AG: Tell us about Aid to Artisans.
ATA: Aid to Artisans (ATA) aims to create opportunities for international, low-income artisans to build profitable enterprises inspired by handmade traditions. ATA was established in 1976 and aspired to assist artisans to import their handicrafts to museum stores in the U.S. retail market. In 2012, ATA joined Creative Learning, a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. dedicated to supporting locally led initiatives through people-to-people partnerships. Through funded global projects, we offer access to new markets, business training, eco-effective processes and design innovation through a network of partners, and strive to promote sustainable growth and community. We also offer three signature programs for anyone interested in the international artisan sector: Market Readiness Program ™, Canvas Home Small Grants Program, and Aid to ArtisansU.
AG: We understand that Aid to ArtisansU was launched in Aguust 2015. What are some of the features of this program?
ATA: Aid to ArtisansU (ATAU) is an e-learning website and social networking platform for members of the international artisan sector. The platform offers free, online courses relevant to artisan based enterprises, and the opportunity to connect and share with other actors in the artisan sector. We created ATAU because we wanted to enlarge our reach to the artisan community, and help equip them with free resources that would facilitate successful entry into the U.S. retail market. The main purpose of ATAU is to first to prepare individuals who wish to attend the annual Market Readiness Program (MRP) in New York City. Our featured module, the Market Readiness Introductory Course, is the preparation guide for successful entry into the U.S. retail market, providing the prospective trainee a foundation for the MRP in New York. ATAU also includes important business courses that will help artisans be self-sustaining, and teach them how to independently grow their own enterprises. It also serves as a foundation for networking within the artisan sector.
The website has 3 main sections: Learn, Connect, and Share. In Learn, you take courses to help your business and communication skills. In Connect, you can join discussions and directly message other artisans, designers, and buyers. Finally, in Share, you can explore different resources and articles, comment, and share those resources with your friends and colleagues.
AG: Will producers and retailers be able to interact directly via the site?
ATA: Yes! By signing up for a free account, produces and retailers can directly message artisans through their profiles. They can join group discussions between producers, retailers, and artisans.
AG: Who are you targeting in terms of membership? Can anyone become a member? What are the benefits of membership?
ATA: Yes, anyone who is involved with the international artisan sector is welcome to join! We welcome those who work with and represent artisans- those who are looking for artisanal products, as well as those who even want to start their own social enterprises. Being a member gives you direct access to a wide network of artisans, buyers, designers, free resources, and visibility in the artisan sector.
AG: What would you site as one of ATA’s successes to date?
ATA: We have reached over 125,000 artisans worldwide to date, among which 70% of our audience is women. More than $245 million was made in retail sales through ATA’s market linkage efforts. This is an incredible goal we have achieved, but there is so much more we want to accomplish.
AG: What are your plans for 2016?
ATA: Our goal for 2016 is to increase the visibility of ATAU and to make it as functional and resourceful as possible for our current and future members.
For more information about Aid to Artisans, please visit: http://www.aidtoartisans.org/