Founder and co-owner
The Village Experience
The Village Cooperative
"I Dreamed of Africa," "Pride and Prejudice" and "Beyond Borders;" Egyptian Café; Heartland Film Festival; Indianapolis Monthly Restaurant Guide
Kelly Campbell believes in stepping out of her comfort zone. As founder and co-owner of The Village Experience, a fair-trade retail store and socially responsible tourism company in Broad Ripple, she’s often out of her normal time zone, as well.
After spending years working in New York in the fashion industry, she turned her attention to not-for-profits and humanitarian ventures. She now spends at least six months a year visiting developing countries, seeking struggling women who are interested in learning to support themselves by making a product to sell, as well as leading groups of travelers who will stay local, eat local and shop local.
“So many times Westerners come and they stay at Western hotels. It doesn’t really do a community any good if you go to Kenya and stay at the InterContinental,” she said.
Since launching their business two years ago, Campbell and her sister and business partner, Anne Campbell, have already expanded their store at 6055 N. College Ave. and taken 15 trips overseas. In a related solo venture, Campbell operates the not-for-profit Village Cooperative, which raises money for sustainable projects in Kenya. She and her sister decided to focus on one country, nurturing relationships there and trying to perfect a model.
Campbell has a degree in business and merchandising from Indiana University and a master’s in international relations from the University of Indianapolis and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. She says the store’s growth shows that people appreciate the concept of fair trade, which means that the people who create the products get paid fair wages.
“If there was a scarf that could be produced in China for a quarter,” Campbell explained, “we’re most likely going to pay $5 or $6 for it. That money will go to make sure the woman is compensated properly.”
As the workers earn a living wage, their standards of living can improve.
She returns to Kenya in January for the opening of a preschool academy.
“To see how a little money can actually make a huge difference, is really what motivates us,” she said.•