How It All Began

How It All Began

In 2002, Kindred Fair Trade Handcrafts was founded in downtown Santa Rosa, California by Lien Cibulka. It began in a small section of an existing retail store, but soon was successful enough to move to its own location a few doors down. Lien’s family and friends helped with the move by forming a bucket brigade to transfer the merchandise to the new location. It was exciting to be in their own space with their own décor: tile flooring, colorful walls and room to grow.


Running the store was very rewarding for Lien, but with a growing family she knew it was time to find a new owner. So after seven wonderful years, she sold the store to Julie Kawahara. Julie’s deep connections in the community through her non-profit work, as well as her passion for social justice, brought many new customers and relationships to the store. She served on several boards, bringing her expertise to the non-profit, business and fair trade sectors. With a love of shopping and an artistic eye, Julie brought in lovely new items to the store that kept her customers coming back. Eventually though, Julie longed to return to community development work, so she decided to look for a buyer.

And that’s where I come in. I wasn’t looking to buy a store or change careers. I was just minding my own business when I heard someone I didn’t even know stand up in a meeting to say that Kindred Fair Trade Handcrafts was going to be put up for sale. My ears perked up and my mind shot to attention. “Whoa”, I thought. “Maybe I could buy the store.” As soon as I could, I gave Julie a call to set up a time to chat and bing, bang, boom: a few months later I owned Kindred.

The driving force behind my decision to buy was not that I had experience in retail (I didn’t) or that I was looking to travel the world less (I wasn’t), or that I wanted to be my own boss (I already was). For me, it was about the opportunity to have a greater impact on global economic development than I was able to have on my own. Through Kindred, we help hundreds of artisans, communities and cooperatives improve their economic strength. Fair trade is a chain of relationships between the Earth, craftspeople, wholesalers, retailers and buyers. We operate under principles that values people and the planet. It’s the perfect fit for what I’m trying to do in the world.

It’s been a year and a half since I purchased the store, and during that time we’ve done a remodel, celebrated Kindred’s 16-year anniversary, and are now launching this e-commerce website. There are great things ahead and I welcome you to join in our journey: visit the store, shop online, share your thoughts via social media, or join our newsletter to stay up-to-date on our activities. They say it takes a tribe, and we agree…because we are all Kindred.

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