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August is an exciting time for Haitian foundation the Artisan Business Network (ABN). This is because from the 16th through the 20th, ABN’s production team will head up to New York City to take part in the NY NOW market for home, lifestyle and gift. You may recall that MIF is partnering with the ABN, which assists Haitian artisans in improving their business skills, production processes and marketing, through a value chain approach.
This is the 6th time ABN has participated in NY NOW. I recently spoke with Nathalie Tancrede, ABN’s Executive Director, and she told me production is in full bloom. This year, ABN will be presenting 10 collections developed with US-based designers Mimi Robinson, Roberto Calasanz, Aviva M. Shulem and Dayanne Danier, and will include a mix from various artisan groups and materials with metal, papier mâché, textile and soapstone. “We’ve developed over 100 new pieces, but only a few will make it on the shelves.” Due to the limited space, only half or less will be making the trip up to New York this summer. However, the foundation has also developed a new products catalogue, which will feature all the items produced this season.
With such an important opportunity and so many creative options, you may wonder how is the selection process for NY NOW carried out. Choosing the artisan pieces with the highest potential for attracting interest and orders in the US market is a tricky business. This is why it was a collaborative effort: ABN has a US-based design board led by Keith Recker, one of ABN’s board members and advisors in product development and client relations. ByHand Consulting and Hand/Eye Fund referred the US-based designers, who in turn offer regular feedback and advice to ABN based on market trends. The designers who helped select the 40 to 50 pieces that will be showcased at NY NOW will visit the ABN booth for more personal feedback during the show.
Says Tancrede, “My hope is to get lots of sales. Our network is growing so we have more artisans who look forward to improving their quality of life through their partnership with ABN. I would love to come back to Port-au-Prince with substantial orders that will keep our artisans busy for months to come.”
Aside from NY NOW, business has been busy for ABN. With current membership totaling 1,547 (up from 1,000 when the MIF project kicked off in early 2014), ABN aims to reach 2,500 by 2018. And boy, is it making headway. For a few months now, the foundation has held a flurry of workshops and training sessions: Financial management (with Root Capital), business management, export marketing (with By Hand Consulting), client relations, product development, IT, ethics, health & safety. ABN also partnered with local banks to offer credit management workshops and give artisans access to financial services that are adapted to their needs. Sogebank and BNC have been attending ABN’s sessions and opening accounts for artisans on the spot.
Not only are the trainings varied and adapted to artisans’ needs, they’re also physically accessible: Sessions aren’t only held in Port-au-Prince, but also in Léogane, Jacmel, Hinche, Fond des Blancs, Croix-des-Bouquets, Mirebalais, Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, Port Salut, etc. Said Tancrede, “Last week, some ABN consultants held a training session in Fonds des Blancs in pattern making and IT skills, while another group was in Hinche for financial management and Ethics/Quality Control.”
Building the artisans’ capacity by offering them the tools and knowledge they need is the right way to boost business opportunities for them.
In another recent exchange on NY NOW, Tancrede told me that in addition to its booth in the Artisan Resource section, ABN will also share Caribbean Craft’s space in the Global Handmade section. “Magalie & Joel Dresse have given ABN a huge opportunity – more exposure, more visitors and hopefully more business!”
Looks like things are well on their way indeed.
From the Multilateral Investment Fund Trends blog
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