contact us

Leave us your contact details and a message and we'll get back to you soon. Have a wonderful day! 

Name *
Name

1 Dupont Circle Northwest
Washington, DC, 20036
United States

202.721.2336

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, founded in November 2012 and hosted by the Aspen Institute, is a collaborative effort of over 70 artisan businesses, artisan support organizations, corporations, government agencies, and other partners who are working together to promote the full potential of the global artisan sector.  

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise was created to elevate the importance of the artisan sector, support and grow artisan businesses, and share best practices in a collaborative learning community. 

Blog

Artisan Connect: Lessons from my Social Impact Venture

Gina Rogari

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAypAAAAJGQxMzY4ZGQ4LWY2ZjctNDE1NC1iODRlLTA0M2VjYzFhMmNiNw.jpg

This case study was published by Amanda North, founder of Artisan Connect, on April 25, 2017. Read the original piece on LinkedIn.

"Three years ago I founded an impact venture providing market access for global artisans to help them thrive. I'm sharing this case study hoping it may be helpful to others supporting the artisan sector and social ventures more broadly."

Problem Statement: Each year millions of people in the developing world leave their villages in hopes of better income opportunities. The cities lack infrastructure to support this swelling population. Women are particularly aversely affected, falling into trafficking and other horrific outcomes. At the same time, cultural traditions are being lost due to this mass migration. But the villages do contain important potential sources of income, including crafts. Although some artisan groups have received capacity building support, their key issue is identifying and reaching consumers who will properly value their products. They do not want handouts or donations—the artisans want ongoing revenue streams and entrepreneurial opportunities for the next generation.

Founder’s Background:  I served for over thirty years in executive marketing roles for technology companies. Then I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, April 15 2013, which catalyzed me to pursue my passions and purpose. I founded Artisan Connect in July 2013, initially supported as an Entrepreneur in Residence through Santa Clara University’s Miller Center where I had served as a volunteer mentor. To this venture, I brought my background in strategic partnering, brand building and marketing with fast growth organizations.

Concept: I had observed through my volunteer work at the Miller Center that the artisan sector has focused on capacity building and not enough on market connection and that the sector is fragmented, preventing scaling. With Artisan Connect, I sought to build a common platform to support artisan groups around the world, enabling their own brand stories to be showcased, but providing the ease of purchase required by US customers.

Business Structure: Counsel advised me to structure Artisan Connect as a C Corporation, incorporated in Delaware. From the outset, we were mission driven and moved aggressively to B Corp certification, which we gained in August 2014. Our articles of incorporation contained reference to our social mission.

Organization: My initial team comprised volunteers and contractors, to minimize spend and buy time to ascertain what roles were required for this kind of business. SCU supported me with three students who worked with me during the Fall of 2013 to research and develop the business plan. An externship funded by Bain & Company enabled a recent Stanford GSB graduate to work with us for six months.

Leadership team: One of my greatest challenges was that I was unable to identify a business partner with complementary skills to my own. Twice I hired people very experienced in retail but they were not a good fit for the start-up world. Another challenge was that I never had a formal board of directors—I was holding off until we raised our first institutional round of funding. My seed investors, though supportive, were generally hands-off.

Funding: Having developed the high-level concept for Artisan Connect, in the Fall of 2013 I approached longtime friends/colleagues for seed funding. I closed $250,000 in convertible debt by the end of 2013 enabling us to commence operations in January 2014. In total I raised $1,350,000 in convertible debt.

Business Model: Artisan Connect acted as an intermediary between artisan groups and consumers. I decided not to work with individual artisans because generally they don’t have the quality control, unit quantities, shipping abilities or business front end that are provided by artisan collectives and other social impact groups serving artisans. We purchased product from the artisan groups at prices they determined. We required transparency on how the payment is split between artisan wages, social services and administrative costs. Artisan Connect’s retail prices reflected 1/3 to these groups, 1/3 to shipping costs, 1/3 to Artisan Connect.

Channels: We chose eCommerce as our principal channel for its scalability. But we found that this platform alone is not ideal for artisan-based businesses for the following reasons:

  • Generally, prices/margins are driven lower online than in person
  • eCommerce customers expect deep discounts, free shipping and robust customer service
  • They are comparison shoppers—Artisan Connect products were compared with look-alike products from large retailers, mass produced
  • It is hard to communicate authenticity, quality and “story” online
  • Social media built followers, but did not translate to sales

Based on these insights, we evolved our model to multichannel, using in person events to engage customers, then remarketing to them through weekly emails. This succeeded in slowly building a loyal customer base

Marketing: Driving people to our website was more challenging than we anticipated given the congestion in the eCommerce space. This spurred us to promote our products through other online channels that already had built a base of relevant customers. We experienced an increase in sales but our margins suffered significantly, and this strategy did not enable us to build our brand. A more successful strategy was our co-marketing with affiliated groups, such as Global Fund for Women, that share our core mission.

Target customers: our original target was millenials because we believed they would resonate with our social impact mission. However, they do not appear to be spending significant money on our class of product (home décor and gifts) though they are purchasing other social impact sectors such as consumables (food and body care/cosmetics). Our principal customers turned out to be women 40-60, often purchasing for their millennial offspring or friends

Growth: By the end of 2015 Artisan Connect was partnering with 30 artisan groups in 16 countries across the developing world.  Five of these organizations were our lead partners in terms of sales. We built a database of 2,000 active supporters including 500 customers, many of whom had purchased multiple times. Our average transaction size was $175. We had a team of four full time staff plus an outsourced bookkeeper and graphics designer. Occasionally, we used an outside web developer. We had a six-  member advisory board.

We closed 2015 at $125,000 in revenues which was far lower than original projections due to low site visitor/sales conversion rates. Because of our small order quantities, shipping costs still amounted to 30% of our COGS, which significantly reduced our margins, preventing us from being able to sell wholesale. Recognizing that revenues were not increasing at the pace we had anticipated, we brought down our burn rate to extend our runway.

Business Model Evolution: Working capital was a huge expense in our initial model because we purchased product directly from artisans. They required the entire purchase order to be paid upfront so they could buy materials to produce the orders for us. There was a long lead time before we could start generating revenues from the products: 6-8 weeks for product production, 2-3 weeks for shipment to the US via air, then another week for loading information onto our website and promoting the products.

Recognizing this significant working capital expense and inventory risk, we decided to partner primarily with artisan groups who are drop shippers (they already have their products warehoused in the US). Instead of being a retailer, we became a true marketplace, offering these artisans 70% of the retail price—a better margin than they had previously received, while Artisan Connect took a commission of 30% for our marketing and ecommerce support. They were responsible for shipping to the end customers.

