6 Great Reads for Aspiring Fair Trade Entrepreneurs

Mike Dershowitz
Fair Trade Entrepreneurship
6 min readApr 23, 2018


Photo: Mark Probst via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

#WorldBookDay is a great reminder that we all need to read more! I truly enjoy reading, and I never find enough time to do it.

The following six books are not strictly about Fair Trade Entrepreneurship. I define Fair Trade Entrepreneurship as a framework by which you govern your business dealings. It’s really nothing more than just applying the golden rule to the way that you conduct business.

Keep in mind that I never preach this philosophy without experience. If you’re an entrepreneur reading this, trust me — you’d make both more revenue and profit when you apply the golden rule liberally in your business dealings.

The following 6 titles are inspired by this tenet, if not in the strict sense, then certainly in the nuances of their message. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend them, they’re all worth your time — which is why my ratings are mostly 5 of 5!

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield (rated 4 out of 5)

I think there are probably 5 or 6 landmark books in the self-help canon that are essential. The list goes all the way back to Dale Carnegie and Buckminster Fuller, to Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins. Canfield certainly belongs in that list. Canfield worked with Fuller, which got him his start in this emerging industry in the 60’s and 70's.

Think of this book as more of a bible/reference book. You can read it straight through, but don’t have to. Almost every topic you could need help with in life is covered. To me, all of the chapters in the middle about people are the ones that most apply to Fair Trade Entrepreneurship. Canfield even talks about giving, the golden rule, and how business people relate to each other, in depth. But he also goes deeper, addressing how to apologize (both in business and personally), and how to create a “mental space” to be the most successful you can be.

Whenever I’m in a rut or in a bad place, I re-read this book. Jack has a list of accomplishments that his readers have done — and one is multiplying your yearly income by 10 times. After filing my 2017 taxes, I can now say that I’ve done that. I’ve multiplied my income by tent times in a matter of 3 years by following his advice.

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt (rated 5 out of 5)

This book is noted for being the first to be a business book, but with lessons couched in a piece of fiction. Whether working in the developing world or in the US, often in our careers we encounter situations in teams or operations that are so screwed up, and it looks like we’ll never fix them.

Goldratt encourages us to get to the heart of the “goal” and to arrange everything to “pull” everything else into that goal. The story is set in a failing auto factory that is in danger of being closed. The newly appointed manager is given the task of turning it around, but doesn’t know where to start. Goldratt encourages the fictional manager to look past the problems and finding solutions in what the people in it are experiencing and feeling.

This book represents the best of Fair Trade because it encourages honest relationships with everyone involved in producing “The Goal.”

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (rated 4 out of 5)

Cialdini is a legendary marketing professor based in Arizona. He designed experiments to prove the psychological triggers that are most used by marketers to get results from the pitches that they craft.

In the first part of the 20th century, most marketing was done by marketers who intuitively “knew” to get a response from a consumer. Cialdini was one of the first to break through and was actually able to prove it through his experiments. Some of his illustrations are hilarious, especially how the Hare Krishna get people to give donations at the airport.

This is an essential read for any entrepreneur trying to figure out how to pitch his ideas to end users. However, be warned: Some of the stuff in here is pretty powerful. Though, when used correctly, it’s great, it can be used for nefarious purposes — not very Fair Trade-like.

The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman (rated 5 out of 5)

Being an internationalist, Friedman was the first journalist to get at the heart of why international trade works in the 21st century — which is no different than why it has always worked — because it’s economically advantageous to the parties trading.

This model has worked for centuries when it came to things, but Friedman was the first to show how computing power, communications, and people have now added services to international trade, and changed the way business is done.

For me, this book became my manifesto on fair trade and international entrepreneurship. It inspired me to envision what could be possible when cultures peaceably go about changing the world together, and the economic benefit that ensues on both sides of the equation. Friedman explains all this with candor, wit, and a keen intellect for organizing how trade functions.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (rated 5 out of 5)

I’m not sure many people would apply this classic book to trade, but I think it’s a good example of how one-sided transactions are not good for either side — even if one is agreeing to being taken advantage of the other.

That’s what happens to the tree — the boy that grows up with him takes such joy, initially, at playing on the tree. Once the boy needs things, the tree offers and he takes them from the tree, but without giving back. Thus, the tree slowly dies, and the boy lives, but not happily — he comes back and back asking for more.

Eventually, the tree is a stump and the boy is an old, lonesome man, and the man sits on the tree to rest. Many people think that’s a sweet ending — the man and the tree reunited — but to me this book is sad throughout. When relationships aren’t kept healthy, when they’re uneven, no one really wins. And, eventually the relationship ends. It’s the opposite of fair trade.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (rated 5 out of 5)

This is required reading for my boys. I submit them to it once a week, except when I’m traveling. There are three main messages — essential for functioning in our global world today.

First, that you must go places — be adventurous. Second — that there will be bumps along the way. Third, that you can overcome if you persevere.

That encapsulates what it takes to be a successful fair trade entrepreneur: You can do nothing if you don’t go places and learn what needs to be done. Then, set your goal and realize that it won’t go perfectly. Third, don’t stop.

Great messages for my young boys — or anyone hoping to make a difference in the world.

If you have questions about fair trade entrepreneurship and how it applies to your company or you just want to talk about outsourcing in general and how to set up a business in the developing world, feel free to contact me through mike[at]mikedershowitz.com or leave your comments below.



Mike Dershowitz
Fair Trade Entrepreneurship

Mike is the CEO of Fair Trade Outsourcing, a people-first BPO company that uses the power of the free market to fight poverty and promote moral leadership.