From the beginning of the pandemic, we have watched artisan communities around the world face unprecedented challenges. We realized that we needed to expand opportunities for artisan entrepreneurs to survive COVID-19 disruptions—and we knew we had to do it virtually. “There was just no way that artisan entrepreneurs could travel to our training, so we had to bring it to them,” says Lauren Barkume, ATA’s Director of Training.

ATA responded to the need by offering its first-ever virtual eMarket Readiness Program in August. The initiate proved to be very popular with 52 participants joining live from 16 countries and 7 U.S. cities. The 12-hour training program offered over 4 days included expert panels on global opportunities and trends, how buyers were reacting to COVID-19. There were also seminars on the US retail sector and color trends, using product development to pivot, online marketing, and branding, costing and pricing, distribution strategies, and connecting with buyers online. “It is wise that every so often one makes (a) stop on the road to re-organize, re-prioritize, and reload. This for me was the number one takeaway. We all need to recreate ourselves and during COVID-19 times, this is a priority,”
shared Judith Achar of Fundación Mitz after attending the course.

The eMRP brought together a team of 11 ATA experts, including Patti Carpenter, Annie Waterman, Laurie Kanes, Mimi Robinson, Carol MacNulty, Stacy Spivak, Susan Easton, Stacey Edgar, Nicole Gullotta, Dondrill Glover and Lauren Barkume. The ATA Mentors shared their own real experiences and stories with how they have been adapting their businesses to the conditions of the pandemic. Mimi Robinson taught how a pivot in her product development and design work with Rise Beyond the Reef during the pandemic was able to re-create handprinted fabrics and woven floor mats as masks, Zoom backdrops, wellness products and beautiful wall art.

“I loved the example of the work all of the presenters do… this course reconnected me with interests and seeing others doing multiple things has empowered me to try too,” shared Dixy Valdez of La Villa Goods. In the final session of the eMRP, participants shared their key takeaways and their goals. Many shared the value of the program and asked ATA to continue to offer virtual trainings and shorter courses on more in depth subjects.

In addition to the workshop, ATA also hosted it’s first virtual speed networking event, the ATA Virtual Cocktail Hour, which has traditionally been hosted at the NY NOW show as a way to connect with others in the artisan sector. With over 50 individuals attending, many requested more networking events, and ATA plans to host additional networking events soon. Former MRP alumna, Jane Taylor was so inspired by the ATA Virtual Cocktail Hour, that she decided to launch a virtual networking event herself to connect the handmade sector in her home country of Zimbabwe, saying “ A chance to connect in our currently disconnected environment can only be positive and meaningful in some way… I have already had great feedback!”

ATA will be launching a Spanish version eMRP for Latin America this fall. Let us know if you would like to participate. An eMRP reservation list is available to reserve your place at the next English version of the eMRP. Stay tuned for the dates and details of both programs by joining . As Lauren observed, “I am so excited about the potential for ATA to expand its online learning to reach more handmade sector entrepreneurs than we ever could before. We are planning to grow a platform that offers in-depth classes on critical topics for the artisan sector today.”

Photos and words by Lauren Barkume