Challenges with Additional Funding: During the first half of 2015 I spoke with over 40 individuals and institutions about providing follow-on funding, but with no success. Scale was our biggest issue—several of the organizations liked our mission but only would invest once we had reached a $1 Million annual run rate. Many other social impact investors did not understand the importance of our role as an intermediary. Their charter was to provide funding directly to needy people in-country. In addition, many funders focus on specific geographic areas, such as sub-Saharan Africa or India, so our reach across the developing world was not a fit.

Strategic Alternatives for Growth: By the Fall of 2015 it was apparent we would not secure next round (institutional) funding. I refocused on trying to land a significant strategic partner/acquirer where Artisan Connect could be a semi-autonomous group, tapping into the parent company’s customer base, funding and infrastructure. We had productive conversations with a number of successful online marketplaces but ultimately they decided we were too small to be worth the effort. I also pursued some out-of-the-box ideas, like pitching an artisan TV series (where viewers could buy the products online) and approaching the Olympics about doing artisan showcases/shops.

A Belly Landing: In January, 2016 I informed my investors that, although we still had money in the bank, we were not able to carry the company forward. I found new jobs for our employees, liquidated inventory, transferred our office lease to another B Corp, shut down our warehouse, and put our eCommerce website on hold. By May, 2016 the company effectively had shut down.

I was reluctant to dissolve the company, especially since we were making progress against our social impact objectives, although not at the pace to continue operations. I decided instead to merge the company with a non-profit organization in New York that also focuses on supporting global artisans. At the end of 2016, my investors converted their notes to stock and donated the shares to this non-profit entity, enabling them to write off their investments in Artisan Connect.

Lessons Learned: I managed Artisan Connect through a graceful wind down, with no outstanding liabilities or obligations. My investors were supportive and say “they would back me again.” From my conversations with peers in the industry, it appears we’ve all faced similar issues. Scale is certainly one of the problems—there are too many competing companies splitting investment funds and customers. The artisan sector would be better served with a consolidated platform—which is what I had set out to do with Artisan Connect…

If I could start Artisan Connect today, here are some things I’d do differently:

  • Organize initially as a non-profit and convert to for profit when at scale
  • Aggregate the sector so we could pool customers, achieve discounted shipping rates, improve margins
  • Focus on B2B and use this revenue stream to build the consumer brand
  • Provide in person as well as online engagement through pop up stores
  • Identify a business partner from the outset to complement my skillsets
  • Engage more active support—through a formal board

Through my experience founding and leading Artisan Connect, I have become committed to the social impact sector, broadly defined. I am inspired by the people I’ve interacted with, and the mission-driven spirit of collaboration. I believe strongly in “business for good” but now recognize that the sector is at a much earlier stage than I had thought, in terms of investment capital and infrastructure. Wherever my next steps lead, I hope I can contribute to moving the sector forward.

Do you have a case study or other lessons learned from running an artisan enterprise? Let us know! Please email info@allianceartisan.org with your content. 

Highlighting the Basic Record Book at the 2017 International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe

Gina Rogari

Every July, nearly 20,000 visitors head up Santa Fe's Museum Hill for the International Folk Art Market | Santa Fe, the world's largest annual folk art festival. This year, over 160 master artisans from 53 countries showcased and sold their work, bringing together Santa Fe residents, folk art enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, academics, and more. The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise is a proud partner of the International Folk Art Alliance, offering annual training sessions for Folk Art Market artists and access to the Alliance-Kiva Artisan Loan Program

At this year's market, the Alliance unveiled its newest resource developed exclusively for artisan entrepreneurs: the Artisan Business Coaching program. 

Artisan entrepreneurs around the world struggle to sustain themselves as small businesses and provide steady income to artisan producers. Many artisan businesses participate in the informal economy and have no access to formal business training. In collaboration with key partners, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise developed Artisan Business Coaching, a set of business training resources adapted from the International Labor Organization's Start and Improve Your Business Programme. The series of modules begins with Basic Record Keeping, and will grow to include additional resources on Business Planning, Marketing, Costing & Pricing, and more! Illustrated stories and guided examples provide an easy entry-point for artisan entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds and experiences to understand the benefits of keeping basic business records.

In the first-ever Artisan Business Coaching session, Alliance trainers introduced the Basic Record Book to 20 representatives from artisan businesses working across the globe. Participants were introduced to the basics of record keeping, and practiced completing a Basic Record Book and Customers' Accounts Record.  

"I am excited to use this training with the artisans I work with," said one participant from Guatemala. "We don't keep many records right now, but know that they are important for our business."

There is an urgent need to continue building support systems for artisan entrepreneurs around the world, and recognize the extraordinary economic potential of artisan businesses. Please join us as we continue this important work. Learn more about the Artisan Business Coaching on our website, and do not hesitate to reach out to the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise with any feedback or additional training opportunities. 

In fall and winter 2017, the Alliance plans to host additional Record Keeping training sessions in Peru, New Orleans, and more. Email Gina Rogari at gina.rogari@aspeninst.org to learn more, or if your business is interested in participating in a future Artisan Business Coaching session! 

 

Introducing the Aspen Global Innovators Group

Gina Rogari

Leaf with white space.jpg

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise is a proud initiative of the Aspen Global Innovators Group, formerly Aspen Global Health and Development, at the Aspen Institute. Read more about our name change and new brand identity below, originally published on the Aspen Institute blog by Peggy Clark. 

It takes a diverse network of innovators to tackle the challenges facing people living at the world’s margins. Over the years we’ve been fortunate to build a formidable one — it includes Western policymakers alongside experts from developing countries, representatives from public and private sectors, and people of different backgrounds, life experiences, genders, and generations. We’ve learned that the meaningful differences  in our perspectives have helped us generate meaningful change. That’s why we’ve recently chosen to identify ourselves as The Aspen Global Innovators Group.

The Aspen Global Innovators Group is linked by one common aspiration: We want to widen the access to health and prosperity for people living at the world’s margins. 

The Aspen Global Innovators Group is concerned with the issues right under our noses that are not getting enough attention. Our charge is to get closer to those issues and contribute to making them more apparent to others. As Bryan Stevenson reminds us, “When we’re not proximate, we cannot change the world.”

Each of the initiatives of the Aspen Global Innovators Group brings an overlooked challenge in health and development into plain sight:

  • The New Voices Fellowship develops voices of innovators we might not normally hear from – experts, women, and young leaders in developing countries
  • The Aspen Management Partnership (AMP) for Health supports health care leaders in the overlooked public sector in under-resourced countries who are advancing community health care systems at the last mile
  • The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise recognizes underserved craftspeople disconnected from formal economies who are creating jobs and preserving cultures
  • The Aspen Ideas Incubator brings the best minds in global health to uncover priorities that we cannot afford to overlook

New Voices fellows have secured more than 2,500 global media placements, including TED and TEDx, New York Times op-eds, NPR, and the BBC. AMP Health has strengthened the management capacity of Ministries of Health in Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Kenya. The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise has grown from an idea to a community of over 130 members in 100 countries, and has been recognized as one of the top public-private partnerships at the US Department of State. Spotlight Health began with a conversation, and has become a go-to health conference.

