Exhorting and paying people of color next to zilch is still an issue today. There are many businesses and companies that take advantage of POC. Thankfully, not everyone does. Some people genuinely care and this includes Shelley Tennyson and her company, MZ Fair Trade. 

Zoe Elle had the opportunity to talk with Shelley Tennyson, founder of MZ Fair Trade, about issues of discrimination seen in businesses and how her company is trying to change those issues. The online shop has a variety of products from tote bags to pottery. These items have exquisite designs that represent the diversity of artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the culture and heritage of the Zapotec people. Each product has a genuine Indigenous design. By upholding such an inclusive company culture, Shelley is able to support underrepresented people of color in business.

Shelley has always been interested in alleviating poverty. She believes the most effective way to do this is to create economic opportunities for people. Her good-natured wishes are what led her to volunteering in a microfinance program based in Oaxaca, Mexico, that gave small loans to women in poverty who operated businesses on their own. 

As she worked with the microfinance program to provide business education to women, Shelley became close to them and discovered many talented artisans among them. They made things such as beautiful wool rugs and bags that had 100-year-old Indigenous designs passed down from their family. However, many unknown, small companies sold these amazing products. So despite them being so intricately designed, the weavers were paid very little. Shelly was determined to change this system.

Shelly and the women who weaved the items began to sell their products on their own through wholesale and were very successful. Fast forwarding through woman doing a lot of hard work together, MZ Fair Trade now makes around $150,000 to $250,000 yearly on the products that are being made in Oaxaca. This is enough to help around 50 to 100 artisans who have been living in poverty. Shelly definitely made the change she wanted to see in the industry.

What an amazing woman and shop with a noble drive! Zoe Elle is honored to have spoken with Shelley. Being able to work with and support such amazing companies like this is what we at Zoe Elle work hard for! Become a part of the change and check out MZ Fairtrade’s website and Instagram @mzfairtrade to see some of their amazing products that are making a difference in the lives of women and POC around the world.