Spring is the time that people in the retail world are thinking about CHRISTMAS. I remember this clearly from working in an awesome gift shop ( where I probably got a lot of my marketing intuition- at least what I do have- thanks Dan and Danette Willis for that) called Commnique up on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. I would watch Christmas stuff being surfed and ordered in the spring, arriving in late summer, pricing, packaging and selling in the fall and winter, and putting things on clearance for the new year. The year revolves around the holidays in the states- where what we buy determines most everything- and although I hope to never go to that extreme in our little boutique, I can’t help but trying to remember that there is a Christmas coming and it is a great chance for our artisans to use those sales to buy land, build a house, put their kids in school, get out of a tent, put food on the table, help other kids in their neighborhoods, buy a motorcycle, start a business or something else that might really change their lives. It would be so cool if Americans buying Haitian products could provide the relief that they need rather than just giving handouts that get 80% swallowed by CEO salaries and overhead costs. If you or your group are interested in hosting a Christmas boutique with artisan goods from Haiti this fall… put it on your calendar and let us know. You can have a direct impact on the economic livelihood of Haiti AND get a really cool gift for that someone special at the same time! My christmas ramblings have a point. There is much going on at the AP artisan center and a lot of it has to do with gearing up for more production, Christmas sales, and more people getting on their feet with a steady job. Here are some of the main points: 1. We have been visited by Donna Karan (DKNY)four times now and it looks like her humanitarian company Urban Zen is going to use their clout to help us get beads at cheaper cost from China, market a few cetain select necklaces, and keep tabs on us to see how they might help with business advice. Along with Donna Karan, I have had the pleasure of talking to Joey Adler (Diesel Jean Company), the famously talented JoJo- small business start-up expert, the International Development Bank folks, Greg Milne from the Clinton foundation, and many others who have offered me hours of unbelievable business advice. They are all some of our biggest cheerleaders and I find myself feeling like a two year old learning to walk in their presence. They are not giving AID to us or to Haiti… they are offering their knowledge so that we, together with our artisans can run a successful and organically grown artisan program that can give jobs to as many Haitians as possible. 2. We are streamlining jewelry production. While we have always had beaders who just beaded, and jewelry makers (who although they know how to make the beads, prefer to buy the beads from the beaders), we decided to organize our troops to make the most effective use of space (180 artisans do not fit in the house) and time. We built a small house (shack?) just inside the gate of the guest house. People in the neighborhood who have proven that they know how to make great beads ( and almost everyone can now) will be free to buy supplies for beadmaking and sell their beads at our gate. We will have someone in charge of selling supplies ( our wonderful JANO) and someone in charge of quality control of the beads ( our amazing ELINORD). This will allow all beaders to work from home and not have to come in to use the cutting machines or anything else. Inside the house, we will have paper cutters around the clock, cutting paper to sell at the gate. This streamlines the process preventing a line up around the paper cutters. We will pay the paper cutters with the money the beaders pay for the precut paper. The jewelry makers will have free access to the house where they can come work, buy supplies, price and tag their jewelry and enjoy a daily lunch with their children. This system is almost entirely in place and so far seems to be working quite well… 3. I ( Shelley) am going to China this Friday to see about regular shipments of supplies for both our jewelry making, but also our sewing program. i am very excited about what I might come across on our trip ( I will be going with Wilhelmina Krul- MAF pilot’s wife here in Haiti who has been working with our seamstresses). I’m really hoping to find some great fabric, great cheap glass beads and get some ongoing contacts in China. Although we are currently buying a lot of our supplementary beads in China, the goal really is to open a ceramic bead and glass bead ( lampwork beads) studio under the umbrella of the AP. We need to find good teachers and start up supplies for this and the sky is the limit!!!! 4. AP artisans are multiplying via our partnerships with other organizations in Haiti. We are training and mutually marketing artisan goods with some of these great organizations: Three Angels Children’s Relief, the Restavek Freedom Foundation, and Christian Reformed Church as well as several other Haitian run ministries working to serve the poor in Haiti. I think that a boom of paper jewelry is about to come out of Haiti… what a cool thing to be a part of ! I think that’s about it for now. Many people asking me about the ins and outs of how we do things and although it is a continuously changing process, that’s where we are at right now. Thank you for your interest in supporting the economic developement of Haiti, where somewhere between 70-90% unemployment is unbearable. Mesi Ampil!