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Posts Tagged ‘fair industry’

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Six weeks after disputed elections led to waves of unspeakable violence in Kenya, the clashes seem to be easing and relative calm is returning.   This is a welcome respite that is allowing businesses to re-open and people to return to their daily lives, but a lot of damage has been done and the economic effects will not be fully felt immediately.  

In addition to AntiGenre, I own a fair trade clothing and jewelry business called Fair Industry.   Yesterday, I received an update from the Bombolulu workshops, an organization that employees people with physical disabilities and one of Fair Industry’s trading partners, in Mombasa, Kenya.  Here is an excerpt from that email:

“The hotels in Mombasa are however extremely quite and many have closed down as charter planes that were flying to Kenya suspended their flights. The tourist arrivals have actually reduced by 92% and bookings for August have not yet been received.

Bombolulu Workshops annual budget of about $ 760,000 constitutes 50% exports sales (wholesale prices) and 50% local sales which are mostly in retail prices with a 100% to 200% mark up on wholesale prices. The local sales emanate largely from tourists and in January our retail sales declined by 90% compared to the same period last year. This revenue gap is severely felt and has resulted in a considerable loss which we might not sustain for long without endangering jobs of workers and staff.

After consecutive losses between 2004 and 2006, the year 2007 had given the organization some ray of hope after we achieved a marginal surplus to plough back into Bombolulu for expansion/growth. Unless the situation changes very soon the prospects currently are bleak.

Due to the gap from local sales we project losses of $ 83,300 or Euro 50,000.00 within the first half year of 2008.  This may not only force a reduction of the workforce so as to sustain the organization but the effects will trickle down to many other small scale suppliers e.g. bone suppliers, sisal bags suppliers, which earn their living from selling to our outlet.”

From now until the end of the month, I will be putting all jewelry made by Bombolulu for Fair Industry on sale at 10% off the regular price.   Revenue from sales will be returned to Bombolulu in the form of future purchases, which in turn will help to ensure that the more than 150 men and women working there will continue to be able to earn a fair wage.

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I’m not usually a rabble-rouser or a trouble maker; I fire off the occassional angry letter to the editor, and my bank heard from me recently regarding new fees at the ATM, but I usually don’t like to draw a lot of attention to myself.  So how, then, have several fairly well know companies managed to make me feel as if I’m a burr in their collective butt? 

When I got my first microtorch, I had a few problems using it, so I wrote to the company who sold it to me.  They promptly wrote back; it turns out it was just me being a spaz, and I got the thing to work.  A few days later, the torch died completely.  I wrote back to the company, explained the situation, and never heard from them again.   This was not just me being needy or whiny – I really wanted to use the product on which I had just spent a lot of money. 

Another supplier of jewelry tools and beading wire whose products I occassionaly use has also given me the cold shoulder.  All I did was ask about the material composition of one of their products.  I’ve written three times so far.  At this point, the answer is not even important to me; I’m not planning to use their stuff again.  I’m just sort of curious to see if they’ll ever respond. 

A few weeks ago, my beloved, incredibly hip black spectacles broke.  I wrote directly to the manufacturer and found at that that model of frame had been discontinued years ago.  They did, however, have exactly one frame left and would sell it to me at a discount.  OK, I said, sign me up!  Tell me how I can pay for them, and how they’ll get here!   Nothing.  No response.  I’m trying to GIVE THEM MY MONEY, but they apparently don’t need or want it.

With both Fair Industry and AntiGenre, I get a lot of inquiries about my products.  Usually, people want information about sizes or fabrics, care of their jewelry or washing instructions.  Some people want to see photos of items from different angles, or they want to know if I’ll be including other types of items in my collections in the future.  I try to answer each and every email as soon as I possibly can.  I’ll send along informational links that I think might be useful.  I even agreed to meet with a woman who lived close by so she could try on some skirts and blouses.  (She didn’t show up, but oh well.)

The indepent designers, artists and supply sellers from whom I have purchased have all been absolutely wonderful to work and communicate with.  I have yet to have a negative experience.  Good customer service is absolutely essential, and it is a huge mistake for larger companies to forget that.

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For no particular reason, I wanted to post some pictures of my new and improved workspace, along with a few pieces that I’m currently working on.  I use this space as both a work bench for my handmade jewelry and as a packing center for my Fair Industry (my fair trade store) orders. It’s great, I’ve been able to streamline the order fulfillment process and it has greatly reduced stress on those days when I do have items to get out the door. Why didn’t any

one tell me about this thing called ‘organization’ a long time ago??? Seriously, people, I need the info. 

Sitting on top of one of the organizers is Volume 1 of The Handbook to Handmade, a monthly collection of thirty-five Etsy artists with information about their work and shops.  I got myself a spot in the first volume and love how the book turned out. I think it’s going to be a great promotional tool for anyone who participates in it.

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