Introducing our 2014 Mercado Global line

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As Chicago’s arctic winter nears an end, we feel it’s time to bring on the spring colors, prints and materials. We’d like to introduce a few handbags from the {haute} 2014 collection by fair trade partner, Mercado Global.

MG LogoMercado Global is a nonprofit organization that promotes community driven development by linking Guatemalan women’s cooperatives to the U.S. market through a model of fair wage employment. Mercado Global provides assistance to the one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessory artisans in the areas of design, product development, technical training, financial planning and organizational management. Today, the employment and support given by this organization has made it possible for over 200 women cooperative members to provide basic necessities such as nutritious meals for their families and schooling for their children.

The ideal spring trio: Matea Weekender, Emilia Tote and San Juan Clutch.



Matea Weekender

Made by Guatemalan artisans, the Matea Weekender combines traditional stripes with intricate handwoven brocade. Features inner and outer pockets, a detachable strap, and macrame pompom details. Accented with nickel hardware. Natural and black. 100% cotton. Fully lined. Measures 18.5″H x 15.5″W.  Retail: $328.00




Emilia Tote

Constructed by Guatemalan artisans of handwoven stripe and brocade, this stylish carryall features leather handles and piping, an inner pocket with leather detailing, and is accented by detachable macrama pompoms. Natural and black. 100% cotton. Fully lined. Measures 16″H x 14″W x 5″D. Retail: $165.00



San Juan Clutch

This must-have clutch, constructed by Guatemalan artisans from handwoven traditional striped fabric, is the perfect accessory. Accented with fabric piping is and brass zipper closure. Fully lined. 100% cotton. Measures 6″H x 12″W. Retail: $48.00


Oh spring, how we love thee.


Items that help our Earth… as well as others!

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Earth Day, April 22nd, marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. At HHR, every day is Earth Day! We like to call what we do Green+™: offering opportunities for companies to practice not only environmental sustainability but social sustainability, too. These solutions are great for companies like yours, that are looking to enhance their corporate social responsibility footprints.

JOURNALEvery Litter Bit Helps Journal

These beautiful journals are handmade by a family of artisans in in Tegallalang, Bali who have mastered the art of turning nature’s litter into art. They collect the materials from their garden to create the covers and make paper using a kitchen blender. The family also employs women and older members of the community who are able to work from home. Available in Brown and Green/Brown Circles. Retail: $18.

WASHIron Washer Bowl

Let freedom ring – Freedom and independence ring true in these bold iron bowls. Artisans of Noah’s Ark in Moradabad, India collect each individual iron ring from local repair shops, hand-welding each of the nearly 1,000 connection points. Noah’s Ark provides jobs and stability where few employment opportunities exist – offering women the freedom to live independently. Retail: $30 11” bowl and $40 14” bowl.

WINERecycled Colored Glass Wine Bottle

A “green” candle inside and out, reclaimed and recycled wine bottles are used to create each cobalt blue or green glass container, then filled with hand poured eco-friendly soy wax. Created by the social enterprise for New Moms Inc., which provides a job development training program for homeless and at-risk young mothers between the ages of 17 and 24. Available scents: Vanilla Honey, Pacific Redwood, Aloe Lily, Lemon Tea, Yuzu Coconut, and Lavender Milk. Approximate burn time: 40 hrs. Retail: $30.

debDeborah Clutch

Eco-friendly, chic and perfect for all occasions, this recycled “pop-tab” purse was designed by the motivated young women of Moda Esperanza in Honduras. These women and single mothers, many of whom are orphans themselves, are empowered by earning a fair wage, turning recycled pop tabs into beautiful purses. Available in Black and Pewter. Retail: $32.


YOGARecycled Yoga Bag

Made from recycled Vietnamese rice bags, this yoga bag is perfect for the yoga enthusiast! Features a drawstring closure and shoulder strap. Proceeds increase economic opportunity for women in Cambodia and support organizations that fight human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Available in Green, Light Blue and Red. Retail: $22.