Our work calls for us to bring more than our genius to bear on a problem, but to bring our fullest human selves in relationship with one another.

The trust we place in one another inspires us to give your best selves, which can trigger the forces of good in others to create real impact.

I remember seeing the power of it, sitting under a tree in Malawi with Precious Phiri, along with the AMP Health team and a community health worker. Precious was taking the time to praise that health worker for saving six people and their families from malaria. The support system was in plain sight right under that tree — that community health worker showed up for the sick—Precious was there to support the health worker — and the AMP team was there to support Precious.

And then there’s Heshima Kenya, an organization that protects the lives of refugee girls in East Africa. Through the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, they were connected to UNHCR Livelihoods, and are now extending their work to Kakuma, a refugee camp in northern Kenya. They will provide training and help foster an income-generating program for another 50+ displaced refugee artisans.

Our relationships are the circulatory systems for our work. And we need the lifeblood they provide to support each other.

Bringing out our best selves depends entirely on discovering the power we overlook in ourselves. We each have to reconnect with the intuition we already carry deep within our souls—that our greatest hope for the future is being human with one another, in community. And that takes a disciplined mind, an open heart, and a willingness to be generous with one another.

How Can Artisan Movements Empower Communities?

Gina Rogari

Courtney Martin, the author of "The New Better Off," keeps one thing in mind when her 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum: The root of all tantrums is about belonging or significance. But this is easily translated to perhaps the root of much of human behavior, Martin said.

Questions of belonging – and of mattering – are at the root of the empowerment that is spread and created in artisan movements. Indeed, artisan enterprise around the world increases local incomes, preserves ancient cultures, and provides employment for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, especially for women. At the Aspen Institute, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise community is building a support system for artisan entrepreneurs across the globe.

 “The artisan sector creates peace, it signals to women that they are significant, and it helps people find belonging in their own communities and economic sectors around the world,” said Martin.

A holistic empowerment

Building artisan capacity is one of the most holistic ways to empower vulnerable communities, said Alisa Roadcup, executive director of Heshima Kenya. Heshima, which means “dignity and respect” in Swahili -  works with orphaned and unaccompanied refugee girls to provide a lifeline of support and hope after they have been through harrowing traumas and egregious circumstances. Many development programs that Roadcup saw in East Africa were focused on one aspect of response to these traumas: education, for example, or resettlement.  But Heshima works with girls who might, for example, have fled a life of servitude in the militia in the Congo: The organization assesses the case on a variety of factors. These include education levels, psychosocial needs, legal and medical issues, education, and childcare, as many of the girls have fled with their children. One of the most crucial aspects, though, is the social enterprise component of their programs. Through an aspect of their work called the Maisha Collective, young women make handbags and scarves which are sold on Etsy. The majority of girls who are involved in this collective – about 70 percent – go onto become economically independent, a statistic well above the average. The independence and skill-building that involvement in the artisan craft sector fosters in the girls and women that Heshima works with are an often overlooked part of international aid systems, but this should not be the case.

“A holistic approach is fundamental: healing, recovery, and self-actualization as leaders in their own right,” said Roadcup.

Empowerment for generations

Building capacity through the economic empowerment of artisan craftship does not only holistically empower the female artisan, according to Karen Sherman, executive director of the Akilah Institute for Women. The Akilah Institute is an education-to-workforce model that helps women to access the workforce, another form of pushing for women’s access to income-generation. She has found that working in crafts-based production like the artisan sector has shown to be a lifeline for vulnerable women.  One of the women she worked with found solace and a way to support herself through knitting. Her life was completely uprooted during the war in Bosnia: this woman went from living with her husband, children, and her parents to being forced to flee her home after her husband was taken away for hard labor. She had been kidnapped and tortured by soldiers. But she connected with Women for Women International, and decided that she would use knitting for an income – and look to the future with optimism. “Those soldiers – I want them to see that I am still alive. They did not kill me – not my body, not my soul,” she said.

In a different country, Rwanda, a 9-year-old girl named Bridget was taking care of her three younger siblings when their parents were killed in the Rwandan genocide. After spending more than three years in a refugee camp, she was working to make clothes in order to pay rent and buy food. After joining ABC, a social enterprise started by Kate Spade, she learned to produce handbags and other brands. Since she began working there, she has opened a bank account, been promoted twice, and took out a loan to buy land and build a house.

“These two stories may seem completely different, but they’re actually the same. Both of these women survived war and genocide. Both of them picked themselves up through their own means, and were able not only to transform their lives but invest in their children and family,” said Sherman.

Building communities

Bolstering artisan networks also has powerful effects on the community, not just the individual. Enaam Barrishi, Director General of the Jordan River Foundation, works in Jordan through the Jordan River Foundation to empower women in remote areas of Jordan with knowledge, skills, and training in entrepreneurship and handicrafts production. Behind these goals is the overarching idea to enhance the socioeconomic status of the women – with the ultimate end of enhancing their families and whole communities. The Foundation does this through three components: a project focused on wool weaving where women produce carpets and wall hangings; an embroidery collective; and a component where women use banana leaves – which typically are burned in the communities – to produce baskets and other items.

Jordan is under enormous infrastructure pressure due to an influx of Syrian refugees, which UNHCR estimates is registered at 650,000. Including the unregistered refugees, however, puts estimates at over 1 million. Only 20 percent of these refugees live in camps, and others are relocated to host communities, which Barrishi said can put a large amount of pressure on resources, and creates competition between Syrian and Jordanian women.  

“We look at this project as a way to address this crisis so that it becomes a development opportunity – not only providing women with access to employment, but to address social cohesion. We encourage women to work together, to build skills with people of different experience and backgrounds,” Barrishi said.

By working together to build a product, the women empower their communities – together.

Dismantling perception

Artisan work also has the power to transform the perception of refugees and vulnerable communities around the world. A new initiative through UNHCR plans to create a marketing platform and help to build the livelihood of refugees through facilitating growth in the artisan sector. The artisan sector, along with the agricultural sector and teleworking, has been identified as a safe value chain for refugees to enter.  But unlike these sectors, the artisan sector also has the ability to transform perceptions of refugee work. Looking at the handcrafted goods created by refugees helps people to change their stereotypes of how they believe refugees behave in a country. The UNHCR initiative plans to work with strategic technical partners – like social enterprises in different countries, designers, and logistic specialists – to provide seed funding and design input.

“By working and creating these products, we will be able to unite refugees themselves,” said Sasibai Kimis, with Earth Heir.

This conversation took place during the conversation "The Power of Handmade in Waging Peace" at the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise event Handmade is Human.

 

Handmade is Human at the Aspen Institute

Gina Rogari

"Handmade reveals our deepest humanity," Peggy Clark posited on December 2, 2016 to launch this year's annual meeting of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, Handmade is Human. Now more than ever, we need to think about how to integrate artisans into global commerce, recognize the makers behind our products, and recognize what ties together people, cultures, and places around the world.

