Doing Good

I’m challenging Wildlife Trading Company to make a positive difference in the world.

Last month was the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Mid-Year meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the home of our very first retail partnership at the Rio Grande Zoo.  Throughout the week, one thing was clear…

Now more than ever, our industry needs to make a positive difference in the world.

The passion for doing good encompasses three areas:

  • Saving endangered species
  • Sustainability
  • Helping people and cultures be more self-sufficient

Wildlife Trading Company is dedicated to be an industry leader in all three areas.  We were proud to present at the AZA Mid-Year Green Summit Reception, where attendees were interested in hearing about our green initiatives.  Our no single-use bag policy in all of our stores (plastic or paper) was a crowd pleaser.

IMG_5865 (2)
Wildlife Trading Company’s Retail Manager and BioPark Green Team member, Robin Purley, presenting our conservation efforts at the AZA Mid-Year Green Summit

Well before the AZA meeting, we decided it was time to take an even stronger stance on doing what is right. Overall, our values and value proposition have not changed, but our priorities have. We decided that, moving ahead, we are placing a greater emphasis on partnerships and practices that promote global stewardship; the care, consideration and conservation of culture and nature.

We’ve identified 5 areas of focus:

  1. Consistently improve upon our own environmentally friendly practices throughout the organization; in both our offices and stores.
  2. Become a more proactive collaborator with our partners on:
    • Instituting better conservation practices.
    • Increasing efforts to educate visitors about current challenges and how they can make a difference.
    • Developing more programs to help our partners make a positive change in the world through the conservation, cultural and ecological causes they champion.
  3. Continue to improve sourcing products from eco-friendly companies, using eco-friendly materials, practices and packaging.
  4. Collaborate directly with non-profit organizations to help move their efforts forward.
  5. Represent great art and crafts from “at risk” cultures and ones with a heritage of embracing nature.
    • Culture and conservation are intrinsically tied together.  If cultures can become less at risk, their openness to conservation becomes greater.
    • This initiative will help visitors and buyers better understand and appreciate the quality and artistry of other cultures, while learning of their challenges and supporting them at the same time.
    • We’ll be sharing more about this initiative in the near future.

We’ll be reaching out to many of you to discuss ways we can partner to do good.  Feel free to contact us directly with suggestions and propositions.

Based on current understanding of plastics and how they affect the environment and our food chain, I am challenging Wildlife Trading Company to develop a plan to significantly reduce the amount of plastic in our stores (products and packaging).

I know we are up to that challenge.

Let us know what you are up to.

~ James

File Nov 08, 8 44 23 AM
Photo of endangered African Painted Dogs at sunset I took last year.  We’re working to make sure that, in reality, the sun does not finally set on this species.

Racing Through Alaska

The 2017 Iditarod Ceremonial Start

The 45th Iditarod race is underway and Wildlife Trading Company was there again to support our partner, the Iditarod Trail Committee (ITC).  By the time the race ends in Nome, our team will have operated 8 temporary shops in 3 cities, in addition to ITC’s headquarter and online and online stores.

I am proud to say we continue to achieve increases in year over year sales.

Early morning at the Ceremonial Start line in Anchorage.


During the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, ITC CEO, Stan Hooley, mentioned in an interview that Wildlife Trading Company is “exploding” in Alaska and  I personally feel that to be a fair assessment.  We’re seeing great success in Alaska because so much about Alaska aligns with our strengths (agility, entrepreneurial spirit and customized relationships) and what’s important to Wildlife Trading Company — the celebration of nature, wildlife and culture.

“Wildlife Trading Company is exploding in Alaska.”

~ Stan Hooley, CEO, Iditarod Trail Committee

Only a few weeks ago, I was able to bring my middle school-aged daughter with me 16684271_10212764055523247_4155413848466465170_nfrom Connecticut to visit the Iditarod headquarters and attend the annual Alaska Marine Gala, hosted by another of our partners, the Alaska SeaLife Center.  She loved the beauty of the state and it gave me pride to show her the wonderful partners we have in Alaska.

Fast forward to last week when I brought an incredible team of employees from all over the U.S., including Florida, to brave the elements and pull off an amazing feat in support of the Iditarod.

One of our sales tents in Anchorage

For the Ceremonial Start in Anchorage, the team braved sub-zero  temperatures to set up tents at 5:00 a.m. along 4th Street in downtown Anchorage for the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.  After the event, they loaded up a truck to drive seven hours to set up our operations in Fairbanks for the Official Restart in -31 degree weather.

A monumental feat, that obtained great results!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cell phone screen shots of the temperature while setting up at the starting lines.

Many of our team are preparing to travel to Nome to operate our store at the finish line.  I’m proud of the hard work that everyone put in to make this year’s race a resounding success.  However, I am more excited about how well everyone worked together with a positive attitude through such tough conditions.  Their passion for the Iditarod showed and they took time to immerse themselves into Alaska’s nature and culture.

