Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Priya Haji

Priya Haji
CEO and co-founder
World of Good
Emoryville, Calif.
Age: 37

World of Good, a fair-trade gift company, works with 6,000 artisans in 34 countries. The artisans, most of whom are women, are responsible for more than 25,000 dependents, and Priya Haji has helped improve their lives.

After graduating from the Hass School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, Haji traveled for six months in the Third World, trying to decide where she could do the most good. Instead of living in a community with one group of artisans, Haji decided to help artisans from around the world find access to the consumer market in the United States. Retailers who partner with World of Good get a small turn-key gift section for their store, and each product has a tag that describes the product and the people who make it.

World of Good is not Haji's first venture as a social entrepreneur. When she was an undergraduate at Stanford University she helped found the nonprofit group Free at Last, to combat substance abuse in East Palo Alto. As executive director, she grew the program to one that helped 3,000 people a year and had a staff of 60. In high school, she helped establish a free health clinic founded by her father in her hometown of Bryan, Texas.

What would you like to see change in the naturals industry in the next five years? I would like to see a significant increase in the number of craft artisans being paid fairly for their work. Our sister nonprofit organization, WorldofGood.org, works to develop clearer, stronger wage standards and improve artisan livelihoods through the Fair Wage Guide—an online artisan wage calculation tool that they developed in 2005. Improving the incomes of women working in the informal sector promises to make a significant impact on alleviating global poverty and drastically improving lives of people worldwide.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I love the product. I love knowing that every product represents a person whose life is improved because of partnerships with retail partners and thousands of customers in the United States.

What was your inspiration when you were getting started? In business school, I studied and watched how organics drastically changed the food industry and the way people buy and think about what they eat. This, in turn, impacted how thousands of acres were farmed. My thought was, can't we do the same for handmade goods? That's what we are trying to do with World of Good: get consumers to think about the people behind the products they buy. If we can, we have the opportunity to impact millions of lives—all over the world.

What are you most proud of? Giving thousands of women around the world the opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their children through our work.

Natural product you can't live without? Divine's Dark Chocolate with Mint.

What keeps you going on a tough day? Our team and the culture we have at World of Good. I started the company with my best friend from business school four years ago, and that dynamic, that ease and comfort of working with people whom you sincerely like and respect, has remained with us as we have grown to nearly 60 people. We laugh a lot at our office, and that makes a huge difference.

What are you afraid of? That I won't be able to find a solution that makes everyone happy.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 22,30

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