Having worked for social justice movements dedicated towards human rights, immigrant rights, and workers rights for over twenty years all across the world from Chicago to Guatemala to Honduras, Katherine Bissell Cordova has gracefully taken on the role as the Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade. Her dedication to human rights and fair trade is reflected in her well rounded experience throughout the world and her receiving the Casa Guatemala’s Human Rights Award. She serves on the Board of Directors of Peace Brigades International-USA. Katherine currently lives in Chicago with her two children, Sofia and Mateo.
Abby is an elementary school teacher turned entrepreneur when her life took an unexpected turn and she found herself teaching at a school in Tanzania. This experience led her to explore East African culture, learn about craft and fair trade, and opened up a desire to connect women in the US to this very meaningful part of her story. In 2016, Abby began working with artisans and testing the market with an online store and launched her own brand, Abby Alley, in November, 2018. She has been a business member of Chicago Fair Trade for a handful of years and is excited to support CFT as a board member.
Abena Apea is the founder and managing partner at FORO Global Partners, LLC, a company committed to serving organizations that provide a clear social good and value to stakeholders. Abena’ has held executive level responsibilities at mission-focused organizations. Areas of expertise include strategic planning, finance, budgets, board liaison, data analysis, campaign planning, fundraising, donor relations, and partnership building, and leading capital campaigns, fostering collaboration among all stakeholders who support the organization’s mission and goals. She has a Master of Public Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a certification in Management and Leadership in Education from Harvard University.
Bethany Collins grew up in Southwest Michigan and moved to Chicago to study Communication at Loyola University, graduating in 2015. Since then, she has pursued a career with various nonprofit organizations, and currently works as a Development Officer for StrongMinds, an organization expanding mental health care access in Uganda and Zambia. She joined the board of Chicago Fair Trade in 2017, and became co-chair in 2020. In her free time, Bethany enjoys practicing yoga, cooking, pub trivia, and exploring Chicago's neighborhoods in search of art galleries and fair trade coffee shops. She also travels the world as much as life allows.
Chipo Nyambuya is the Founder and Principal of Virgil LLC. She has nearly twenty years of cross-sector experience as a lawyer and policy advisor advising Fortune 500 corporations, start-ups, international development agencies, and foreign governments. Her expertise ranges from negotiating multi-million dollar corporate deals to helping establish legal and judicial institutions in post-conflict countries. She continues to advise organizations and governments on policy and rule of law issues relative to energy, education, economic development, and technology. In recent years, she has consulted for startup companies on technology law and for not-for-profit organizations. She founded Virgil LLC in 2015.
Jerome spent 37 years in public broadcasting at WBEZ radio. He hosted the program Worldview from 1994 until October of 2019. As someone convinced that broadcastings highest calling is to bring people together to make a difference, McDonnell’s roots with Chicago Fair Trade run deep. Worldview featured Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign that helped inspire the creation of Chicago Fair Trade, broadcast from CFT spring events, and interviewed countless fair-trade entrepreneurs about their amazing stories. Jerome is excited to serve an organization that gives Chicagoans a way to rally round ethical commerce and weaves together so many important issues he cares about. In his spare time Jerome grows native plants in his yard, bikes a lot, and tries to reduce his plastic consumption.
Jocelyn Leitzinger is an Assistant Professor in the Managerial Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her research, Jocelyn examines how social movements pressure firms and industries to change their socially and environmentally detrimental practices. She has studied activism in the areas of urban agriculture, electricity, water, and forestry products. In her teaching, Jocelyn educates undergraduate students about the intersection of business with civil society, the state, and the natural environment. Previously, she has taught courses on strategic management (University of Wisconsin, Madison), social entrepreneurship and innovation (McGill University), and organizational leadership (Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University). Jocelyn holds a PhD in Strategic Management and Organizational Theory from UW Madison and a Master's in International Business and Bachelor's degrees in Advertising and Marketing from the University of Florida. In her free time, Jocelyn stays active with rock climbing and appeases her creative side though painting, photography, and cooking.
Maranda Leigh became an advocate of fair trade while studying at Indiana University, where a professor introduced her to the concept. Since then she has put her passion into practice, volunteering with fair trade retailers Global Gifts and Ten Thousand Villages; working on Fair Trade Campaigns for Indiana University Bloomington and the cities of Indianapolis, IN and Evanston, IL; and traveling to Ecuador with Minga Fair Trade Imports to see the impact of fair trade first hand. She has been a volunteer with Chicago Fair Trade since 2018 and serves as co-chair for CFT’s Conscious Closet Club. Maranda holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Apparel Merchandising and Spanish from Indiana University, and currently works in merchandise planning and corporate social responsibility for a home goods retailer. She lives in Chicago and enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors and discovering new ways to practice zero-waste living.
Michelle Thomas is a founder and co-owner and Director of Operations at Mata Traders, a beloved Chicago -based fair trade fashion company located in Chicago, IL that partners with women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal to create their apparel and jewelry collections. Michelle has been immersed in the fair trade landscape for over 10 years and loves to connect the women who make Mata abroad with the women who wear it here in the States. Michelle lives in Chicago with her husband and seven year old daughter.
