Guatemalan woman at her sewing machine

How Handmade artisans benefit from training

How Handmade artisans benefit from training

What really goes on in Handmade by Friendship Bridge® training sessions? Learn more about how our staff prepares artisans to grow their businesses and thrive in a competitive artisan market.

Due to poverty, many Handmade by Friendship Bridge® clients had to drop out of school at an early age to work and help support their families. While this means they became highly skilled at weaving, sewing, beading, and the creation of other handicrafts, without education, they often lack the knowledge for how to operate successful businesses. 

This is where training and education from the Handmade by Friendship Bridge® team comes in. “In developing countries like Guatemala, sometimes services are not oriented to a structure,” says Sussan Hrozek, Senior Coordinator of Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. “For example, if you want to take a bus in Guatemala at a certain time, you might get one, or you might not. There is a different structure of how Guatemalan culture runs.”

This cultural difference can be a hindrance to artisans when it comes to increasing product sales in an international market, which in turn could affect their ability to support their families well. Because our staff in Guatemala works closely with our artisans, they see the areas in which the artisans are most in need of professional development. Read on for more details about these trainings and ways our artisans grow because of them.

Financial planning to meet production deadlines
In the past, when our artisans received larger orders, some would decline because they didn’t have enough raw materials on hand to fulfill them. “Planning ahead is not something our artisans are used to, and for business, this can be a big challenge,” Sussan notes.

To help change this, we developed a learning system that is sent to the artisans via WhatsApp. The system includes lessons, for example, on how proper financial management is important when consistently fulfilling orders. Artisans receive tips on how to analyze their production costs, research competitors, and look for ethical suppliers that will allow them to purchase raw materials at a reasonable rate, even when prices change.

Artisans receive tips and reminders via WhatsApp, as part of a capsule learning system developed by our staff, to help them plan ahead financially.

 

In addition, when artisans receive larger orders, our staff supports them by creating a delivery plan, which is customized for the artisan. The plan includes things like quantities needed and dates on which they will need to deliver them. Artisans also receive instruction and mentoring on how to use the plan to stay on task.

As part of this, artisans receive incentives such as money for groceries or tools needed for work (like a desk lamp) if they meet their deadlines on time. “The incentives work well,” says Indira Maldonado, Communications and Visual Design Coordinator, who also teaches training. “We’ve seen a big difference in the past year, not only with delivery, but also with quality. For example, one artisan was motivated to begin using higher quality thread for bracelets because she wants her work to reflect a high standard.”

Santos was motivated to use higher quality thread on new bracelet designs, to show her care for quality.

 

Color combination and new product design
Creating new designs is sometimes a difficult concept for the artisans, especially the older artisans who have created their products the same way for many years. With the goal of diversifying their creative abilities in order to generate more sales opportunities, our staff offers artisans a training that is more creative in nature. 

Indira starts by showing the artisans a color wheel and teaching them how to read it so they can confidently combine colors that work well together every time. She also discusses shape and patterns with the same goal. Artisans are then asked to create a new product design in the class, keeping what they learned about color, shape, and pattern in mind. Additionally, Indira discusses trends and times of the year where artisans can capitalize on more sales, such as Christmastime, and talks about the kinds of products people tend to purchase at that time.

In this training, she’s seen artisans expand their limits of the kinds of products they usually create. Even the older artisans, she says, are beginning to ask questions about how they can design differently and more creatively. “The change of mind I’m seeing is encouraging, and I love seeing them thinking about what else they can create,” she says.

Indira Maldonado, Communications and Visual Design Coordinator, teaches artisans about color combination, shape and pattern at a training designed to help artisans create new products.

 

Measurements and sizing
Artisans that are used to selling direct to customers in Guatemala's markets don't always consider the need for consistent measurements and sizing. “That's the reality,” Indira says. “The artisans who haven't had the opportunity to attend trainings are not aware of quality or standards.” Our staff teaches artisans about standard measurements before they produce items for our online store, and the ones that take this seriously consistently have high sales. 

Currently, our staff is in the planning stages for a standards certification that artisans will be able to earn through the Guatemalan technical training school, Intecap. After certification, artisans will confidently be able to create products for international markets consistently, by following guidelines from the course. “Our artisans have so much potential,” Sussan says, “and they are ready to do the hard work necessary to create thriving businesses for their families.”


A set of Acetenango Organizers in three sizes, handmade by Jacinta.

 

Support our artisans’ training!

Now, you have the opportunity to help fund necessary business training courses and professional development opportunities like these. At our online store’s checkout, you can make a donation  to directly support this work. Your donation will be matched by a generous $3k distribution from the Marilyn Lone Endowment for Artisans. 

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Will you donate to support our artisans?

When you donate by July 31, your donation will be matched by a generous $3k distribution from the Marilyn Lone Endowment for Artisans.