Every year, the Alliance hosts a gathering of members and friends in a vibrant, welcoming space to explore key learnings and innovations in the artisan sector. On December 2, 2016, over 75 artisan business leaders, partners, and advocates joined the Alliance team at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC for Handmade is Human.

At Handmade is Human, discussions ranged from how to unlock economic value in the artisan sector and the power of handmade in waging peace to questioning "how should we talk about handmade?" Ambassador Catherine Russell reflected on our accomplishments and challenges, Morgan Stanley's Alejandro Calderon introduced the idea of a Donor-Advised Fund for Artisans, and new and old faces took the stage to share their work and passion. Sector leaders and innovators met with artisans and business owners, building new connections and exploring how the process of hand craftsmanship reveals our deepest humanity.

"Working and creating with your hands is the oldest expression of man. The know-how of tradition is passed down from generation to generation for centuries, even millenia; it is part of our DNA, in our ancestral memory" - Marta Cucchia, Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti

Review the full agenda and speaker bios, and stay in touch with the Alliance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for further updates!

Polish Ceramics: Ancient As Greek?

Gina Rogari

This guest post was provided by Kinga Szydzinska of My Poland. Read more about traditional Polish crafts on the My Poland website!

Polish grey ceramics can be traced back to 1300-500 B.C.

Grey ceramics is the most unique pottery and has the oldest traditions in Poland. Grey pots - in other words dishes manufactured with the use of that technique - appeared on the Polish soil in ancient times. They can be traced by to Luzyce culture (1300-500 B.C.), Celtic times (3rd century B.C.), and Roman times (0-400 A.D.). As you can see - gray ceramics are as old as the famous Greek pots, and equally beautiful - even though they are not as richly ornamented. 

Polished ornamental adornments can be found on dishes from Roman times that are identical to contemporary ones. It proves that the gray pots technique has changed only slightly over centuries. Research proves that grey ceramics were popular all over Poland. Gradually, due to the development of glazing ceramics, the ancient technique was pushed out of different Polish regions, remaining solely in eastern Poland. Now, grey pottery is produced solely in one village in Poland.

Traditional Workshops

Pottery workshops in Poland have been cultivating the 18th century traditions of grey pottery using the same adornments and shapes in accordance with traditions passed on from past generations of potters. Every potter his his own pattern and adornments.

The making of grey pots is customarily called "grey pots suffocating." Dishes are rolled on a potter's wheel. Once they are formed, they are adorned. Next, they dry for up to a dozen days. Following, the potter prepares a mixture of ground lead and sand. A pot is covered with this mixture to ensure adequate coating density. Then, dishes are locked in a furnace for 13-14 hours. The burning temperature can reach up to 950 degrees Celcius. Only traditional furnaces can be used for the production of grey pottery, where charcoal is used as fuel. The grey hue is achieved through oxygen reduction from iron compounds contained in clay. The smooth surface and shine is owed to a smoothing process, which involves the grinding of a partly-dried dish with an ordinary flint stone. 

y Poland offers original Polish handicraft and takes care of its worldwide promotion. Their passion is discovering real pearls of handicraft. My Poland offers authentic and unique products made by masters - licensed folk artists and reputed craftsmen. The organization cooperates with individual consumers, diplomatic posts, and companies. My Poland products are delivered worldwide; shop online!

Interested in contributing a guest post on the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise blog? Email gina.rogari@aspeninst.orgtoday!

Scaling Fair Trade: Lessons from GlobeIn

Gina Rogari

This guest post was provided by Liza Moiseeva of GlobeIn. Read more from Liza on the GlobeIn blog!

It started with a box. A social business startup dreamt of connecting artisans in developing countries to the global marketplace using a subscription model. This became GlobeIn's Artisan Box. In one year, GlobeIn grew its business by sixteen times to over $1 million in annual revenue. Here are the lessons learnt along the way...

Recently, I started hearing more and more from amazing, driven women who want to start companies that work with artisans, farmers, human trafficking victims, and so forth.

These women are GlobeIn customers who have been inspired to make a difference in the world. I applaud you. And, I am happy to share our experience so that your social business journey is an easy one (just kidding – that never happens). This post is for you and for anyone passionate about creating a sustainable positive impact in the world.

Below are the key 5 lessons we at GlobeIn learned while growing, pivoting, and scaling up our business over the last 3 years.

PRODUCT FIRST, MISSION SECOND

GlobeIn started as an “Etsy” for the developing world. There was an obvious consumer demand for artisan made crafts, but not all crafts are created equal. When we launched the alpha version of the Artisan Box, we sent our customers a box full of 3-5 products from a new country every month.

But, there was a problem.

These products were typical products you’d find in a bazaar in Ghana, Mexico, or Guatemala. These were tchotchke, souvenir-type items that one doesn’t need in everyday life.

Only when we drastically improved our curation process, established higher quality standards, and focused on practical products that an average American woman could fit into her lifestyle, we saw our subscriber base growing.

The best example of this approach is TOMS. The company managed to grow its business to $625 million valuation not just by using its heart-warming and ever-so-simple business model “One for One,” but by making a product that clearly appealed to their audience in design, quality, and price.

Here’s the piece of advice that stuck with me the most from this year’s Fair Trade Federation Conference said by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s: If you don't design for US market, don't expect to own even a minuscule percentage of that market.

SERVE YOUR CUSTOMERS

I know, I know. Fair trade is all about helping artisans and farmers lift themselves out of poverty. It is why I am here. It is why GlobeIn is here.

But here’s a realization I quickly came to: if you don’t give your customers what they want and keep them happy, you won’t be of much help to your artisans: Artisans are why we started the business; customers are the reason why we are in business.

This transcends the first point of product first – you have to listen to your customers, to learn from them, and to provide exceptional customer service. You might be surprised but just the fact that you are a social business or a nonprofit doesn’t mean that your customers will let your slow customer service slide.

At GlobeIn our mission is two-fold – to curate amazing artisan products at the best-possible prices for our customers and by doing so to create sustainable recurring revenues for the artisans.

COMPETE WITH AND OPERATE LIKE TRADITIONAL FOR-PROFIT BUSINESSES

Since GlobeIn’s main product is the Artisan Box, many of our customers subscribe to other monthly boxes and. Unsurprisingly, they compare their Artisan Boxes to other lifestyle subscriptions like PopSugarMustHave or FabFitFun. I apologize if these names don’t mean anything to you, because, well, they have nothing to do with conscious consumption. These are lifestyle boxes full of cheap manufactured products.

It’s hard for GlobeIn to compete with product budgets of other boxes. We have to pay artisans fair wages when other subscription boxes can pay pennies. But, we have to constantly keep finding a solution to this puzzle – how to provide the best value to the customer while paying fair wages to artisans. It sounds difficult, but when you realize that solving this puzzle determines whether you make it as a business, you do it.

