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Man creates company for fair trade soccer balls

March 28, 2011 7:22:43 AM PDT
For years, soccer's popularity has been booming across America. Now it's about to get a little easier to be a lot more socially conscious when playing the game.

The last thing a kid thinks about when kicking a soccer ball is who made the ball. But that's all Santiago Halty can think about.

"They should receive a fair wage and they should be making a living," said Santiago Halty of Senda Athletics.

Halty read an article when he was in high school about sweat shops and has tried to purchase fair trade items ever since. When he had trouble finding soccer equipment, he decided to create his own company.

"We're really proud of the fact that we make fair trade soccer balls. What that means is that the people who make the soccer balls receive a fair wage and can work in proper working conditions," said Halty.

Halty's company is the only one in the Bay Area to make fair trade soccer balls. He's hired an Oakland company, Fair Trade USA, to travel to Pakistan and make sure the people making the balls are being treated fairly.

"Santiago's soccer balls are being made by a number of sewers in factories - so sometimes they are in city centers and sometimes they are actually in homes," said Stacy Geagan Wagner of Fair Trade USA.

The balls will be sold mostly online, but he has found one store that will carry them - Sunset Soccer in San Francisco. The store isn't just going to put the balls on a shelf with all the other balls.

"They said they also said we want to have a fair trade section in our store, where you can really tell our story - so it's not getting lost," said Halty.

Halty named his company Senda - which means 'path' in Spanish. But his path to this point has been a rough one. The 27-year-old says getting funding and stabilizing the company has been so tough - he almost quit a few times. But his supporters feel confident he will be able to make a living and still be true to his beliefs.

"We're so excited because Santiago has so much energy and is so committed to making his company successful," said Geagan.

"Soccer players are already consumers. Soccer moms and dads are ready, coaches are ready - I think they're ready to start getting soccer balls and products they can feel proud of and that are giving back to the community," said Halty.

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