About Handmade by Friendship Bridge®

2020 Achievements:

  • Sold 5,000 items in our online store, handmade by 33 artisans who employed 130 people in Guatemala
  • Processed 1,175 orders, up from 140 in 2019
  • Exported 10,000 products through retail and wholesale orders
  • Received a grant from LONA and used the funds to buy sewing machines for 24 artisans, empowering them with essential equipment for their businesses.
  • Connected 16 women with 6 wholesale buyers who maintained a direct relationship and exposed them to a global market

How Can YOU Join Us In Our Mission?

Boutiques and Store Owners: We have a Wholesale Store - please contact us at handmade@friendshipbridge.org or reach out to us via any of our social media channels for more information!

Corporate and NGOs: We have a great selection of items that your employees, donors, or business partners will enjoy receiving - handmade gifts that not only educate, but inspire.  We can support you with the development of marketing materials for orders that exceed 100 units. Please contact us at handmade@friendshipbridge.org for more information.

Press, Influencers, and Other Platforms: We would be incredibly honored and thankful if you would share our mission with your following, promote our artisans’ incredible and unique handmade products, or maybe connect us with others who share our passion for women’s empowerment. 

No matter who you are: we would like to invite you to be part of this movement - you can help us empower women.

The Who/What/When/Where/Why/How of Handmade by Friendship Bridge®

Who?

Handmade by Friendship Bridge is a Microcredit Plus service of the nonprofit social enterprise Friendship Bridge. It is also the name of our online store.

We support the artisans of Friendship Bridge with acquiring the skills, education, learning experiences, support, and technical assistance they need to reach their potential and independently sell their handmade products in local, national, and international markets.

The other Who is the reason we do what we do: it is our artisans. As of 2021, there are 33 incredibly talented, inspiring, and compassionate women who participate in Handmade by Friendship Bridge®. Each of them is unique. Each of them has overcome - and continues to overcome - adversity. Each of them has grown tremendously. And each of them is committed to building a better future for herself, for her family, and for her entire community.

Read their moving stories here.

What?

Handmade by Friendship Bridge® is a Microcredit Plus service - Microcredit Plus collectively refers to the innovative and high-impact approach to poverty alleviation Friendship Bridge uses which combines the tools of microfinance, education, and preventive health services.

The four pillars of Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, in no particular order of importance, include: Trainings, Sales, Impact, and Branding for Friendship Bridge.

When?

Handmade by Friendship Bridge® became its own brand in 2019 - before that, it was known as the Artisan Market Access Program.

As a learning organization, Friendship Bridge has evolved substantially since it began work in Guatemala in 1998 to support women living in poverty and with limited economic opportunities, diversifying its offerings and providing additional products and services. A few years ago, in this quest to continuously improve, Friendship Bridge discovered - through surveys and research - the need of many of the artisan women for access to new markets to sell their products and bolster their income. However, many of the artisans faced geographical and language barriers and/or did not have the business skills necessary to thrive in today’s marketplace.

And that was why the Artisan Market Access Program first came about just six years ago, in 2015.

Where?

We are based out of the Friendship Bridge Guatemalan Headquarters located in Panajachel, in the department of Sololá, Guatemala.

Our artisans are from a variety of surrounding municipalities and departments, ranging from a commute of only a few stops with the public bus to a few hours with various forms of transportation in order to get to our office in Panajachel. They come to our office regularly (some more than others), for example, when they are submitting new samples for our review, delivering complete orders which need to be packed and sent, receiving training, etc. When in-person meetings are not possible, we use WhatsApp to communicate with our artisans. Many of them also utilize this platform to communicate with other wholesalers and to promote their products.

Pre-pandemic, we would travel to various Friendship Bridge agencies throughout Guatemala where we would give introductory training sessions to artisan women whom Friendship Bridge serves; there, we would also encourage them to apply to be a part of our program. In 2019 alone, we gave 22 trainings*, reaching 400+ women, inspiring 400+ women by bringing guest speakers who had been in their shoes, equipping 400+ women with newfound knowledge and skills related to the development of their handmade products, empowering 400+ women to seek their gifts, their worth, and their potential.

*The 2022 trainings will be conducted virtually.

Why?

Why artisans? After agriculture, the artisan economy - an estimated $32 billion/year industry - represents the second-largest income opportunity in developing countries.

The artisan sector also preserves culturally rooted skills and traditions passed on through generations and centuries. Investing in artists and artisans means investing in a form of economic development that has a deep meaning rooted in the uniqueness of people and their cultures. When the artisan sector is harnessed to its full potential, it can create jobs, increase incomes, and foster sustainable community growth.

What prompted this program to come about back in 2015 remains the reality today: Most artisan enterprises lack appropriate financing to grow their businesses and have few opportunities to access new markets. Seasonal sales and unpredictable cash flows complicate future planning and business investment decisions for artisans, which makes it difficult to plan for their futures and invest in their businesses. Furthermore, the dominance of - and appreciation for - responsibly made products in the global market today represents a great opportunity for artisans.

We work closely with these talented entrepreneurs to develop the skills they need to create and sell their finely crafted artisan products to local, national, and international markets. Trainings focus on topics such as quality of raw materials, buyer expectations, and trends and preferences of - primarily - the North American market. The women are also trained about product pricing to ensure they receive a fair wage for their work.

Through this collaboration, our artisans are empowered to design and produce market-ready products, improve their livelihoods, and help to alleviate the effects of poverty.

How?

Handmade by Friendship Bridge® acts as our artisans’ first international wholesale buyer when we feature them in our online store - this enables us to be self-sufficient.

Our artisans earn income through Friendship Bridge from the following sources:

  • Wholesale Partnerships
  • Online Store
  • Showrooms and physical displays in Friendship Bridge Offices
  • Circles: Groups of volunteers who support Friendship Bridge's mission in Guatemala by hosting social gatherings, organizing fundraising efforts, and spreading the word with friends and family in their local communities.
  • Insight Trips: Trips hosted by Friendship Bridge in which one has the opportunity to meet the women whom the organization serves, see first-hand the impact our Microcredit Plus programs have on the women, their families, and their communities; and enjoy the culture, beauty, and uniqueness of Guatemala.
  • Artisan Fairs and Trunk Shows in which the artisans have the opportunity to develop direct relationships with buyers in Guatemala.

There are many different ways to get involved with Handmade by Friendship Bridge - would you join us in this truly life-changing work of empowering women to reach their full potential? We look forward to hearing from you.

Contact us with information about your business and opportunities to work together:

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.