We interviewed inspirational MRP alumni and Creative Director of 12 Small Things, Laurie Kanes, to find out a little bit about her business and how the Aid to Artisans Market Readiness Program helped her get where she is today.

“I started 12 Small Things in 2009 as a website to showcase fashionable, fairly traded gifts, handmade by artisans in need around the world. In 2016, I opened a retail store for 12 Small Things, and continue to represent both commercial and artisan collections wholesale to other retailers, including Cost Plus World Market, Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. “

How did the MRP help you get to where you are today?

“The ATA MRP helped me understand and appreciate the challenges of rural artisans around the world, designing, producing and exporting their products to consumers in the

United States. There are so many challenges, including economic, environmental and political, it really does take an international village to bring these wonderful products to a world market.

Specifically I understood how important it was to partner with contemporary designers who could translate the artisans’s skills to products that are in demand in the US and Europe. I also learned the difference between pricing FOB in the artisans country, and the cost it takes to export, with customs, tariffs and freight. That is so important to understand when you’re working with international artisans.

The MRP also introduced me to mentors, new friends and artisan groups who I am still in touch with today, and with whom I’ve formed a larger network for resourcing and support.

What are the biggest practical takeaways you got from the MRP?

“Know the landed price of a product in your own country before you consider purchasing. Understand the production lead time in working with handmade products, so you can plan your seasonal assortment accordingly.

Factor in the unknown, as natural disasters, or government policies, that can throw your best laid plans off course. Take this special opportunity to network and introduce yourself to as many people as you can. They may become your new friends and future business partners!

Anything you want to share with people considering attending the MRP?

“Make sure you’re ready for the experience, there’s a lot to absorb and you need to be prepared and open to learn. Have enough of an idea about your products and business plan, so that when you meet professionals in the business, you are ready to talk about your collection and your goals.

Bring the best samples of your product that you have, so they can be reviewed objectively without the need for clarification. Be sure you introduce yourself to your fellow classmates and take time for conversations, they can also be some of your best teachers!”

Is the MRP right for you? Learn more and sign up now http://ata.creativelearning.org/mrp/ !