In concordance with the Handicraft Export Project’s sustainability strategy, TAYP continues its collaboration with its partners ONA, CEPEX, US Embassy, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Tourism and Handicraft, and the Chamber of Commerce. Initially the project started with 8 artisans, and now currently serves 20 artisans representing over 10 handicraft product categories.
The selected 20 artisans are benefitting from expert advice, customized training, and access to distribution platform created by the project.
After the NY NOW August show 2015, the TAYP team continued to work to accomplish two of the main goals of their participation: 1) recruiting buyers for a handicraft expo in Tunisia and 2) following up with potential leads who visited the booth in August in order to cultivate a continued relationship and convert them into buyers. We observed a continued interest in the Tunisian handicraft products particularly, Carpet, Olive Wood, Foutas and Ceramic.
We cast a wide net for potential buyers for their visit to Tunisia, with not only heavy promotion of the opportunity at NYNOW, but also through a targeted handicraft email campaign. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The TAYP team, along with its US consultant ByHand, is currently in the final stage of selecting 5 US buyers to visit Tunisia. A tentative date for the buyers’ visit has been set just before the Maison et Objet in Paris, France during the third week of January 2016. Five selected US buyers will attend a private mini-fair in Tunisia highlighting the best of the handicraft sector and have face-to-face interaction with selected artisans. This will enable a wider participation of Tunisian artisan enterprises than the NYNOW participation provides.
The second objective of cultivating potential buyer relationships has proved to be valuable lesson in customer expectations and relationship building for our organization, the artisans and other stakeholders in the project. Our progress has highlighted new challenges and opportunities to address in order to continue to create a sustainable supply chain model for the Tunisian Handicraft Industry. We are now expanding our project to create relationships with raw material suppliers and distributors, and to close the loop on our supply chain. We expect to see a large benefit for the artisans resulting in continuity and consistent quality. We believe our work will create a culture of access for the Tunisian Handicraft artisan as well as a culture of buying for the U.S. buyer.
Past participating artisans have implemented the training they have received over the past two years and are in a process of continually improving customer interactions. We completed the selection of 20 artisans for the project who are now receiving training in preparation for the U.S. buyers’ visit. The trainings are conducted by American and Tunisian consultants and targeted to cover cultural expectations and effective marketing techniques to the U.S. buyer.
In addition, TAYP developed a comprehensive export guide to help artisan enterprises. The export was a response to our initial need assessment and will prove to be a valuable tool to navigate the complexities of export to the U.S. market. It is useful not only for handicraft exporters but any Tunisian enterprise that wishes to begin exporting to the U.S. In addition, a Tunisian Handicraft Directory is in its final stages of creation. The directory is in collaboration with the Tunisian Chamber of Commerce and provides an online artisan directory as well as an overview of handicraft professions of the past century. This directory will help preserve the history and increase awareness of handicraft professions, especially those in danger of disappearing.
We are working with the Office of the General Counsel in the US Department of Commerce to create synergy between the TAYP Handicraft Project and initiatives from the US Department of Commerce. Plans are evolving to include joint training efforts and programs to promote export from Tunisia. Our collaboration will reduce duplication and increase effectiveness for initiatives.
TAYP is currently planning with ONAT for the 5th participation in the NYNOW Gift Fair. The participation allows the Tunisian handicraft sector to demonstrate consistency, an important factor to increase buyer interest and confidence.
Lastly, one of the important preparations for the fair includes working closely with ONAT to complete the World Fair Trade Organization application for membership. The WFTO membership is an important add- value to US buyers, particularly those who buy handicrafts.
As this project continues, we are excited to have an impact on the growing sustainability of the Tunisian Handicraft Sector. Artisans have been empowered as entrepreneurs and are working to enter new markets. We are proud to be partners in their ongoing success and efforts.