With 2015 beginning, we want to take this opportunity to look back at what we’ve learned in 2014. As a relatively new business (we celebrated our first anniversary in May) with a very new and untested business model, 2014 was all about figuring out our supply chain.
We source products from all over the world and work with artisans who have varying levels of technological ability, English fluency, and even literacy. We try to work directly with artisans whenever possible, but in some cases we work through another social enterprise, or have a helper on the ground working with the artisans. We deal with postal services from all over the world, and several different currencies. All of these things complicate our supply chain and figuring out how much to order, how far in advance, and how long it will take, have all been challenges we’ve ironed out this year with our current artisans. On the North American side, we opened a Canadian warehouse and website this year in order to better serve our Canadian customers.
In 2014 we were able to expand, taking on eight new artisan groups and working in four more countries: Tanzania, Swaziland, Ghana and Mexico, and we put relationships in place to start working in South Sudan and Tajikistan early this year.
Perhaps one of our biggest achievements has been the completion of the Artisan Toolkit, a crafts-business training manual that helps artisans learn how to start and grow a business according to market demand. It has two levels (one entry-level and one for more advanced business owners) and is accompanied by audio and video versions for artisans with low literacy. We are now in the process of having the Toolkit translated into Dari and Pashto, laid out, and printed. The Toolkit will be launched in Kabul in March 2015, and we hope to be able to export it to different countries and more artisans.
In addition to the Toolkit, we began thinking of other ways to help our artisans build their businesses. We began raising money through the Afghan Small Business Fund to provide small investments to Afghan artisans looking to grow their businesses, and we are thinking of new ways to help all of our artisans build their businesses through design and product development.
2015 will be about scaling up while also deepening our relationships with artisans, and finding new ways to help them better.
We want to thank you for your support in 2014, and hope you will continue to join us on this journey!