At first glance, Kizuri is a small, cozy shop nestled into a space in downtown Spokane, but to owner Jillian Joseph, it holds the world.
Kizuri is a female-owned fair trade business that works to uplift artisan crafters in other countries by creating a market for products in Spokane. The shop boasts a wide array of products from over 40 countries.
From bright patterned clothing to scent-filled soaps and cooking utensils, the gift shop holds nearly everything imaginable on its shelves. Many of the items at Kizuri are up-cycled goods, like old flour sacks repurposed as colorful tote bags, each with a unique tale to tell.
“Everything in the store is handmade and everything has a story,” said Jillian Joseph, owner of Kizuri.
Those stories are woven into the fabric of the Kizuri business plan. According to Joseph, Kizuri upholds fair trade values including fair labor, anti-child labor and safe working conditions.
According to the World Fair Trade Organization, 74% of fair trade workers are women who are often the sole wage earners in their homes. Fair trade allows people, primarily women, in other countries to make above a livable wage by selling their goods to different markets across the globe.
For Joseph, transparency is everything. Each item at Kizuri has the country of origin on the price tag.
“I always hope that when you buy something from my store, you look at it and think about who made it and wonder a little bit about what their life is like,” Joseph said. “I hope things in our store can lead to curiosity and then eventually to empathy.”
Kizuri found its start at the hands of Kim Harmson in 2008, who took over the space in downtown Spokane after another fair trade shop closed. Harmson retired in 2019 and since then, Joseph has taken the business into her own hands.
Joseph said that what sets Kizuri apart from larger corporations and chains is that consumers can know where the items they are buying originated while supporting the livelihoods of people in other countries. Fair trade helps to level the playing field across cultures and borders.
“A lot of people will enter into a typical business relationship and it’s like ‘you give me this and I’ll give you that,’ but the power dynamic has been so different between the so-called West and East that we have to look at other ways to make things more equitable,” said Denise Attwood, co-founder and owner of Ganesh Himal Trading, a fair trade business that operates out of Nepal.
Ganesh Himal Trading is one of the fair trade suppliers that Kizuri sources products from. The business was founded in 1984 before fair trade was a widely recognized concept, according to Attwood.
Attwood said the purpose of Ganesh Himal Trading is to enhance the lives of people in Nepal by giving them voice and agency regarding the products they sell and their wages.
Attwood said one of the largest benefits of her job is being able to see her work throughout generations. Ganesh Himal Trading has been in operation for almost 40 years and most of the mothers that have earned profit through the company have used the money to send their children to school.
“The women I started working with had like a first-grade education, now their daughters have masters and they have graduated from university,” Attwood said.
Just as each product has a story, Attwood says that each consumer has the option to become a part of that story by supporting fair trade and making conscientious spending decisions.
Joseph said this offer extends to Gonzaga students as well.
“As a Jesuit institution, people at Gonzaga are interested in social justice, so that is a really nice intersection because we are all about economic empowerment and providing opportunities to people born into less fortunate circumstances than us,” Joseph said.
As for now, Joseph says she’s working on organizing a “Spring Cleaning” sale set for May 7 and a fundraiser for the Conscious Connections Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Nepal that works with girls and women.
Kizuri is located at 35 W. Main Ave. Suite 100 and open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“If you can’t travel you can always come in here to get a little taste of the world,” Joseph said.