. What I most love about this work involves partnerships with sources who supply the handmade goods. Every day, they’re doing something bold, something that challenges the way we shop. These folks, the little companies (mostly women-owned) have the courage to enter a market stacked against them. I love the fight because it makes all the sense in the world. Its time has come.
MZ: What is your favorite aspect of your work?
I’m constantly spoiled by the decent treatment I enjoy from companies such as Manos Zapotecas. The other day, Icia called to follow up on an order. She took time to chat while her son played in the background, and I thought, how lovely is this? A woman is able to work from home doing work that helps other women. It felt so natural. Also, I love Manos Zapotecas’s products — beautiful handwoven work. Exquisite.
Products such as Manos Zapotecas’s bags bring richness to people’s lives. Not only are they beautiful to touch and see, they represent a better way to do business. The companies I most love tell simple stories through beautiful objects.
MZ: Why are “ethically traded/earth friendly goods” so important to you?
Ethically traded products speak to people. You can feel the “vibe” of the artisan in a piece. I love dealing with products that make people feel good. It’s an entirely different experience from walking into a big box store and feeling depressed about such variety of so many useless objects. I always wonder: At what price this cheapness?
MZ: Top 3 most cherished companies whose products you carry?
Article 22 does a great job of telling a story through objects. Their Peacebomb jewelry is made from bombs that were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. Through the jewelry, Article 22 brings attention to the long-term impact of wars that we’ve waged in recent history. But they also show that destruction from war, as awful as it is, can engender creation. Article 22 is a fabulous company to work with. I also love Malia Designs and Bright Endeavors, based in Chicago. Bright Endeavors is a social enterprise that teaches job skills to single moms. Young women in the training program make eco-friendly candles and bath products and learn how to translate work tasks into a marketable resume. Malia Designs works against sex trade trafficking in Cambodia. The company uses recycled feed and cement bags to make sturdy, fashionable purses.
I could go on and on about the sources (Thistle Farms, Botanicus, Aura Freedom, Dsenyo and the ones mentioned above, among others found on my website). I love them all, but I’m also in the process of re-evaluating what I carry in the shop. I’m located in a public market and am still learning about which products sell well in that particular environment. I have my favorites, but as a buyer, I’ve learned that my picks don’t always translate into sales.