Local business owner, Wen, of Old Yak Bazaar
Have you been looking for nice fair trade and upcycled handcrafted designs in the Berkeley area? Check out Old Yak Bazaar in the wonderful shopping location, Elmwood!
Reasons to love this local business? Old Yak Bazaar sources their products from fair trade producer groups, NGOs, and small-scale, rural workshops who work to empower their respective communities by putting people before profits.
They also strive to use organic and upcycled materials whenever possible to help reduce environmental impact. Additionally, by selling handcrafted products, they support the livelihood of millions of skilled artisans all around the world!
I got to chat with the owner, Wen, and learn more about her beautiful shop!
What was your inspiration behind opening up your own business?
“My husband and I have lived in India for a long time and we worked with artisans over there. We thought it'd be great to bring some of their great products over to the East Bay. So we work directly with artisans, fair trade or handmade at local nonprofits."
What are some of your greatest struggles?
"Just learning how to do everything. We were running a business in India, but it’s completely different here. We're relearning how to do things on the U.S. side, though it’s more straight forward.
We’ve been here for a year now. The first year is the hardest because we're just dealing with the numbers. It’s hard to pay yourself in the first year, so you struggle, but then you make it. It’s just about the balance, working the formula, and working out the kinks with running your own business."
How do you find the artisans you work with?
"Some of them we knew from living in India. Otherwise, we worked with different certified fair trade groups, but we also sourced some things locally in California and in the U.S. It’s just a matter of reaching out to artisans, traveling to different parts of the world, and getting quality stuff.
We try to bring the stories behind every product. There’s a gap between the people who make the goods and the consumer. So we’re trying to bridge that gap by introducing the artisans, the fair trade groups, and some of the nonprofits that make the products."
Has owning a business always been your dream?
"I guess I always knew I would have my own business. I started my first business when I was out of college in India. After 8 years, we decided to move back here and start a business here."
What’s the story behind your store name?
"Actually, we came up with the name in a different language first. Then we thought it would be too hard for Americans to remember a foreign name so we changed it to Old Yak, and then we added Bazaar. It’s a unique combination of words that doesn't exist on the internet, so nothing else would come up if you search Old Yak Bazaar. That’s one of the reasons we chose the name - because we’re slowly building our e-commerce. It’s important to have good search engine optimization to show up right away instead of looking too far."