For many local craftsmen and women who dream of selling their art in the high end tourism industry, especially in resort gift shops, they may never get the opportunity to come face to face with their target costumers and share the stories behind their intricate pieces. The Sandals Foundation recently made this dream a reality for nine craft businesses, hosting a pop up trunk show at the Sandals South Coast Resort in Whitehouse.
The local business are all taking part in a Sandals Foundation supply chain program aimed at increasing the capacity of the craftsmen to steadily supply products to the island’s gift shops, including those at Sandals and Beaches Resorts. The program is being executed through part funding provided by the Jamaica Business Fund.
Celeste Anderson of the Treasure Beach Women’s Group, one of the participating craft businesses, said the show gave the craftsmen and women the opportunity to also learn through conversations with the visitors, what items they are interested in buying.
“It taught us the artisans and members of the group more about what the customers are looking for and helped our artists learn what people want as they buy gifts so it was a very good exchange. We sold merchandise and filled a couple of orders so it helps us to help our community because all of the money that we make go back into our community outreach programs. It was just fabulous and we hope we can do it again,” she said.
The yearlong program, which started in July 2018, includes hands-on training and support in production planning and management, designing and finishing, marketing and packaging and principles of business strategy with active participation from the procurement teams of Sandals and Beaches Resorts gift shops.
Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke, said strengthening the linkage between local craftsmen and the tourism sector would be beneficial for all involved, however local artisans must be able to supply products in the quantity and quality required.
“With intervention and the necessary training, we want to see an upgrade in the quality of the products of the craftsmen. With very minimal capacity building interventions in the last quarter of 2016 into 2017, we have seen where there was a 30% increase in the revenue of five artisans that we initially supported so we are very confident in the success of this program,” Clarke said.
With a focus on aromatherapy, ceramics, wooden products and natural fibre, Clarke hopes that the success of the project will build the trust and confidence of hotel buyers and procurement staff of gift shops in the capacity of the artisans to deliver high quality products consistently and on time.
“There is no doubt that here in Jamaica we have the talent to produce beautiful craft items that visitors will love. However, our research has found that the fallout in the handicraft industry over the last decade or two has largely been the result of the challenges to source consistent supply of quality, competitively priced craft items locally. The success of this program will see members of the supply chain working more efficiently and collaboratively, improving color and finishes and the ability of the artisans to expand and sustain business linkages in the medium-term,” Clarke said.
Affiliate artisans have also benefited from the interventions to such an extent that they have developed new and exciting products which were approved by Sandals Resorts Gift shops. These include products created by straw weavers based in St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
Fund Manager at the Jamaica Business Fund, Ronald Dubrisingh, said the JBF recognizes the important role a quality craft sector plays in creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for Jamaicans while serving to enhance the tourism product and increase visitor spend.
“We view the Sandals Foundation Supply Chain project as a critical intervention that will boost local artisans’ ability to sustainably participate in the tourism industry. Recognized weaknesses in the sector have been poor quality and unreliability of supply and designs that do not meet the needs of buyers.”
He continued, “This Sandals Foundation project addresses all of these weaknesses. It will enhance the capacity of local artisans and increase the local production of high quality and innovative products that are representative of Jamaican culture while meeting the aesthetic and functional needs of buyers.”
The nine businesses currently in the program are McIntosh Craft, Frazer’s Ceramics, Monex, SN Kraft, Treasure Beach Women’s Group, Bartley’s Craft, Starfish Oils, Superior Craft & More and Banyan Creations. The program has a clear mission of increasing the revenue from craft sales for these businesses by at least 70% in 3 years and is expected to expand to include more artisans in the coming months.