Far & Wide Collective is one year old! When we began last May, we were working with 40 artisans and small craft businesses in three countries. Now we operate in nine countries - Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Swaziland, and Mexico - and have doubled the number of artisans we work with! By providing market access we have helped to grow a number of small businesses and improve many lives – mainly through our strong partnerships with producers, NGOs and other partners on the ground in the countries where our artisans live and work.
It all started with the idea to build an online platform that could include the many artisans currently excluded by large online marketplaces. To be on Etsy.com, for example, an artisan must be computer literate, be able to upload content, have a credit card and have access to reliable postal services. This excludes the thousands – perhaps even millions – of artisans living in emerging economies, many of whom have had little access to quality education, but have incredible skills and produce beautiful and high quality products.
Far & Wide creates opportunities for these many, many artisans by giving them the financial, logistical, and market access support they need while at the same time offering our customers fashionable, well-crafted, and authentic products. After a year we are closer to realizing this idea – thanks to our many customers and supporters!
We asked a few of our artisan partners about the past year.
“The last order from Far & Wide was the largest we have ever had. The partnership has helped us grow. Far & Wide are ready to take chances on new products and work with us on product development – this lets us better understand the designs and colourways that are suitable for the Western market.” - House of Wandering Silk, India
"Through the last few orders I have come to realize how baskets really does support many children going to school and their mothers in their day to day lives. It has been very hard work delivering the baskets at times but I thank God that I stuck with it. I love my work with the women." - Robert Mwehe, facilitator, the Kasigau Weavers, Kenya.
As we embark on our second year, our vision is to increase greatly the number of artisans and businesses we work with. Most importantly, we want to buy more from them so they can grow their businesses. We believe that a critical way to add value in communities is to buy products that are produced in these communities. Economies are built on small businesses. This is as true in emerging economies as it is in North America.
We will also do much more to help our partners get market ready. Our first large initiative is launching the Artisan Toolkit this summer in Afghanistan. The Artisan Toolkit will be a richly illustrated business training manual for craft producers, mapping the road from skills to market. It will have an audio version for artisans with low, or no, levels of literacy.
You can read more about our story here, follow us on our blog, or watch our latest video for more information. We are also always available to receive comments and questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook/Twitter!
Thank you for a great year!