Ramona fashions fair deal for weaver women
From helping Palestinian families gain Gulf War reparations to starting up a growing fairtrade business, young mum Ramona Hirschi has packed a lot into her relatively short working life.
And in her latest success, Ramona, owner of fair trade luxury and homeware company Little Trove, is creating jobs for a group of weaver women in an Indian leprosy colony.
It seems there has never been a dull moment in the life of Ramona, aged 36.
Her early career involved a stint as a humanitarian lawyer with the United Nations in Geneva. Ramona then moved to Staffordshire when her husband Raphael, an astrophysicist, took up a research fellowship at Keele University.
“At the time, we were considering Santa Cruz (USA), Canberra (Australia), Tokyo (Japan) and Keele – we chose North Staffordshire,” said Ramona.
After securing a place with a major Stoke-on-Trent practice, Ramona seemed set for a career in commercial litigation. But a thirst to run her own business, coupled with a need to bring more balance to her whirlwind life as a working mum, led Ramona to set up her own business.
“The world of litigation was very exciting and I did enjoy it but it was not conducive to family life”
“I sat down one day with a piece of paper and chartered a course for where I wanted my life to be when I turned 50 and having considered all aspects, realised that my life needed a course correction in order to live a truly fulfilled life.” Ramona explained.
“I took my work and life experience and decided to create a job that would give me satisfaction and quality time with the family”
“At the same time, I wanted to ensure the business I set up was ethical and capable of creating opportunities for others, which pulled me towards the promotion of fair trade products
“Little Trove allows me to run a business that helps sustain families in developing countries and provides a pathway into work in the UK.
“I have always had a strong sense of justice and a fair trade business fits perfectly with the ethos which led me in to law in the first place.”
The emphasis on fair trade and an adventurous spirit has seen Ramona embark on research trips across the globe.
Ramona heard about skilled weavers living in a leprosy colony in India and was determined to meet them to start an income generating project
“Last autumn, a Little Trove volunteer and I went to visit the colony and stayed for several days,” said Ramona. “I must admit I found conditions to be harsh. It was 35 degrees, there was no electricity during the day and 11 of us shared the one bathroom out the back. In those conditions, I had to forget about contact lenses, Ghds, make up and my mobile phone! Despite that, I was welcomed into their homes with utmost generosity and treated like a Queen.
“Their passion and traditional weaving skills shone through but I worked with them on Western design ideas and how to develop a finished product acceptable to a savvy Western consumer
“I was pleased to be able to place orders for a range of cotton bags. The designs are exclusively available from Little Trove and the work we are providing is giving employment to eight women. We hope the bags will be successful so that we can increase our orders and create more jobs for the families living at the colony”
“I have a strong belief in international trade as a wealth generator for disadvantaged producer groups and am proud to say Little Trove is helping in a small way.”
Little Trove is the UK’s only direct selling company which specialises in Fair trade. The business runs on a party plan model where consultants across the country arrange events in potential customers’ homes.
Ramona was born in Malaysia where her mother was a banker and her father a civil engineer. Her childhood was a difficult one and she determined from a young age that education was going to be the key to success.
When she was 17, Ramona won a scholarship to Padworth College, Berkshire, to study A-levels. She went on to study law at NottinghamUniversity where she met Raphael, a Swiss national.
She returned to Malaysia to practise law in Kuala Lumpur before marrying Raphael in 2002 and moving to Geneva.
Her sense of justice led Ramona to work in legal services at the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC).
She said: “I worked on Palestinian claims for compensation for losses suffered during the illegal occupation of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, the first Gulf War. Everyone else was compensated between 1992 and 1996 but the Palestinians were left behind because they had no government recognised by international law through which they could submit their claim.
“After political lobbying, the UNCC accepted Palestinian claims in 2002. This led to an urgent need for lawyers and I had just relocated to Geneva and was privileged to be appointed to work at the United Nations.
Little Trove recently received recognition when it took first place in the Entrepreneurial Spirit category in the Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Boost Awards 2013.