From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
If you’ve browsed your way up King St. in the past 25 years, chances are you’ve seen a captivating boutique called Ten Thousand Villages… but did you know it’s actually a non-profit? Our next interview saw us sitting down with Kate McMahon, Managing Director, to learn more.
AEDP: Let’s get started… tell us about Ten Thousand Villages here in Alexandria.
Kate: Ten Thousand Villages is a local, 501(c)3 non-profit. We are a global maker-to-market. We believe every handcrafted object has a life of meaning behind it. Ten Thousand Villages is more than a store, we are part of a global movement. We’re a way for you to shop with intention for ethically-sourced wares — and to share in the joy of connecting with makers in ten thousand villages. We source product from over 30 different developing countries, providing sustainable income to more than 20,000 artisans.
Our store on King Street started opened in the Fall of 1994, however the store began a year prior. A group of likeminded folks decided they wanted to support the global fair-trade movement. Together, they formed our local non-profit, fund-raised and spread the word about our sustainable handcrafted movement. We have been on King Street for 25 years! So, our store is not a chain, but a local non-profit, run by a volunteer Board of Directors, right here in Alexandria. We also very proud to be part of the larger global movement that is Ten Thousand Village, though! If you are interested in being a part of our movement, just stop by the store or email firstname.lastname@example.org
AEDP: Twenty five years is an amazing track record for a retail business. What would you say your biggest challenge is now?
Kate: I think these days, retail in general is a challenge. We work on sharing with our customers what makes us unique and different.
AEDP: And what is the most rewarding thing?
Kate: The connections that we make and that we have with our artisan partners and being able to share that connection with our community makes our job wonderful! Know the impact that we make in each country, makes all the difference.
AEDP: Do you have a big project or goal you’re working on now?
Kate: Our 25th anniversary in October, which is also World Fair Trade Month!
AEDP: Tell us a little about your company culture, and how you measure success at Ten Thousand Villages.
Kate: I had a gentleman come in our store recently to say we were the “zen” of King Street. I loved that! I think we convey a sense of calm, happiness, togetherness all from the work we do around the world.
I feel the fact that we have maintained our business for 25 years is our best measure of success. I also feel as the community continues to grow, so will we.
AEDP: Do you have a favorite charity that you support (is that weird, asking a non-profit organization that? Are you your own favorite charity??)?
Kate: Since we are a non-profit, we believe in supporting our other local non-profits. We have had successful shopping events with King Street Cats, ALIVE, Computer C.O.R.E. and many others!
AEDP: Finally, our favorite question: why Alexandria?
Kate: Our Board of Directors had a vision of what Old Town was becoming, and thank goodness for that!
To learn more about Ten Thousand Villages in Alexandria, stop by their storefront at 915 King St.