As you are competing with traditional for-profit businesses, make sure that you learn from them along the way. For example, my personal subscription to Le Tote taught me the ultimate importance of the tissue paper – the one that keeps your box so neat and tidy.

Look up to the best in business (social or not), set ambitious growth goals, and constantly work on improving your product or service.

GET A LINE OF CREDIT

If you are a retailer with any significant operations, you know what I mean. If you are a newcomer who wants to build a retail business (online or offline), just Google it.

A typical retail company starts planning its collections up to 9 months before it hits the store. That’s because they are ordering hundreds of thousands of products.

If you are a boutique fair trade store ordering a few hundred of any given product, you probably don’t have to plan that far in advance. However, if you are a social business that wants to scale, you will need to plan at least 6 months in advance, especially if you are dealing with handmade artisan goods.

This is when you get a loan that will help you finance your product sourcing long before you receive products (and even longer before you make any profit).

Even the most cash-rich e-commerce company wouldn’t be able to finance their inventory with profits.

Even better, as a social business or nonprofit you can get this type of loan from an impact investing company that would be much more understanding about your longer return horizons and much more appreciative of the social impact you create. RSF Social Finance is a good example of an impact investor providing such financial tools.

PLAN YOUR CASH FLOW

The majority of your sales (60-70 percent) will happen between October 15th and December 15th, so plan accordingly.

Are you a fair trade company or a social business? Are there any mistakes you’ve made along the way or piece of advice other changemakers can learn from? Please share in the comments below.

Every month, the GlobeIn Artisan Box delivers a fresh collection of useful and enthralling items from around the world. As an Artisan Box Subscriber, you learn about the products and the people who made them while discovering simpler ways to live a more fulfilled lifestyle. By subscribing to the GlobeIn Artisan Box, you can feel good about the products you use, the people you support and how your choices contribute to a better world.

Learn more and order the GlobeIn artisan box on their website! Interested in contributing a guest post on the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise blog? Email gina.rogari@aspeninst.org today!

Twelve Artisan Entrepreneurs Showcased at TEDWomen 2016

Gina Rogari

The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world, yet it is overlooked and under-resourced by traditional development efforts. This October, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and twelve extraordinary artisan entrepreneurs took the TED stage to show the world why the artisan sector matters. October 26-27, the Alliance featured 12 artisan entrepreneurs in San Francisco at the Global Showcase, an immersive experience of people, place and product curated exclusively for TEDWomen - the premier women's conference in the world! 

IT'S ABOUT TIME

The theme of the 2016 TEDWomen conference was "It's About Time." We agree! It's about time policymakers, investors, and influencers around the world recognize the impact of the artisan economy. Do you believe #ItsAboutTime we #ChooseArtisan? Share your messages on social media, and follow the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter

MEET THE MAKERS

The 12 artisan businesses that participated in the TEDWomen Global Showcase represent the amazing diversity, commitment, and impact of the entire Alliance for Artisan Enterprise community. Together, they employ over 6,300 artisans, support tens of thousands of family members, and have rediscovered hundreds of ancient techniques across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Explore all twelve of their stories, crafts, and cultures

SHOP THE SHOWCASE

At the Global Showcase, attendees explored and shopped an exclusive collection of handcrafted products, including woven textiles, beaded jewelry, and embroidered accessories. Did you miss this year's conference? Shop the showcase online:

  1. Gahaya Links | traditional handwoven Agaseke baskets
  2. Heshima Kenya | hand-dyed scarves and textiles
  3. ROOTS of South Sudan | hand-beaded jewelry
  4. Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco | handwoven clothing, homeware and other textiles
  5. Manos del Uruguay | handwoven textiles and yarn
  6. Mercado Global | handwoven accessories and homeware
  7. Paula Mendoza | handcrafted gold and emerald jewelry
  8. TRIA ETC | handcrafted accessories, jewelry, and homeware
  9. Fibre Tibet | hand-spun and handwoven scarves and textiles
  10. Kandahar Treasure | traditional Khamak embroidery
  11. Turquoise Mountain | handcrafted jewelry, painted  and traditional woodworking
  12. Yawanawa Handicrafts Initiative | hand-beaded jewelry telling stories of indigenous people

GET INVOLVED

The Global Showcase was made possible through the generous support of the Artisan Partners Circle. We are so thankful for your efforts to increase the visibility of artisan entrepreneurs across the globe. Are you looking to get more involved with the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise? Learn more about the Global Showcase here, or email Gina Rogari at gina.rogari@aspeninst.org with questions or partnership requests. Artisan businesses, support organizations, and others, consider becoming a member of the Alliance community today!

International Folk Art Market Artists Consider Credit-Readiness

Gina Rogari

This July, the International Folk Art Alliance (IFAA), partners, and friends celebrated the 13th annual International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over 180 artists and thousands of guests from around the world gathered on Museum Hill for the largest market in the organization's history. Gahaya Links shared its handwoven peace baskets, Kandahar Treasure unveiled new embroidered scarves and robes, and ROOTS of South Sudan received the Market's Community Impact Reward, honoring artists who are an extraordinary example of the IFAA mission by positively impacting social change in their communities.

The IFAA team celebrates and preserves living folk art traditions and creates economic opportunities for and with artists worldwide, impacting artists' lives beyond one weekend of sales. The weeks leading up to the annual market include workshops, activities, and other opportunities for artists to learn and build sustainable relationships with the IFAA team and with one another. Part of this year's programming included a full day of technical workshops. The Alliance joined artists from around the world in a workshop on the Alliance-Kiva Artisan Loan Program, "Am I Ready for an Artisan Business Loan?" 

Participants examined their yearly sales and expenses and determined how a loan could benefit their businesses. Artists from Mexico and Bolivia to Kyrgyzstan agreed their main business goals included maintaining craft traditions for the next generation. Succeeding in today's market ensures the viability of those traditions, and increases the desire for young people to learn traditional crafts and carry on family businesses.

To create a sustainable business, however, artists often lack capital and other financial resources to grow their product lines, client bases, and marketing materials. Artists explored the possibility of using a small loan to cover market fees (like their International Folk Art Market booths), raw material costs, and even hiring additional artisan workers. Still, artists around the world face unique barriers: uneven payment cycles, high raw material and shipping costs, and more. 

The Alliance-Kiva Artisan Loan Program allows Alliance members and partners to access 0% financing to succeed in today's market. Without capital, artists often work order-to-order, nurturing fragile businesses and lacking the skills and training to grow. Are you ready for an artisan business loan? Contact the Alliance team at info@allianceartisan.org to learn more about the resources available for the businesses in our network, or to think about the requirements for an artisan business loan. 

Miss this year's celebration? Mark your calendar for next year's market, July 14-17, 2017. Alliance members and artists - it's not too late to apply! Complete an online application by September 1, 2016 for the 2017 market. For the first time ever, the selection criteria includes innovation in traditional product design. Questions? Contact info@allianceartisan.org today.

