Sydney Sherman is the activist, leader, CEO, and co-founder of Austin startup, Faire. The online shop is committed to providing a marketplace for ethically-sourced and Fair Trade goods from artisans and brands all over the world. Later this week, Faire will be hosting an Earth Day party in collaboration with ESPEROS SOHO at our flagship location. We had the opportunity to chat with the 26-year-old entrepreneur who is on her way to making the world a better place.
Why are fair trade and ethically produced goods so important to you? Why should they be to other consumers?
Fair Trade and other ethically produced goods are important to me because, especially in "advanced" industrial countries like the US, we buy things all of the time (maybe too much!). Purchasing consumer goods and services is, in some ways, a core piece of the engine of the global economy. Clothes sure, but toilet paper, toothbrushes, food, accessories, and a whole lot more random stuff we never think about until we need it.
And if we can start to buy better--if we can take that seemingly little step towards sustainability by choosing a different KIND of product--then we can actually begin to take a bigger leap towards building a worthwhile future, together. That's the point: every purchase we make touches someone somewhere, and if we can start buying products that don’t harm people or the environment, then their future, our future, will just be a lot brighter.
Also, because consumer goods impact all of us, we can use them to educate too--and this is just the beginning. Once more people consider how their goods affect some other real flesh and blood people and their families, or our environment, they will hopefully begin to take a second look at other things they might not have considered before--ultimately helping to usher in solutions for other pressing global challenges. So, I guess I'd say that ethically produced goods are important to ME specifically because I think they can both open the door to everyday people making real changes in our current way of life, AND because they represent an intentional way of living, at least for me--even though I'm not perfect!--every day.
How do you find the courage to be such a young entrepreneur?
I have a lot of support from my family members—my husband, every single day, and my parents and brothers. I’m 1 of 5 people in my immediate family who have started businesses, so I get a lot of support from experienced entrepreneurs. I don’t know what I would do without all of them! Because of that kind of common interest, and upbringing, starting a business seemed somewhat normal to me—but there are definitely still lots of moments where I have to convince myself to do something I’m afraid of. And here’s the thing about that: in those moments I think of the people I have the opportunity to do something for, and also the fact that my other options for earning a living are just not as meaningful as starting Faire (which has been my dream). So when you combine purpose with courage, grit, and a loving support network, that’s what ya get. So there’s no turning back for me!
What do you want to teach people about sustainability?
I would love for people to rethink their individual, "small,” daily choices. I want people to understand that how they act and what they buy matters for themselves, and for everyone else, whether they have been previously aware or not. We don’t have to be perfect all the time, or zealous about sustainability practices, but on the whole making choices that support sustainability efforts don’t need to be as overwhelming as we think. We can all make seemingly minor choices—every day—that together can make a big difference in the long term. Plus, the little choices are how big change always starts too—you just gotta’ start somewhere!
How do you stay in touch with nature?
I run in the mornings, outside, along a trail on the Colorado River in central Austin —it’s gorgeous. I also love going to Colorado; I love winter sports, and summers in general up there, and I spend a lot of time outdoors hiking and romping around. I always feel so refreshed when I leave because of how I benefit from the prominence of nature—the mountains, the rivers, the open space. Because I spend a lot of hours staring at my computer when I’m in Austin, an escape into an outdoor haven is highly necessary.
What would you say to Mother Nature if you could talk to her?
Hmm, I don't know...I would probably ask how to undo some of the damage we have done, knowing how tough the answer may be to hear! I’m sure she knows better than we do. I'd also ask how to live in greater harmony, and more thoughtfully, with the ever-shrinking natural world. Like, I wonder how we can be prosperous, efficient, safe, and sustainable as PART of a larger group of interdependent eco-systems?