Welcome to a new year with an older and more mature Far & Wide Collective! We spent the past year figuring out our supply chain and are now ready - with your help - to take it all to a new level.
This year we will be working with existing and new artisan partners in a more integrated way - adding more value to them on the ground. Many artisans have asked for more product development support - creating new product lines that reflect their skills and that they can go to market with. We recently traveled to Kenya to develop a new line of sisal products based on the very popular baskets from the Kasigau weavers. If all goes well you will see new basket designs, doormats, runners and bags in the months to come. In Kenya we also spent much time putting a better system in place to help support the artisans on production, quality control and shipping.
This week we have been focused on South Sudan and are working on a new collection for a group of women who do beadwork. South Sudanese tribal dress is full of the most extraordinary bead work and the women have asked for designs that can help them sell commercially and bring money back to the devastated economy.
Our next trip will be back to Afghanistan to launch the Artisan Toolkit, which we have been working on for more than a year. It is a richly illustrated business crafts training manual - a road map of how to use crafts skills to create a business, grow it and sell products. The Toolkit is accompanied by animated videos and an audio version for artisans with no or low levels or literary. While we are there we will be developing several new products lines for the fall. Given the skill set of many Afghan people (especially women), we strongly believe that crafts could become a very powerful sector for the Afghan economy.
Video of Chapter 1 of the Artisan Toolkit - "Starting a Business"
For us retail is not a goal in itself but rather a very effective means to get more money in the hands of artisans. To do this better we continue to work on ways that will give us more visibility - you are always welcome to share our site with your friends and family - but we are also focusing on building the right kind of partnerships that will create the optimal environment and support for our partner artisans. This past month we have talked to several large brands about doing collaborations - this would not only help increase our current order size with the artisans and give then much more work, but also help raise the profile of how important it is to build small businesses in low-income economies. We are also talking to large foundations and micro- and SME-finance organizations to see if they can help provide investment to artisans who wish to start a business or are ready grow an existing one.
Far & Wide Collective may on the surface just look like any retail site, but we can assure you that our vision is a big and ambitious one. After more than a decade working in development, for the United Nations and running NGOs and charities, I am more convinced than ever that building small businesses that creates ownership and income is the only sustainable way to really improve lives and empower people.
Over the next few weeks I will be blogging here about the exciting projects we are working on. I hope you will come along with us on this journey and give us your input!
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