All big movements start small, but many would be surprised to learn that Ten Thousand Villages—a nonprofit and retailer with 70 stores nationwide—began out of a car trunk. In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler started the organization out of her car, taking a name from a quote by Mohandas Gandhi, who said, “India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages.”
Her willpower and determination allowed her vision to grow into a nonprofit that today supports more than 130 artisan groups in 37 developing countries. These artisans' wares go on sale at the organization's nationwide retail outlets, which brim with items including jewelry, stationery, and home decor. Everything is made using environmentally friendly processes, and every artisan is paid a fair wage. The money earned from sales goes directly to the artisans—who might otherwise be unemployed or underemployed—for financial help with education, food, housing, and healthcare.
The organization has risen to such stature that it won the People’s Choice Award for Green Business of the Year in 2005, and has acted as one of the founding members of the World Fair Trade Organization.