Optimism and Opportunity at GES2016

Gina Rogari

In its 7th year, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit gathered entrepreneurs, investors, corporations, and government partners from over 170 countries around the world at Stanford University, the heart of Silicon Valley. The Alliance joined President Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Secretary of State John Kerry, and countless other innovators and thought leaders eager to make lasting, sustainable change in today's world.

"Simply put," Secretary of State John Kerry remarked, "what you and past generations of entrepreneurs have already achieved has brought about a revolution in our world right now." Other speakers echoed the need to take risks and abandon the status quo in pursuit of creating solutions to the biggest needs facing our world. 

The Summit is a place for men and women of a vast range of age and experience to share learnings and best practices, connect, and grow. President Obama recognized the ever-present need to put more "tools, more resources into the hands of these folks are changing the world." But, lasting change surpasses tools and funding. We must be building a community, "making sure that all of you know each other so that you can share best practices and ideas, and spread the word."

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise recognizes our community of members as challenging the existing framework for artisan enterprises, cooperatives, and retailers across the globe. Our shared voice amplifies your unique messages, challenges, and cultures. Together, we can break down barriers that no single organization could take on alone. As President Obama noted, "I believe all of you represent the upside of an interconnected world, all the optimism and hope and opportunity that the interconnected world represents."

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit took place June 22-24, 2016 at Stanford University. Find more information, a full schedule, photos, and key recordings on the GES2016 website. Follow the Alliance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for real-time updates!

Celebrating 100 Members with Estrella de Mar

Gina Rogari

"Love is the message, fashion is the medium"

This month, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise celebrates reaching over 100 members and partners. We are so grateful for the support and commitment of our community to the advancement of the artisan sector around the world. Together, we are able to shine a bright light on the social, economic, and cultural value of artisan enterprise.

In celebration of reaching this milestone, our community especially welcomes Estrella de Mar, our 100th member! Estrella de Mar was founded in 2012 by Emily Pinto and Julie Savoie. The organization strives to empower artisan partners and preserve ancient textile traditions in Guatemala.

Estrella de Mar provides financial empowerment through dignified employment. The brand works with worker-owned women's weaving cooperatives and small family businesses to produce handwoven homeware and accessories, sharing a commitment to ethical, sustainable practices and high-quality results.

The methods used in crafting Estrella de Mar pieces have been practiced for thousands of years in Guatemala. The organization's founders place a special focus on choosing producers: "who we work with matters." Each artisan is incredibly skilled at her craft, but requires access to international markets to earn a living wage. Estrella de Mar focuses on women artisans, because women, founder Emily Pinto says, "hold the key to creating long-term positive change in their communities."  

The brand takes a collaborative approach to design, integrating local expertise with modern and bohemian designs. Its founders focus on quality, commitment, and a true sense of place. Ultimately, the handmade process becomes a labor of love. Handmade production, Pinto emphasizes, "honors people and planet; that's why we say 'love is the message, fashion is the medium.'"

Learn more about Estrella de Mar on their website, and stay in touch on Facebook and Instagram! Photos by Jasmine Luoma.  

Are you interested in becoming a member of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise? Learn more about the membership process and complete an application. Find a full list of Alliance members here!

Mela Artisans + Kiva Provides Stable Employment for Kashmiri Embroiderers

Gina Rogari

In 2015, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise supported Sonali of Mela Artisans with a Kiva loan for artisans in Kashmir, India who craft beautiful pillows for the NY-based company. The loan was funded within days and the pillows have been a hit with customers. The Kiva loan has illustrated that small injections of capital can be catalytic at the grassroots level. So much so, that this year Sonali has taken another loan through the Alliance's Artisan Loan Program to fund an inventive group of artisans in South India. 

To fully understand why it's imperative to support these artisan groups - and make them the face of manufacturing - we go to Kashmir, a region that has been struck by warn, internal conflict, and messy politics. All this strife has meant little economic development: tourism, Kashmir's largest source of revenue, has taken a major hit with visitors too frightened to visit the state's majestic vistas. So, how can locals connect with the global market and get out of this slump?

Mela Artisans found the answer at the base of the Himalayas in a group of women who are modernizing zalakdozi hook embroidery, which resembles crochet and dates back to the 1400s. Scarves, bedding, sheets, clothing - all forms of textiles - are enhanced with this hook stitch in patterns that sing of Kashmir: saffron, tulips, lotus, and lilies.

"I love the curves of this particular kind of chain stitch and the surface treatment it creates," says Dipali Patwa, Chief Creative Officer at Mela Artisans. "The beauty of this stitch is the artisan's ability to curve and follow the shape. The understanding of how big or small the stitch should be defines how intricate the patterns can get."

Brought over by Damascus craftsmen and popularized under Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin's rule, one of the most revered rulers of Kashmir who governed from 1420 to 1470, the embroidery is an art form passed down through the generations. Yet, such a deeply entrenched heritage is struggling in the modern era. Artisans lack constant supply of work. Payments dwindle in slowly. It's hard to make a living by stitching.

"If we are able to create a sustainable order stream for these women, the potential impact on the livelihoods of their families and kids would be tremendous and that inspires me," says Patwa.

Hunarmand, a Kashmir-based nonprofit working with Mela, is creating opportunities for these women by opening more markets for their beautifully stitched products. Jahangir Ahmed Bhat, Project Manager for Hunarmand in Sringagar, says, "there is satisfaction in the work." A post-graduate, specializing in craft management, he hails from rural Kashmir. Bhat is compelled by the women who practice this art.

"Whenever we receive an order, that really brings energy and hope in us. I immediately start visualizing the impact of the order and the changes work will bring in the lives of women."

Bhat's hometown, Kulgam, lies 68 km outsid eof Srinagar; known as the "rice bowl of Kashmir," it's a deeply agrarian community with most people growing rice, apples, or raising livestock. Nestled in front of the Peer Panchal range of mountains, the innermost range of the Himalayas, Kulgam has a surreal landscape. Yet, life can be strenuous for locals.

Tasleema Akhter, a master artisan who know works with Bhat, grew up in Kulgam as well. Her parents passed away when she was very young; she, and her three siblings, were raised by her grandmother who was "left to fend for us," Akhter recalls. To make a living, they reared cattle. Embroidery was a childhood pastime. 

At 8 years of age, she was learning how to perfect hook stitches with her relatives. Embroidery stayed as a hobby for years - until 4 years ago when she signed up to work with INTACH, India's National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, a project that started in 1984 to help artisans around the country. Now, she says, "work is worship."

The transition from hobby to a serious source of income started when she was 16: she began working as an individual artisan for local traders. "There was no financial security as the work used to be irregular," she says. "Most of my time, I was sitting idle."