MESSENGERRecycled Motorcycle Seat/Netting Messenger

Both durable and functional, this eco-friendly messenger bag is made from recycled motorcycle seats and recycled netting. Features include an adjustable strap, snap hook for keys, front pocket, back pocket, and two inside pockets. The purchase of this product provides income, dignity and hope to artisans and their families and free daycare for their children. Available in Black and Brown. Retail: $74 Small and $80 Large.

Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter – November 2012

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Welcome to the November issue of the Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter

Our newsletter brings you the latest information from Helping Hand Rewards and our socially responsible partners.

This issue includes:

  • 2012 Motivation Show Highlights
  • Education Spotlight: Help Your Customers Get a Competitive Edge
  • New Partner Spotlight: Misericordia
  • Case Study: State University Alumni Association Giveaway 

Click here for the current issue.

Looking for great holiday gift ideas? Let us know your budget and we’ll suggest some socially responsible gift items!

Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter – July 2012

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Welcome to the July issue of the Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter! 

Our newsletter brings you the latest information from Helping Hand Rewards and our socially responsible partners.

This issue includes:

  • New Partner Spotlight: five ACCESSORIES and Malia Designs
  • Bright Endeavors In the News
  • New Product: Laptop Sleeves from five ACCESSORIES
  • Case Study From Million Dollar Round Table 

Click here for the current issue.

Will you be coming to Chicago for the ASI Show next week? If so, be sure to visit us at booth #2219.

Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter – April 2012

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 Welcome to the April issue of the Helping Hand Rewards Newsletter! 

Our newsletter brings you the latest information from Helping Hand Rewards and our socially responsible partners.

This issue includes:

  • New Partner Spotlight: Comfort the Children (CTC) International
  • Greyston Bakery In the News
  • Eco-Friendly Products for Earth Day
  • Case Study From Marriott/Renaissance Hotels 

Click here for the current issue.

Will you be coming to Chicago for the ASI Show in July? If so, be sure to visit us at booth #2219.

Shop Socially Responsible This Season

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‘Tis the season for gift giving. Spread holiday cheer beyond your recipients by shopping socially responsible this season. By purchasing products from social enterprises, you’re not only guaranteed a hand-made, original and meaningful item,  you’re also helping people earn a living and feed their families.

If you’re in the Chicago area, we invite you to attend the BMO Harris Bank Holiday Bazaar on Wednesday, Dec. 7 and Thursday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the lobby of 111 W. Monroe Street. Browse for unique gifts from several local non-profits. Plus, enjoy live music, special appearances and holiday beverages and snacks while you shop. We’ll be there with gourmet food, handbags, home decor and jewelry available for purchase from a sample of our social enterprise partners.

We hope to see you there. Your purchase supports organizations that provide valuable social and job development programming for disadvantaged, hard-to-hire and developmentally and physically challenged individuals.

Happy Holidays from Our Family to yours. 

HHR Newsletter – November 2011

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Our newsletter brings you the latest information from Helping Hand Rewards and our socially responsible partners. This issue includes:

  • Meet Our Newest Partner: Yali Derman
  • Mercado Global Makes Headlines
  • Case Study: Hotel Palomar Chicago Offers Bath Teas from Bright Endeavors

To view the newsletter, click here.

See something you like? Suggestions? Or, perhaps you have a story idea for a future issue. Leave a comment below. We appreciate the feedback!

New Social Enterprise Partner: Common Thread Cooperative

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Given the enthusiasm and interest we received from Canadians at this year’s PPAI show, we are thrilled to announce our newest social enterprise partner, Common Thread Cooperative. As our first partner in Canada, we’re excited to expand our network and promote their social mission.

