In the wake of Sept. 11 and the Iraq war that ensued, Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi were prompted to dedicate all their efforts into a non-profit venture now known as Reach and Teach.
"Compartmentalization between volunteering and work life was jarring. It was time to be more intentional," said Kikuchi.
The duo left their respective careers in the lucrative tech industry to do just that. This was 2001.
Now, ten years later the duo have has just crossed the one-year milestone of opening a storefront in San Mateo called Dove and Olive Works. Though this retail store is a for-profit venture, the mission of Dove and Olive Works and Reach and Teach are very much aligned.
“Really our intent is to put products under one roof that have an impact on the world,” said Wiesner.
Dove and Olive Works sells products that are fair-trade, meaning that laborers in every facet of production are paid fair wages (the store carries several hand-crafted goods), and most of those products are eco-friendly.
Examples of such eco-friendly, fair-trade products can be found in the well-stocked children’s section which includes Maya Organic sustainable rubber wood, naturally dyed toys made by craftspeople in Karnataka, India.
“Maya Organic aims to create wealth and build capabilities of poor informal sector workers and their families,” according to a statement on the company’s website.
Wiesner and Kikuchi purposefully sell goods that are produced by means similar to that of Maya Organic.
“We are trying to break the image that fair trade is more expensive. We don’t want people to think they can’t do the right thing because it’s expensive,” said Wiesner.
Dove and Olive Works promotes the notion that “doing the right thing” includes conscious consumption. In other words, a fair-trade purchase is a vote of support for the payment of a fair wage to laboring classes around the world – wages which could make all the difference in their quality of living.
Many of the products sold through Dove and Olive Works benefit a non-profit which produces them, and all the products tie into a lesson on social issues Kikuchi describes as "peacemaking, gender equality, sustainable living and civil rights."
Kikuchi has created a lesson in civil rights himself, through an educational card game called CIVIO which teaches players about the civil court system. Also, Reach and Teach publishes books for both adults and children that deal with various social issues. One such book, Ivy Homeless in San Francisco has been nominated as a finalist in this year's Children's Literary Classics Book Awards.
“We consider our customers to be partners in peacemaking and they really are,” said Kikuchi. “We are a discovery store for peacemaking.”
The in-store and online marketplace of Dove and Olive Works allows smaller organizations more visibility for their products, and in turn a broader audience for fundraising.
According to Wiesner, it wasn't easy finding a space that could serve as both a commercial storefront and a non-profit organization's headquarters.
"San Mateo was one of the few places that was friendly to the idea of mixed use," said Wiesner. "I couldn't think of a better place that's open to innovation."
Between childrens’ books and toys, resources for educators, home décor and an adult book selection, Dove and Olive Works sells one other thing that the store’s name would imply: Olive oil. Fair-trade olive oil.
When Dove and Olive Works opened for business in September of last year, Wiesner and Kikuchi decided to share the Reach and Teach headquarters with another non-profit called the Rebuilding Alliance. That came with the perk of fair-trade olive oil tastings at the store.
As a non-profit involved in structural and social rebuilding between Israel and Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance offers tastings of fair-trade olive oil sourced from Palestine, sales of which fund the organization’s efforts in-part.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better partner because Reach and Teach is about teaching social justice learning and (Rebuilding Alliance) is all about social justice building in a very tangible way,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, Rebuilding Alliance founder and executive director.
The Dove and Olive Works storefront has served as an event and meeting space to other non-profits as well.
This includes a regular open-mike night for the California Writers’ Club, film screenings from social activist groups like , and guest lecturers ranging on topics from global warming to international human trafficking.
Kikuchi has said that the original business plan for Dove and Olive Works was always to open a space that not only sold products for peacemaking, but “a place you can see peacemaking at work.”