Overland Park business offers fair trade products to help needy - WNEM TV 5

Overland Park business offers fair trade products to help needy

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OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

A retired Overland Park pastor is helping impoverished families around the world by selling their products in Kansas.

At Unique Finds, the goal is to spur economic development locally and internationally. Business owner Robert Southard said he offers gifts with a mission.

The artisans whose products are for sale range from women who were forced into prostitution as children to families living in villages without running water.

Most of the products in the store were made thousands of miles away.

Southard has met many of the people who make the products. For 12 years, he led young members of his church on youth missions overseas.  He is also resident at Tallgrass Creek retirement community.

"I kept seeing deep poverty and products that were very beautiful, but maybe an 80 percent unemployment. No one could buy their products. I thought I could sell those. So I started bringing them home and selling them at Baptist conventions," Southard said.

After seven years of selling the items at conventions, he decided to open a store.

Southard also sells products from local artists who then donate 10 percent to a nonprofit organization.

When something is purchased from someone who lives in a community without running water, the artisan receives 70 percent.

Southard said each sale reminds him of the person who made the product, especially one woman's group in India.

"The women are not allowed to vote, own property, drive cars," he said.

The women weave scarves and create handcrafted jewelry.

"When those sell, I just feel like the world is getting better. There is hope," he said.

Southard said the women who don't have a voice in their own country get to use art to share their story with customers thousands of miles away.

Unique Finds is now open at 7140 W. 80th Street in Overland Park.  They will also be a part of the Just for Her expo coming up June 7-9.

Click here for more information.

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