What is Serrv?
Serrv is a nonprofit, fair trade and development organization. Our mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide. Serrv works with thousands of small-scale artisans and farmers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other developing regions of the world by marketing their handcrafts and foods. Through our work with 55 community-based organizations in 25 countries, we create economic opportunity so these artisans and farmers can support themselves and their families.
In addition to purchasing and marketing products, we collaborate with our partners on other needed tools including product design, training, information and technical assistance.
What is fair trade?
Fair trade is a system that aims to pay fair wages, and also creates long-term, direct trading relationships based on dialogue, transparency, equity and respect. Fair trade is not about charity; it uses a fair system of exchange to empower producers to develop their own businesses and to foster sustainable development. We follow a set of internationally-accepted fair trade principles and practices that are designed to improve the livelihood of low-income people through alternative trade. They are:
- Transparency and long-term relationships
- Commitment to fair pay for labor
- Employee involvement in decision making
- Prepayments available on request
- Capacity building for long-term impact
- Equal opportunity for women
- Concern for the environment
- Respect for cultural identity
- Reasonable working conditions
- No child exploitation
Serrv works directly with organizations who are working with marginalized groups of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and areas of poverty in the U.S. Organizations working with Serrv have a mission to socially and economically improve lives and build stronger communities. We only work with organizations which operate according to fair trade principles as defined by the World Fair Trade Organization. We do not work with individuals, small family groups, or U.S.-based organizations importing products from the developing world.
Does a potential organization need to be a member of a fair trade network?
A potential partner does not need to be a member of a fair trade network; however, we encourage participation in fair trade groups in-country, regionally, and internationally through the World Fair Trade Organization.
What kinds of products does Serrv buy?
Serrv buys and sells handcrafts, including home decor, kitchen and tableware, jewelry, and accessories. Serrv also buys specialty food products. We do not buy toys for children.
Does a potential partner need to know how to export?
Applicants should be established, organized groups with the ability to export. Our capacity to work with groups who do not have any export experience is limited, so our preference is to work with groups that have had some experience selling in the international market. A group should have basic knowledge of costing and pricing, production, quality control, documentation, packing, invoicing, delivery, buyer communication, financial management, and accounting.
How does Serrv choose partners?
Serrv selects partners who meet the criteria outlined in this FAQ. When choosing new groups we evaluate a number of things: the impact the group has in their community, their level of experience, if their products will sell in our market, and if we think that the relationship is sustainable in the long-term. This is determined through an application process which includes a questionnaire, written correspondence, personal discussion, and often an on-site visit to the group.
How long does the selection process take?
Once we have all the required materials which include a questionnaire and photographs of products with FOB prices, we will make an initial determination within 60 days. For groups we are interested in, the process may take up to a year until we are able to visit the group on-site.
How many new organizations does Serrv partner with each year?
Each year, Serrv is contacted by approximately 250 groups either directly, or through returned Peace Corps volunteers, travelers, or mission contacts. Because we work intensively with groups, and we foster long-term relationships, we only add 1 to 2 new groups each year. This is a very limited number, and we often must turn away groups that are doing very good work in their communities.
How does Serrv work with partners?
Our model of working involves developing relationships with organizations that go beyond just purchasing products. As a development organization, we are interested in partnering with organizations to support their growth and to build the skills and capacity that will enable them to provide a dignified income to farmers and artisans into the future.
If a group does not currently make a product, can you help start a craft project?
Serrv does not have the capacity and resources to assist in starting new handcraft projects.
How do I know whether I should request an application packet?
Ask yourself the following questions, answering yes or no:
- Does your organization do more than selling products (like working on health or community projects, training artisans, etc.)?
- Do you adhere to the practices and principles of fair trade?
- Do you have products which fit into Serrv's product lines?
- Do you have the capacity to produce hundreds of identical products?
- Do you have a basic knowledge of export as outlined above?
If you answered yes to all of these questions and have reviewed this FAQ, please contact Serrv's Producer Relations Department for an application packet.