Fair trade import business, tour guide
Fourteen years ago, Carla Mogan opened Amazon to Andes, which sells fair trade products crafted in northern Ecuador. The eco-friendly wares include tagua nut jewelry, natural textile hammocks and purses, alpaca wool blankets, embroidered dresses, Antara bamboo pan flutes, and tagua nuts for carving. Mogan sells the products on eBay and at local markets, and hopes to get on retail racks in the future.
Her business started like many of Mogan’s journeys: with an open heart, dedication and compassion to help others. Mogan first went to North Ecuador to help a friend who was moving there, and she immediately fell in love with the region, particularly Otavalo. Her idea to shop and travel for a living was born. Mogan describes Otavalo as her second home, where she embraces local villagers and culture, and explores and photographs wildlife and nature. In addition to discovering products in out-of-the-way places, she also hunts for new and established vendors at Otavalo’s Saturday Market, where more than 1,000 vendors sell their products and handcrafts. Mogan is dedicated to Fair Trade practices, which cover buyer and seller agreement of a fair price, fair wages, fair work conditions, equal pay for men and women, and an opportunity for business growth. She visits the crafters and even helps create websites so vendors can grow their business.
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A self-taught photographer, Mogan volunteers at Pinellas County Animal Services, taking photos to get pets adopted. Mogan also loves capturing wildlife and nature both abroad and locally. Her favorite local spots are the Florida Botanical Gardens, Eagle Lake Park and trails around the Largo Library. Mogan is now starting a new adventure: combining her love of travel and photography with guided photography tours in Ecuador. Mogan will lead groups from Quito and Otavalo and introduce them to hidden treasures. One of her favorites is Mindo. “One porch down the road from our hotel has hundreds of hummingbirds coming in and out,” she says. “All day long, different rare birds come through, such as toucans.”
Mogan’s secret to success is being open to new things. “Most people think, ‘I can’t do that’ before they’ve even considered the possibilities,” she says.
She stays organized with to-do lists and navigates her schedule by having flexible deadlines and not worrying when obstacles come up. When projects don’t get off the ground as expected, she doesn’t obsess. “Things always seem to present themselves” when the timing is right, she explains. Starting a project is the hardest part, she says, so she pushes herself with the five-minute rule, in which you work on a task for only five minutes. The short time limit helps you start and then keeps you motivated to continue.
Mogan doesn’t think of time as work or non-work; it’s not about balancing her time. “My joy is my work, and my work is my joy. Nothing I do is boring. So even when I’m working, I’m having fun, and it doesn’t seem like work,” she says.