Equal Exchange Story
Vice President and Capital Coordinator
After studying International Development at American University, Nicole founded her own organic farm business, Manic Organic, which she operated successfully for 10 years in her home state of Rhode Island.
In 2008, Nicole joined Equal Exchange as a sales rep inspired by the economic model of trading directly with small farmers internationally. In 2011, Nicole became president of Oke USA, the fresh produce subsidiary of Equal, and grew the $3M business to trading $16M of organic fair trade bananas from Ecuador and Peru and avocados from Mexico.
Nicole rejoined the Equal Exchange leadership team in 2023 as a Vice President and is proud to continue promoting the connection between small farmers in Latin America and consumers in the United States through the Equal Exchange Capital Model.
Founder and President
Since our founding in 1986 Rink has played, at one time or another, almost every major role in helping Equal Exchange to become a model of a democratically controlled, socially responsible business — Co-founder, Board Chair, Director of Sales, and since 1999 Executive Director.
Rink was deeply influenced by the two principle areas where he grew up: inner-city Detroit and the “Springsteen” region of New Jersey. He first gained a passion for organic foods when working at the New England Food Co-ops in the early 1980’s. There he met Michael Rozyne and Jonathan Rosenthal, with whom he co-founded Equal Exchange in 1986. Their goal was to create an unprecedented, progressive organization that balanced the interests of farmers, customers, shareholders and workers. They had no models to follow, but did decide to forego the privileges that normally accrue to entrepreneurs. Instead they structured Equal Exchange as a worker-owned cooperative, where every employee would also be an equal owner, each with one vote and each eligible to serve on the company’s board.
Rink has also served on the board of another natural foods worker co-op, Once Again Nut Butters (New York). He holds a BA from SUNY-Binghamton, and a MA in Urban Planning from M.I.T. Rink lives in Providence, Rhode Island.