The Tunisian handicraft export program, funded by a US Embassy grant to TAYP in 2012, has already yielded several important tangible outcomes over the past two years. Eight Tunisian handicraft producers selected by the program, in cooperation with ONA, the Ministry of Trade, and the US Embassy, were presented at a major trade show in New York City. Their products were well received by US consumers and generated actual sales of about $70,000, with back order volumes of approximately $350,000. Already the program has maintained 200 jobs and has created 10 direct jobs. TAYP is incredibly proud of the program’s results and has enjoyed working to support a critical sector of the Tunisian economy. Because of the program’s continued success, we are pleased to announce that we received a grant extension, which will enable our artisans to develop their own platforms to export to highly profitable, but also highly demanding, markets in the United States and beyond.
Tunisian handicraft products have enormous commercialization potential in the US market. However, our project participants face significant shipping and payment hurdles. Due to the artisans’ lack of interaction with the US market, and the relatively small quantity of units that are ordered in the traditional handicrafts sector, nearly all of the artisans face the challenge of creating a sustainable and competitive shipping system.
The purpose of the grant extension is to assist in the creation of a platform, both in the US and Tunisia, aimed at creating value-maximizing distribution channels which will provide artisans with the ability to sell their products in the US marketplace, while also providing them with sustainable streams of income. In the short-term, the platform will reduce costs of labor, international phone calls, and travel, allowing artisans to more easily and efficiently build an international customer base. In the long run, this platform will generate enough revenue to support Tunisian handicraft export to the US, and will become accessible to any artisans willing to join the initiative.
During this extension, TAYP will oversee the establishment and development of the Tunisian collection center, contract agreements with artisans, and the standardization requirements to participate in this cooperative venture. The Tunisian collection center will become a sustainable platform to streamline the process and the costs of shipping to the US. In addition, the US counterpart distribution center will coordinate closely with the Tunisian collection center to receive, process, and deliver the artisans’ goods to US buyers. Once the platform is operational, TAYP will transition all business management responsibilities to the cooperative and private sector stakeholders involved.
Through this extension, TAYP will maintain its membership in the World Fair Trade Organization and continue to promote Tunisian handicrafts at events. TAYP is very grateful to all the partners who contributed to the success of this project thus far. We would also like to extend an invitation to TAYP members and partners willing to work with us to help make this extension a success.