Work was underpaid and payments trickled in long after they were due. Then, after five years, she decided to join an artisan group like Hunarmand, which means "skillful." "Actually, here it means skillful women," says Bhat. 

Akhter became one of these skillful women. Today, she is regarded as a master artisan and supervises other women who are learning the craft. Operating in a group was the answer, she recognizes.

"The artisan group provides equal working opportunities to all of its members and is working as a unit."

Accessing capital through the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise + Kiva Artisan Loan Program allowed Sonali and the Mela Artisans team to create sustainable, reliable employment for their artisan partners in Kashmir. The loan helped Mela Artisans expand its line of artisan products to include these embroidered pillows, and market them on its global platform. 

Learn more about the Artisan Loan Program on the Alliance website. Members, think about how you could use capital to grow your business, and apply for a small loan today!

This guest post was provided by Mela Artisans. Read more from The World of Mehta.  

Cultural Sustainability in the Age of Globalization

Gina Rogari

On May 12, 2016, participants gathered at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC for a symposium on Cultural Sustainability in the Age of Globalization. Hosted by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the event convened leaders and innovators working to sustain local artistic practices and cultural identities. 

Participants spanned the Americas, Bhutan, and Benin. They included Goucher College professors, members of the Southwest Folklife Alliance and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Alliance for Artisan Enterprise members Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco and the Self-Employed Women's Association, and singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo

The Queen Mother of Bhutan, founder of the Royal Textile Academy, launched the Symposium by introducing "Gross National Happiness," or "development with values." She sees the national arts as living arts; to preserve those arts through the future, we must take advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization. Her message was echoed by Professor Amy Skillman and Angelique Kidjo: we need to accept the diversity of culture that exists in this world, be proud of it, and fight for it. Respect for culture flows from understanding and preserving the traditions of our ancestors. We cannot escape culture, but we can work together to preserve its techniques and respect its diversity.

These issues reach societies across the globe, from major cities in Arizona to indigenous villages in the Andes of Peru. Without recognition and appreciation for cultural heritage, traditions are lost. Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez founded the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco to ensure the weaving techniques of her ancestors would not disappear. She recognizes both the inherent beauty of the ancient practices, and its economic potential. Through the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Nilda both archives traditional weaving techniques and provides stable employment for women and families. Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Empowerment for the Self-Employed Women's Association in India, finds similar economic value in traditional crafts. Many craftspeople, especially women, participate in the informal sector. Their handiwork is not recognized as "work." To achieve recognition in society, these traditions must be organized as real work with real value. 

People around the world must recognize the power of culture and traditional arts. Increased access to information, markets, the Internet, and other opportunities can serve those cultures. Together, educational bodies like the Smithsonian, businesses like the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, and today's musicians and artists can work in harmony to both preserve traditional arts, and keep their spirit alive. Failure to act, however, may result in the disappearance of ancient practices forever.  

"It touches everybody. That is the power of culture." (Angelique Kidjo).

Learn more about the Symposium from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage: http://www.folklife.si.edu/news-and-events/symposium-cultural-sustainability-in-the-age-of-globalization. Photos by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco and the Self-Employed Women's Association

Unlocking Artisan Economic Development: How to Increase Value to Support Small-Scale Producers

Gina Rogari

April 13-15, 2016, nearly 1,000 leaders from over 60 countries descended upon Oxford's Said Business School for the Skoll World Forum. The annual gathering of thought leaders pushes the boundaries on global innovation and social change. 

This year, Forum topics ranged from immersive storytelling and moral decision-making to social ROI for small-scale agriculture. Alliance director Peggy Clark hosted a delegate-led discussion on the artisan economy entitled Unlocking Artisan Economic Development: How to Increase Value to Support Small-Scale Producers. She was joined by Alliance members Heshima Kenya, Mela Artisans, and Coca-Cola to share stories, challenges, and opportunities in the artisan sector across the supply chain. They explored entrepreneurial approaches to artisan financing, the value of partnerships, and more. 

The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise believes collaboration and shared learnings foster increased awareness and economic progress for artisans around the world. Join our community and #ChooseArtisan to tell the world the artisan sector matters.  

Watch highlights from the Skoll Foundation, and stay involved with #skollwf until next year's Forum!

"Doing Good is Good Business" - #SocialGoodBiz @ SXSW

Gina Rogari

On March 15, 2016, Alliance director Peggy Clark joined Dani Lachowicz of Bloom + Grace, Devi Thomas of UN Foundation's Shot@Life Campaign, and Sarah Aitken of iris Worldwide gathered in Austin, Texas at SXSW's SXGood Hub to discuss #socialgoodbiz.

Conversation focused on "Social Good Business: Benefits, Barriers, Branding." The four women discussed challenges of working in the artisan sector, the increased consumer demand for sustainable goods, and the value of the global handmade marketplace.

"Doing good is good business. It just makes sense!" emphasized Dani. Founded in 2013, her organization Bloom + Grace now works with artisans in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Kenya to craft jewelry that impacts lives around the world. To increase the power of each piece, the organization has partnered with the UN Foundation's Shot@Life Campaign; each piece provides lifesaving vaccinations to children in developing countries.

Still, working with artisans comes with a wide range of challenges; Dani faces communication gaps, quality control issues, and timeline barriers. These issues are not isolated to Bloom + Grace. The artisan sector is a $32B industry around the world, with approximately two-thirds of artisan activity taking place in developing countries. The distance between women working in rural Kenyan communities and the U.S. market is astronomical. With consumers becoming increasingly interested in knowing where their products come from, business owners need to address their demand sustainably. This presents an entirely new market opportunity for the artisan sector, parallel to the pioneering Fair Trade coffee movement. 

Together, let's build an ecosystem of organizations like Bloom + Grace to address the gaps between producers, retailers, suppliers, and consumers. With a focus on sustainability and shared learnings, we can together tackle the sector barriers that no single organization can achieve alone. 

Thank you UN Foundation, Bloom + Grace, Shot@Life, and iris Worldwide for your participation and continued support! Learn more about the panel here

Move #WomenForward with the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise

Gina Rogari

March 8, 2016, the Alliance celebrated International Women’s Day with the Aspen ASCEND program at the Aspen Forum on Women & Girls: Conversations Across Generations. The Forum was co-hosted by Alliance Director Peggy Clark and ASCEND’s Anne Mosle to explore a nuanced approach to women’s issues.

The program featured an array of explosive, thought-provoking women discussing violence, progress, barriers, and opportunities for women around the world. Moderator Melissa Harris Perry launched the Forum with the question, “Is the frame of ‘woman’ even useful?" 

During the two-day event, Melissa, Alicia Garza (Black Lives Matter), Reema Nanavaty (SEWA), Kavita Ramdas (Ford Foundation), Tina Tchen (White House), and others began unpacking the complex issues facing women. Recognizing intersectionalities will allow us to better tackle systemic inequalities that continue to exist in the 21st century. With diverse workforces, diverse leadership, and increased awareness, we can overcome the largest barriers facing women every day. 

