Lisa Dunn of Revive
Meet Lisa Dunn, owner of Revive
, a fair-trade retailer in Cleveland Heights and Lyndhurst.
What is Revive?
Revive is an independent, fair trade retailer combining hand-crafted artistry with modern design to offer eco-fashion for children, women and men, as well as products for the home. The handcrafted pieces come from more than 30 countries, including the United States and are made of various sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and hemp, vegetable dyes, recycled glass and magazines, shells and seeds.
As Northeast Ohio’s first fair trade clothing boutique, Revive has a brick-and-mortar presence with a 1,200-square-foot store and an 800-square-foot store in two Cleveland-area locations. It also has an online presence with its modern and user-friendly web store, www.revivestore.com.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I founded Revive in 2006 to merge two passions: human rights work and retail.
While in College, I began a successful career in retail management while simultaneously volunteering at a fair trade store where I learned about how ethical commerce can alleviate poverty.
The pull of social justice tipped the scale. I left fashion to work full time at a non-profit focusing on human rights in Central America and Colombia. There, I focused on economic development programs designed to empower artisans. For instance, in El Salvador, I met women who hand weave bags in a rural community without electricity. In Guatemala, I saw how fair trade cooperatives were measuring success in important areas: increased access to potable water, increased levels of education for indigenous children, and increased levels of income in the community.
As I continued to work with the artisans I met, I became more passionate about developing products with them following the highest standards of fair trade commerce. I spent time educating the general public about fair trade commerce and the difference that it makes. I observed a growing local demand for more products sourced ethically. After five years of experience in the field, I decided to follow my passion and I opened Revive. The bags of the artisans from El Salvador were among the first products in my boutique.
To run my business, I wear many hats -- from product designer to human resources and e-commerce manager. I enjoy developing successful equitable trade partnerships with artisans from around the world following the highest fair trade standards. Such expertise is at the core of a successful fair trade business.
Korey Freeman, my husband, brings 15 years of expertise in graphic design and customer service to the table.
Why did you start your business?
I found a way to merge my retail experience with my passion for fair trade by working with artisans in product and organizational development, while providing a retail outlet and larger market for their goods.
I believe in fair trade commerce as an agent of change and I have seen first-hand the difference that it makes. It provides artisans with economic and social development opportunities. It leads to long-term employment and higher levels of safety, health, and nutrition for the artisans and their communities. Fair trade commerce helps build economically viable communities, which in turn, helps build peaceful communities.
I believe fair trade commerce has a positive impact on our global community by helping preserve traditional craft making skills. Artisans who can’t earn a living through their craft eventually stop practicing and their artistry disappears. It’s similar to the disappearance of certain languages. When that happens, we lose a part of our rich cultural heritage as a human species.
I believe one does not need to choose between fashion and ecology – you can have the best of both worlds at Revive! We bridge the gap between artisans and U.S. consumers who embrace a sustainable lifestyle. We offer customers a meaningful experience where they can make a difference with their purchase. We establish positive connections between artisans and consumers by sharing inspiring stories.
Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
John Carroll University has a student group called Justice that focuses on social enterprise. When I was working at the human rights organization, I spent some time with them educating about fair trade.
When I decided to open Revive, they volunteered to help. They made a big difference. For instance, they staffed the store during the first weekend opening. They also helped to spread the word about the boutique. That initial experience helped us solidify our grassroots marketing approach.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Clevelanders have an affinity for arts and culture. University Circle is one example that shows our arts & culture heritage. The upcoming Cleveland International Film Festival is a testament to the cultural diversity that Northeast Ohio residents embrace.
At Revive, our customers reconnect with our diverse and rich cultural heritage when they are exposed to the most beautiful and colorful traditional craft making skills our human species has to offer.
The recent opening of Global Cleveland’s hub in the Huntington Building downtown Cleveland demonstrates our commitment to welcoming and embracing cultural diversity. At Revive we take our patrons with us on a global journey. When you step into a Revive store, you can travel around the world and be reminded we belong to a global community that is vibrant, resourceful and beautiful.
Mayor Frank Jackson shared a vision for Cleveland -- Sustainable Cleveland 2019, “a Green City on a Blue Lake” -- that is aligned with the sustainable lifestyle we believe in at Revive.
What inspires you?
The women entrepreneurs with whom I work inspire me. Our partner artisans are from around the world, including the United States, who are in need of an equitable trading relationship to earn a living wage and to have hope for their future. Some are in areas facing increasing poverty and in many cases, conflict and strife. I admire their strengths and resourcefulness to overcome such obstacles. Despite the many challenges, they find a way to balance their lives and express their joie de vivre.
Our rich cultural heritage inspires me. Many centuries-old artisanal skills are at risk of extinction since some artisans can’t earn a living by the sole product of their artistry due to several economic and social factors. By increasing the demand for goods produced with these traditional skills, Revive helps preserve the artistry from extinction.
Making a difference inspires me. Fair trade commerce results in more children attending school, long-term employment for artisans, and higher levels of safety, health, and nutrition for the artisans and their communities.