Neila Adams is Sweet Beginnings LLCs Operations/Sales Manager (Sweet Beginnings is the social enterprise that produces the fabulous honey and bath products-Bee Love. Neila brings a wealth of expertise in sales/customer service, operations and retail management. Most recently, she worked with the Deloitte firm where she was a consultant. Neila holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mental Health with a minor in Entrepreneurship from DePaul University. She has won several honors and awards including One Million Degrees Scholarship Recipient and Student Ambassador, Phi Theta Kappa Member and Vice President of Membership, DePaul University’s Black Alumni Chapter Recipient, the Apostolic Church of God Academic Achievement Award, and Alpha Sigma Lambda – Delta Lambda Pi Chapter Recipient. Neila enjoys exercising, bike riding, kayaking, and skating. She has owned and operated a hotdog stand within the Englewood community for 10 years.
Rahel Mwitula Williams
Rahel Mwitula Williams is a nonprofit development executive who works with major donors within the United States and internationally. She has served the nonprofit sector for over 15 years and is an experienced fundraiser and social entrepreneur. Rahel is the founder of ILAVA, a CFT business member and socially responsible lifestyle brand that uses fashion to empower African women. In April 2018, she had an opportunity to represent ILAVA at Northwestern University through a TEDx Talk (Redefining Philanthropy: Faces of Change Makers). Rahel migrated to the US with her family when she was 12 years old and held her Tanzanian heritage near to her heart. She obtained her bachelor of science degree in psychology from Loyola University and went on to receive her Master’s of Science from DePaul University. Rahel believes that women entrepreneurs are key in enhancing both women’s and overall community development. She aims to incorporate her culture into fashion and give back to her native country every chance she gets. While popular culture may see African attire as a trend, Rahel sees it as a lifestyle.
René Edde Senior Manager, Partnerships at Flashfood Following a ten-year career in the grocery industry with Whole Foods Market and Fresh Thyme Market, René recently joined Flashfood Inc. as the Senior Manager of Partnerships. Flashfood is a mobile application and tech company that partners with retailers to divert food waste prior to expiration and provides affordable food access. Her retail experience in supply chain management, purchasing, store & division operations, and program design & implementation focused on the natural channel. René attended Arizona State University for graduate studies in Sustainability Leadership to leverage career pivot in certifications, commodity traceability, and impact measurement of sustainable supply chains as a Senior Business Development Manager at Fair Trade USA working with national CPG companies, retailers, and private label manufacturers.
Robbie first connected with CFT through its first holiday pop up shop in Bucktown in 2014 and has been active as a member and volunteer in the time since. Robbie currently serves as the Development Director for Grassroots Collaborative, a state-wide racial and economic justice advocacy non-profit with a membership representing 125,000 Illinoisians. GC builds power for working families through strategic community-labor organizing, leadership development, and policy advocacy, who most recently led the 2019 Raise The Wage campaign that won a $15 living wage for Chicago workers. As a seasoned fundraising professional, Robbie has spent the last 12 years directly leading non-profit development initiatives to increase sustainable revenue sources, deepen donor and funder alliances, and activate board and fundraising committees; raising millions of dollars for and growing the capacity of local, state, and national equity-driven missions. Robbie is excited to now share her passion and experience in support of Chicago Fair Trade as a board member!
Sarah began volunteering with Chicago Fair Trade in 2018 and enjoyed it so much that she agreed to serve as the volunteer coordinator. She currently helps to connect volunteers with events and opportunities that support Chicago Fair Trade. Sarah has years of experience managing events, and genuinely enjoys leading people to work together toward a common goal. Her personal connection with fair trade values stems from her experience working in a social enterprise in Argentina and Colombia, where she equitably sourced products from local family businesses. It was during that time that she truly understood the living and working conditions of people without access to fair employment and education. Conversely, she also witnessed the empowerment that integrating fair trade values in a business created for the vendors and their communities.Sarah takes being called 'bossy' as a compliment, knows how to sew, rides her bike around town, and speaks fluent Spanish. She is excited to play a part in growing the Chicago Fair Trade community and promoting its mission.
Stacy Neier Beran, PhD joined the Department of Marketing faculty at Loyola University Chicago in 2008. Her courses focus on community-based experiential projects that connect students, clients, and consumers to problem-solve through design, research, and consulting. She is passionate about amplifying design leadership in business education, helping undergraduate students to discover design principles as early as possible in their careers. Stacy also studied textiles as an undergraduate, so the role fair trade plays in the fashion & apparel industries have always fascinated her. She is a longtime supporter of Chicago Fair Trade, inviting her students to the work of CFT over the years.
Tyehimba Turner is a Community Engagement Manager focusing on advocacy and partnerships for UNICEF USA in Chicago, IL. Previously he was the Chicago Community Engagement Fellow from 2017 to 2019. Tyehimba graduated from Dominican University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Threat and Response Management from the University of Chicago. During his studies, he developed interest in political science and law, leading him to take additional coursework in these fields. After graduation, he served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Chicago HOPES for Kids, an organization working to increase literacy within Chicago’s homeless youth population. While there, he ran programming at two shelters, managing volunteers and working to educate students. He continued his service as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Liberia, where he taught secondary science and connected community members to their federal clinic. Tyehimba is passionate about conscious consumerism and believes that local, state, and federal governments have an important role to play in reducing demand for items produced with human rights abuses.