Still, poverty and injustice remain. As Reema solemnly noted, “Poverty is violence with the consent of society.” The artisan sector is a major employer of women around the world, providing sustainable livelihoods and supporting entire communities. Still, there are disconnects between education, technology, traditional skills, and the global marketplace. Policymakers, financial institutions, and other leaders do not perceive artisan businesses as economically viable.

As consumer demand for artisan work increases, we need to recognize the complexities in the artisan sector and ensure artisans, especially women, have access to fair wages, appropriate resources, and respect.  

Through our network of over 75 members and partners, the Alliance strives to tackle this economic inequity. Together, we can tackle systemic barriers and elevate the importance of the artisan sector. Join the movement to push #WomenForward. Start by deciding to #ChooseArtisan.

Read more about the need for a nuanced approach to women’s issues in the Huffington Post, written by Peggy Clark and Anne Mosle, here.

Follow key moments from the Forum on the Alliance’s Twitter feed, and read more from ASCEND. See a full agenda from the Forum here. Cartoons from the event were drawn by Jen Sorensen

Over 50 Supporters #ChooseArtisan at NYNOW

Gina Rogari

January 31 through February 2, the Alliance joined 9 of our members at the biannual NYNOW gift show. Over 2,500 exhibitors gathered at the Javits Convention Center in New York City, sharing Handmade, Home, and Lifestyle products with retailers, media, and other exhibitors. The market also included a special seminar series for businesses to learn, network, and grow. 

The Alliance shared the #ChooseArtisan campaign with artisan businesses, supporters, other exhibitors, and retailers at the market. For three days, the #ChooseArtisan social wall was updating in real-time in the market's social media lounge. The Alliance staff visited our member organizations and other artisan businesses and support organizations throughout the show to raise awareness about the value of the artisan economy. Over 50 artisan businesses and supporters joined the campaign, including Jonathan Adler, John Robshaw, TO THE MARKET, and Yellow Leaf Hamomcks! Follow the Alliance on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see more wonderful content!

Alliance members at NYNOW included:

  • AOW Handmade
  • ByHand Consulting
  • Fibre Tibet
  • Global Girlfriend
  • Global Goods Partners
  • Mela Artisans
  • NYNOW / Artisan Resource 
  • Sasa Designs by the Deaf
  • Threads of Peru

Interested in joining the Alliance network? Learn more about membership and complete an application today! Continue using #ChooseArtisan on social media to share why the artisan sector matters to you, and stay in touch with the Alliance to learn more about participating in global markets like NYNOW. 

Use Your Purchasing Power for Good This Holiday Season

Gina Rogari

Happy Small Business Saturday! This holiday season, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise urges our members, partners, and supporters to use their purchasing power for good - #ShopSmall and #ChooseArtisan.

American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage people across the United States to support small and local businesses. In 2014, American Express estimates that over $14 billion was spent at small, independent businesses. The Alliance for Artisan Enterprise is proud to support this holiday shopping tradition. 

The Alliance was created to elevate the power and potential of the artisan sector to create jobs, increase incomes, and foster sustainable community development. Investing in artisans also preserves unique cultural traditions that in many places are at risk of being replaced by lower quality, machine-made products. 

This holiday season, remember the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise. Handcrafted goods are high-quality and unique, and they share stories of culture and heritage. Buying artisan work protects the livelihoods of women entrepreneurs around the world.

As Secretary of State John Kerry remarked at Artisan Enterprise: The New Startup Economy in September 2015, "There is a hunger to remain connected to our roots and to value products that are crafted with really unique skills and with attention to detail. There's an honesty and authenticity in those products that is hard to find in a lot of other places. There's a hunger to make a difference and to help people who deserve help so that they, in turn, can take advantage of new opportunities and thereby contribute to a more diverse, sustainable, and equitable global economy." 

Contribute to a more equitable global economy. This December, the Alliance will feature our members that produce and sell artisan goods. Follow @AllianceArtisan on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay involved. Learn about communities around the world that participate in the artisan sector. Remember that handmade is human - #ShopSmall and #ChooseArtisan. 

Feel free to reach out to info@allianceartisan.org with any questions!

 

Small Business Saturday: #ShopSmall and #ChooseArtisan

Gina Rogari

This holiday season, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise is proud to support #ShopSmall.

Over half of the Alliance’s member organizations are artisan businesses – organizations that work directly with artisans around the world to design, produce, and sell handcrafted products. These businesses work with artisans in local communities around the world, many in developing countries, to produce high-quality, handcrafted goods. Each piece tells a story of culture, heritage, people, and place.

Starting on Small Business Saturday, November 28, 2015, #ShopSmall and #ChooseArtisan. Use your purchasing power for good by supporting artisan businesses around the world. This holiday season, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise will feature our members that sell handcrafted goods; visit their online stores and find gifts that tell stories of diverse cultures around the world.

Shop our members today:

Tell the world you #ShopSmall and #ChooseArtisan – be sure to share your purchases on social media and tag the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise!

Learn more about the current members of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise here. Interested in becoming a member? Click here to learn more. Email info@allianceartisan.org with any questions about using your purchasing power for good this holiday season. 

Thunderclap Reaches 2.5 Million People

Gina Rogari

On November 6, 2015, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise engaged over 2.5 million people on social media with messages supporting the global artisan sector.

The Alliance is spreading awareness about the economic and social value of handcrafted goods in the Global Campaign for Artisan Enterprise. The campaign began with the #ChooseArtisan Thunderclap, a social media “flash mob” that provided a platform for 585 supporters to share messages on Twitter and Facebook about why they support the artisan sector. Thunderclap supporters included Acumen founder Jacqueline Novogratz, Kiva.org, and chef José Andrés; on November 6, 2015, messages reached over 2.5 million people. 

“The Global Campaign is an opportunity to shine a bright light on talented artisans and entrepreneurs all over the world,” said Peggy Clark, vice president of policy programs at the Aspen Institute and director of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise. “Most people still do not understand the full economic value of the artisan sector.” 

The global market for handcrafted goods is worth over $32 billion every year. Two-thirds of handicrafts are produced in developing countries, mainly by women. Still, artisan enterprises are rarely understood as drivers of economic growth or contributors to sustainable livelihoods.

The #ChooseArtisan movement continues on the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise Social Wall, a real-time interactive hub for artisans and supporters. The Social Wall compiles posts using the #ChooseArtisan hashtag and exhibits the extraordinary diversity and reach of artisan craft. The Global Campaign for Artisan Enterprise is just beginning – organizations, individuals, multilaterals, and policymakers are encouraged to get involved in the movement to promote the power and potential of this sector.

Use the #ChooseArtisan hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to contribute to the campaign’s Social Wall. Follow @AllianceArtisan on social media, and continue spreading the word about the value of artisan enterprise worldwide!