One night, after one of the events, we were able to go out to view and photograph the Northern Lights.  They were beautiful and, for some, it was a bucket list experience.

The Northern Lights Outside Anchorage, Photo by James Ward

Having Partnerships outside of the continental U.S. can be a challenge for some.  At a minimum, you need to have strong operations, employees with unmatched experience and you need to have senior management there, in person, on a regular basis.

However to do it right, you also need to have a team with passion and a strong belief in the company and be blessed enough to work with partners who share a common vision with yours… all elements of our success.

From left to right:  James Ward (President & CEO, WTC), Chas St. John (COO, ITC), Lisa Baptista (Business Development Manager, WTC), Stan Hooley (CEO, ITC)

Is Wildlife Trading Company exploding in Alaska?  You bet.  But we’re exploding elsewhere too, as we now operate in 10 countries across North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

We truly are the right sized partner for achieving results.

Stay tuned.

Note:  We’re preparing a video that highlights what we do in Alaska and will update this blog when when it is completed.

Wildlife Trading Company Announces New Leadership

New President and CEO set to build on company’s success and vision

jamesSOUTHBURY, CT (February 7, 2017) – Wildlife Trading Company, the premier retail outsource partner for leisure and cultural attractions, today announced the promotion of James Ward to President and CEO and Caroline Ward to Chief Relationship Manager.

James, who joined the company in 1996 as Product Development Manager, will lead the company as it continues to build upon its exceptional growth over the past decade, while Caroline will be taking on executive management roles, overseeing special projects and developing relationships with partners and key customers.

“As COO, James took our retail consulting practice and grew us into an extremely successful international outsourcing services company,” said Gerry Ward, the company’s founder.  “And now as President, he has a clear vision for moving the company forward with steady, sustainable growth,” Ward added.  Gerry is stepping down as President and CEO, but will retain his role as Chairman of the Board.

“We’re successful because, unlike larger competitors in our industry, we provide our partners with customized relationships and create truly unique and engaging retail environments,” says James Ward.  He continues, “With our growth, we’ve never lost sight of the need to have a truly collaborative approach with our clients.”  It’s that approach that has resulted in an 85% overall average increase in spending per customer over the history of Wildlife Trading Company’s partnerships, with some partners seeing increases of over 200%.

“Today we’re in ten countries and large enough to service any attraction, but we’re small enough to care,” says Ward.  In that spirit of caring, Wildlife Trading Company takes great pride in offering products that educate the consumer and adopting programs and policies that support Fair Trade, wildlife conservation and the environment.

James is a graduate from Boston College and NYU’s Stern School of Business.  He’s an avid wildlife photographer, along with Gerry, and his passion for conservation and the environment has led to Wildlife Trading Company being a leader in establishing “green” principles internally, in its stores and in the products and programs it offers.

About Wildlife Trading Company:  Wildlife Trading Company manages retail operations at zoos, aquariums, museums, botanic gardens and other leisure, cultural and adventure attractions.  We pride ourselves in developing customized relationships, store designs and products to meet the unique needs of each partner and its guests.


# # #

Growing with Vision and Clarity

2016-with-titleOver the years, I’ve had the honor of experiencing the many benefits of being part of a successful family-owned business (Wildlife Trading Company). One of those benefits was being able to spend two weeks in the bush in Zimbabwe last year with my father, Gerry. We share a passion for wildlife and wildlife photography and I’ve joined him in Africa a few times since I was a teenager.  This year’s trip felt even more special – and more important than ever before.

1997-with-titleWildlife Trading Company has experienced amazing growth in recent years and we’re now operating some of the finest attraction gift shops in 10 countries. The time away from the office with my dad, on the other side of the world, allowed us to disconnect from the daily minutiae and discuss strategy and the future of the business. Even more importantly, I listened to my father tell many stories about his experiences starting the company, what he had to deal with, and why he did it. These conversations at a waterhole or around the camp fire helped me gain clarity that for Wildlife Trading Company to continue its growth and foster long-lasting partnerships, we must never lose sights on why we do what we do.

  • We love the artistry in designing creative, engaging one-of-a-kind shopping experiences
  • We love collaborating, which is why we use the term partners instead of clients
  • We love discovering high quality, imaginative, realistic and authentic products for our shops
  • We love doing what we can to educate children and adults about science, nature and wildlife and supporting our partners in their conservation and fundraising efforts

Although Wildlife Trading Company has grown well beyond “Mom and Pop Shop” status, it is important to me to make sure we never grow too much or too fast to stop caring and never lose sight of what we love to do.

I’ve entered 2017 with renewed pride and clarity and the lessons learned while with my father in Africa will guide me as I lead the company into the future.

Stay tuned.