This past August, Aid to Artisans hosted 23 artisans, non-profit founders, directors and project coordinators from around the world in its annual Market Readiness Program™. Held during NY NOW, participants were instructed by industry insiders on how to succeed in accessing the US markets for handmade products. Additionally, consultants provided solutions to issues pertaining to sustainability, productivity and general marketing that many companies, both domestic and international, face when trying to carve their niche in the United States. Participants were also able to meet with buyers during our Buyers Connect Lunch, an event aimed to prepare participants for future interactions with potential buyers and showcase their handcrafted products.
ATA is proud to present the stories of the participants who successfully completed this year’s MRP and their organizations:
Ryan Burke, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in International Studies, came to the MRP because of his interest in the artisan community.
“Apart from having personal relationships with many people in the craft and jewelry world, I have always been fascinated by local artisans. As a child, I spent many hours browsing the crafts at the Ten Thousand Villages store in Richmond, VA, where I grew up. Now that I am beginning my journey into the world of international development, the artisan sector is one of specific interest to me, and I would love the opportunity to investigate it further.”
Jianing Wu is a Program Specialist at Creative Associates International. With his work in supporting a livelihood project in China called Sichuan Market Development Project (SMD) in collaboration with ATA, Jianing joins the MRP to become more familiar with the Market Readiness Program™ curriculum and structure.
A Child’s Cup Full Association is a non-profit social enterprise whose goal is to harness the talent and expertise of women artisans in the region to create beautifully handcrafted educational children’s toys and other handmade products. Assistant Director, Cayley Pater represented the organization at this year’s program with the intent of learning how to scale up production and best meet buyers’ expectations.
Ana Guimaraes is the Social Program Coordinator for the Coca Cola Institute in Brazil. She directs the Collective Arts program, which is a project designed to empower artisan groups by providing management skills, design training and access to market. Ana will use her MRP experience to help expand artisans’ skills and market opportunities through her store Tucum.
As co-founder of Shangrila Farms, a conveyer of socially responsible natural products in Beijing, Safi Malik has had experience exporting to the US and Europe. At the MRP, he hopes “to gain insight into the artisan industry that will allow me to better serve the Tibetan community in Chengdu.” Safi is currently working as Deputy Chief of Party for the Sichuan Market Development Project in China in collaboration with ATA.
The jewelry produced by Reve Jewellery & Associates is designed using precious & semi-precious stones, metals and natural materials sourced from Jamaica & the wider Caribbean. Co-founder Teasea Bennett came to the MRP to gain a greater understanding of the US retail market, identify niche markets and increase exposure to US buyers as a means of expanding sustaining growth in sales.
Born from a family of weavers, Pedro Martin Conception learned the craft technique from an early age. As Director of Mazatzin based in Puebla, Mexico, now trains children and young crafts people throughout the country. Through the MRP, Pedro hopes to learn how to sell crafts in the international market and promote handicrafts abroad.
US-based Maryam Designs produces apparel and bags featuring Kanga and Kitenge textiles, which are culturally significant to the Swahili people. Manager and Director Maryam Katogo’s interest in the MRP is to learn how to open US markets to expand the business, providing more employment opportunities in the textile industry for Tanzanian women.
Marva Maynard, owner/director of Hadiya Leather, Barbados manufactures leather handbags and trains artisans for this work through Barbados Investment & Development Corporation, which is responsible for craft sector development. “By attending the MRP,” says Marva, “I hope to better understand production, marketing and export, costing of products and services.”
Martha Cabello, a designer from Mexico but currently residing in Burien, Washington, wishes to provide technical support for Mexican women weavers in order to maintain their traditions and have economic support. At the MRP, she would like to learn how to open a market for the women collective she works with by gaining a better understanding of how they can participate in shows and fairs, to know how to calculate expenses and how they can apply current trends into their products. The organization she currently works with produces faux fur accessories.
Virginia Reyes Basurto is a coordinator for Artisanos Unidos based in San Antonio Texcala, Mexico. This privately held company is an organization of artisan producers who make stone carved onyx and marble. As the lead for production and marketing, Virginia hopes the MRP experience will lead to opportunities for market expansion.
Patricia Bellon Rodriguez is the director of the newly established ATA’s Idea+Materia project in partnership with Artesanías de Puebla de Secretaría de Turismo in Puebla, Mexico. Even with her extensive experience with working with various communities, Patricia would like to improve her knowledge to be able to transmit that information and to make a change in the lives of the artisans in the region.
Emily Pinto is the co-founder of Estrella de Mar. With her degree in fashion design and product development, established the Estrella de Mar line as a creative collaboration with business partner Julie Savoie and Guatemalan artisan partners. The accessory brand combines traditional textile and craft techniques with modern design and utility.
Eunice Wangare is the founder of and designer for Africa Women and Youth Initiative in Kenya. Formerly a family business, Eunice’s organization provides income opportunities to local residents, producing well-made beaded handbags, earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
“I am hoping to train more women and youth to make products that can sell in the USA,” says Eunice, “so that we can earn a living. I hope to learn about USA style and the market.”
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Nureen Das founded Artisan Gateway. As a community development consultant organization, Artisan Gateway creates links between designers and artisan organizations to provide a sustainable income source.
With International Development & MBA degrees, Yennie Tse hopes to form a L3C in order to build a socially and environmentally conscious home goods and accessories brand that utilizes the traditional skills of artisans in developing countries for handmade textiles.
Jermaine Stapleton is a Sales and Marketing Officer for Nevis Craft House in St. Kitts. His role is to drive sales, promote multiple craft products (grass, wood, and leather) and restructure production process to improve productivity by building technical and human capacity. He looks to gain insight from experienced craft vendors in US market and knowledge of and connections to potential buyers.
Gilbert Kubwimana is Country Director for Songa Designs International in Kigali, Rwanda. This privately held company promotes economic independence by helping artisans produce jewelry made from horn, sisal leaf, banana leaf, fabric, leather, and beads. Gilbert hopes to meet more artisans from around the world and learn much more about the artisan experience.
Margareta “Marga” Fripp is the founder of Empowered Women International in Washington, DC. EWI creates economic opportunity and social inclusion for immigrant, refugee and low-income women in the Greater Washington DC Metro Area through entrepreneurship education, mentoring and access to markets and capital. Most of our entrepreneurs work in jewelry design, fashion accessories, clothing, painting, paper products, body products and other decorative items.
Mary Louise Marino is the Director of Programs and Operations for Empowered Women International, Washington, DC. Mary is preparing to open Indigo Lion Artisan Gallery featuring the work of global artisans in pottery, textiles, jewelry, accessories, home décor, toys and games. “With my role as that of a US buyer,” says Marino, “the goal for me to attend ATA’s Market Readiness Program is to 1) learn how to have an eye to source handmade products following market design trends, quality, and reliability; 2) understand my role as a buyer in the US retail market relative to the various stakeholders and distribution channels and 3) be able to assess costs and navigate importing.”
This year, we also had several participants who work with Artesanías de Puebla de Secretaría de Turismo in Puebla, Mexico.
Marisela Nunez Citrion is the Assistant Director for the Secretaria de Turismo in Puebla, Mexico. In her current work, Marissiela deals directly with artisans in an e-government that assists and promotes its work. She would want to be able to help them improve their ways and means of production as well as the designs of their products. Adriana del Carmen Rodriquez Bates acts as the director of the project. And Violeta Angelica Cilia Luna acts as Communications Director. All hope to learn how to bring about change for the artisans in the State of Puebla.