With a growing demand for handmade products, 2017 Market Readiness Program™ alumni Dana Baugh, of BAUGHaus Design Studio, reflects on her company’s growth over the past two years, and the importance of authenticity.
In the U.S., the handmade industry has seen an increase in consumer demand for global handmade goods and authentic brands that empower local artisans. In Jamaica, Dana Baugh has seen first-hand this growth of the handmade sector. Artisans are turning their “side-hustle” business to full-time professions. They are participating in more fairs, and even the selling to larger corporate customers hungry for quality products reflecting Jamaica’s rich culture.
In 2016, Dana herself transformed her side-hustle in ceramics, to her fulltime passion that is BAUGHaus Design Studio. An emerging entrepreneur in a new market, Dana participated in Aid to Artisans’ flagship Market Readiness Program™ (MRP) in 2017. A one-stop-shop for artisan-based businesses entering the U.S. Retail Market, the MRP provides hands-on training and coaching for both product development and business preparation. With confidence in her strong product designs and creativity, Dana returned from the MRP, realizing that she needed to increase her business and production capacity.
As demand for Jamaican products grows, Dana states, “now we have to make sure we as creators can produce and meet market demands as small businesses.” Over the last two-years, Dana has focused on building her business and product production. This has included converting a shipping container into her fully-operational workshop and hiring three staff. Through consistent training, Dana wants to not only teach her team new skills but also empower them. “This is a career choice for them. Their sense of ownership is really important to me.” By the end of this summer, BAUGHaus Design Studio will have a second shipping container and a hydraulic press, allowing her to stock up on products and fulfill more substantial orders.
Being able to meet increased buyer demand for her products is not just a business choice for Dana; it is an ethical choice. “A lot of people don’t realize how much Jamaican culture influences pop-culture, specifically in the U.S.” This often results in the cultural-appropriation of Jamaican art and music. As in many cultures around the world, the handicraft sector in Jamaica risks having designs appropriated as the global demand gets larger. “We need to be given the chance as small businesses to promote Jamaican cultural (products) made by Jamaicans.” Maintaining authenticity of the handmade process and empowering her growing team to carry out the same mission essential to Dana.
With her business and production capacity stronger than ever, Dana is excited to work on new products showcasing the vibrant culture of her community. “Sometimes you need to know when to pull back and focus on making the business side of your company ready. The MRP was important… to see where you need to grow as a business owner and not just a creator.”