ATA implemented a four-year project in Hungary with $729,000 of funding from USAID. The goal of the project was to reduce employment loss in the craft sector during Hungary’s transition to a free market economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was a time of transition not only for Hungary, but for all of Central and Eastern Europe as countries began taking the first steps to trade liberalization after the Communist era. The ATA project aimed to help artisans understand the free market economy, bolster export sales, and still place great emphasis on cultural preservation. Hungary’s folk art typically included weaving, embroidery, diverse ceramics style, wood carving, decorated eggs and cut felt.

What We Did:
This component of the project was led by two consultants: one specializing in pottery and another ATA consultant who is a world-renowned textile designer. They collaborated with a group of Hungarian designers ATA hired, which included well-known ceramics designer Kinga Szabo to develop lines that were eventually picked up by U.S. buyers. The final products they designed were embroidered linens, felt Christmas ornaments, cut felt pillows and apparel.

Business Training:
ATA provided training for 30 small businesses, 28 microenterprises and 5 foreign trade companies and independent export agents. Mentoring, mid-term evaluations, and formal workshops were all part of this process that provided business management and export training to both artisan groups and foreign trade organizations.

ATA assisted in bringing Hungarian producers to exhibit their products at eight trade shows. ATA placed a heavy emphasis on arranging buyer-designer visits where buyers would spend up to two weeks per visit on-site in Hungary developing proprietary product. This now standard ATA concept of buyer-led product development was pioneered by the Hungary project. Over the four years of the project, ATA forged the market links between the producers and interested U.S. importers. Buyers from 22 companies visited Hungary including representatives from The Boston Museum of Arts and AMS Imports. Additionally, a Buyer’s Guide to Hungarian Crafts was written during the project and distributed as a marketing tool.

Results & Benefits:

  • ATA leveraged $1 million in sales and forged links between Hungarian artisans and the U.S. market, which provided nearly 250 artisans with more than a decade’s worth of steady sales and income.
  • A book entitled, Export Manual: A Guide to Exporting Crafts from Hungary, was written by Docey Lewis. It has been updated twice, translated into 5 languages, and used as a reference guide for thousands of artisans around the world.
  • The Sandor Collection, one of the most notable long-term partnerships ATA created, reported 95% of their sales were of Hungarian products, which provided work to an estimated 50 small handcraft businesses throughout the country multiple times
  • 233 jobs were created and maintained for a decade as a direct result of ATA project activities and market links.

Beneficiary Quote:
“The biggest impact of ATA’s project in Hungary was that it gave people hope. So much enthusiasm, motivation. It made people feel they could accomplish something,” Hungarian craft importers sourcing from artisans in ATA’s project.