As a cooperative, Common Thread operates differently from our other partners. All of their members are organizations, not individuals. They are a cooperative of Canadian enterprises and organizations with sewing programs; and they provide brokering and production coordination for their social enterprise members and other producers. The co-op sources street banners and other fabric for re-purposing into colorful and durable tote bags, drawstring bags, aprons, messenger bags, notebook covers and more. Helping Hand Rewards is currently utilizing their services for gift bags and meeting bags.

Melanie Conn is a member of the Common Thread management team and conceived the initial idea and operation of the co-op. As a community economic development teacher and a consultant for people starting cooperatives, she worked with groups using social enterprises to facilitate participation in the economy by their members: people experiencing challenges because they were immigrants and refugees or living with mental illness. She noticed that a number of the groups focusing on women were providing sewing services.

“I thought a producer marketing cooperative that accessed contracts for these (sewing) groups and helped coordinate production would be a way for them to achieve their goals much more successfully,” says Conn. “I researched the idea and talked to groups across North America. Once I was assured about its feasibility, I was able to identify partners in British Columbia who were excited about it.”

She got very involved in the piloting stage, working on the business plan and connecting with members of organizations. Currently, she provides marketing and general management services for the co-op.

Common Thread was officially incorporated as a cooperative in December 2009, but began operations before then. Their first big contract was in the summer of 2009 for the 2010 Winter Olympics when they were contracted by the City of Vancouver to make 1500 drawstring backpacks from pre-Olympic banners. The City then distributed the backpacks to inner-city schools. After the Olympics, the co-op began to focus on producing delegate bags using their ample supply of Olympic banners and other street banner fabric. Their contracts grew because people liked making a purchase that had added social value and also reduced their environmental impact.

At first, individuals from member organizations worked primarily from home. However, Common Thread was able to purchase industrial equipment a year ago which enabled them to move to the next stage of production. Several members of the production network now work rent-free from a corner of The Flag Shop, an organizational member of the co-op. The owner of The Flag Shop is also a member of Common Thread’s board and an enthusiastic supporter of the co-op. Every order The Flag Shop fills is accompanied by information about Common Thread’s ‘banner to bag’ capacity.

Tote bags in production in a corner of The Flag Shop

While still a relatively new enterprise and the grateful recipient of grant funds from time to time, Common Thread’s current goal is to cover their overhead expenses through sales. They don’t pay production work by the hour. Instead, they break down every contract into operations and pay people for what they produce. The payment rate is based on what an experienced worker would be able to produce in an hour.

One major challenge for the co-op has been the balance between the volume of orders and the capacity of the production network.  As the business grows, expenses rise for coordination, as well as other support service the co-op provides.

“In the corporate environment, you aim to hire the cream of the crop. If they don’t perform, you let them go,” says Conn. “But of course that’s not our practice. Since the purpose of the co-op is to provide a flexible work environment, we find ways to adapt it to the strengths and needs of our production network. It’s quite the balancing act since we also need to get the work done! We’ve integrated a core of very good workers into our network to help establish the strong foundation we need to succeed as a business. We’re also moving into training in a big way to help all our sewers develop their skills. We’re thrilled to see how well it’s working.”

For Conn, the challenges presented by the co-op are a welcome opportunity to give those who thrive in a flexible work environment a chance at a good life. With Common Thread, people from all backgrounds are able to come together, work cooperatively and help each other out.

“I am deeply gratified when I see the pleasure and pride people take in their ability to get better at what they do,  and make some money doing it,” says Conn.

HHR Newsletter – July 2011

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Our bi-monthly newsletter brings you the latest information from Helping Hand Rewards and our socially responsible partners. This issue includes:

  • Sewing with a Common Purpose – Meet our Newest Partner!
  • See Helping Hand Rewards at the ASI Show in Chicago
  • Spotlight on Fatemeh Hasani from Common Thread
  • New Product Feature – Men’s Shaving Kits from  Pure Eden Spa Products
  • HHA Products Debut on “The Joe Show”

To view the newsletter, click here.

See something you like? Suggestions? Or, perhaps you have a story idea for a future issue. Leave a comment below. We appreciate the feedback!