One of the best is Hope Fair, where I always pick up something new and interesting, while looking after my own booth. Normally I spend about the same amount on charity items as on some great food, from homemade bread to great jam, and Greek snacks to homemade salsa sauce.
With a break in the fairs during the Covid-19 lockdown, I was worried the fair might be gone for good, but happily, it is returning bigger and better than ever this month, September.
Wondering who was behind the fair, how it got started and who is involved, I met up with Aurelie Doye, one of the founders, with my list of eight questions to learn more.
When and how did the fairs start?
Hope Fair was started in late 2014 by two ladies from the French community, one of whom (Aurelie Doye) is still involved today. Originally held twice a year in the Sathorn area, its venue has moved to Sukhumvit to be closer to where most fair clients live and like to spend time. More regular events are planned for 2021.
The fair has grown in size and numbers over the years, and about 150 vendors are expected at the next fair at Avani Hotel outside On-But BTS station on September 24 and even more for the annual Christmas-themed fair in late November.
Why did the ladies get involved?
Noticing the generosity of others in the expat community and with previous experience in hosting events, the two organizers decided to start Hope Fair and donate to the Mercy Center.
However, the fair’s success comes from the support they receive from everyone involved, vendors, visitors, the hosting hotels, women’s groups and many more, all working together to make each fair a success.
Over the 27 events organized to date, a total of 785,775 Baht has been raised and donated to the Mercy Center. The goal is to reach one million baht in 2021.
Each year, the organisers select a specific project based on what they hope to raise, usually for a building that needs repairs or updating as this offers tangible benefits. With two events unfortunately cancelled this year, they are currently checking into what needs the most urgent attention to find a project their budget can handle.
What other charities does the fair support?
In addition to the Mercy Center, which has always had a booth where visitors are encouraged to drop off donations (clothes, household items and more) the Hope Fair also provides booths, at a minimal fee, to other local charities giving them all a chance to become better known and to raise funds selling different items.
These include the Good Shepherd Sisters (Fatima Center), Art’Isan, Minas Wholefood, Lao Song Craft, Urban Neighbors of Hope Thailand (UNOH), Roy Rak, Upcycled wares, Sop Moei Arts, Sikkha Asia Foundation (FeeMue Klong Toey), and a few other that come at different times to the fair.
What vendors does the fair attract?
With 150 vendors expected at the next fair, the variety of vendors is extensive with the key idea of providing a place for entrepreneurs, designers, SMEs who are putting so much energy into what they do.
On sale are textiles, fashion items, organic foods, fair trade and fair wage products. All vendors have at least one area they focus on, including hand-made or hand-crafted items made locally - one reason for the fair’s success, along with hand-made or hand-crafted items made locally.
By keeping the cost to vendors as low as possible, while paying for the venue and other expenses, plus a donation to the Mercy Center, the many small, niche vendors and their unique products can continue to take part.
The fair has a group of established ‘best sellers,’ but about a third are new vendors. As many as forty per cent of vendors at this September’s fair will be new.
Expat women are the main visitors, as the fair is usually on a Wednesday or Thursday opening at 9.00 am and closing at 3.00 pm. It’s popular with all the foreign women’s groups in Bangkok, obviously the French as both co-founders are French, but also with the American women’s groups and many others. We’re hoping to attract more Japanese this time.
Most visitors come to the fair, look for vendors they know and like, buy a few things, look around, visit new vendors and then take time to enjoy lunch with friends before picking up the children from school.
What is the future for the fairs?
The next fair is 24 September at the Avani Sukhumvit Hotel, conveniently located and connected to On-Nut BTS Station.
The Christmas edition is scheduled for the end of November and should be the biggest fair ever.
Exciting new vendors include Ecotique, a Thailand-based supplier for eco-friendly products, Coco Blendz offering natural vegan ice cream free from dairy, egg, gluten, soy, nut and refined sugar and TNTNMOM’S with safe, healthy, natural Korean health care products for pregnant women and nursing moms.
How do vendors benefit from the fairs?
Vendors vary in how they benefit from being at a fair. Some sell a large variety and quantity on site; others make contacts and arrange visits to a showroom. As Hope Fair does not ask for a percentage of sales, as some fairs do, it is not clear which vendors do best.
But with so many vendors coming back to each event, the fair must be great exposure for the vendors who come.
What can visitors to the fair expect to find?
The fair and its various vendors offer a wide range of products, ranging from bakeries to charcutiers, from the latest fashions to timeless accessories, from toys to gifts and from posters to cards and calendars.
The event has also included other local groups such as the the National Museum Volunteers Association, SILC: Samut Prakan International Ladies Club and the British Women’s Group.
Why has Hope Fair become a success?
It is successful because it has stayed with its roots while growing in size, providing a venue for small entrepreneurs in Bangkok to come along, meet people and sell their various hand- or home-made products.
The fair has energy and vitality, and the camaraderie among the vendors is great. It is a lot of work, the day is crazy busy, but when it is over, there is a sense of accomplishment that cannot be matched, and most importantly, the fair will have raised more funds to help a great charity.