How did you become involved in your work?
About three years ago, I quit my sales and marketing job and I was doing a bit of consultancy work at home. The gifts and jewelry came naturally to me as I used to make things for myself.
But when I was in my job, I travelled a lot throughout the country and in the Asia-Pacific region. One of the reasons that I wanted to start this sort of business was that I couldn’t find Papua New Guinean items that were made in PNG by Papua New Guineans.
Did that surprise you?
Very much. There were only the craft markets where you can find huge carvings and things like that. A lot of things you see there must clear quarantine, which can be a problem. I wanted to see if I could solve that problem. I was home and had time on my hands.
Facebook helped us to sell as well because when I started posting pictures about what we were making, it gained interest from the public and from my friends. Then we thought: 'Hold on, we could actually do that as a proper business.'
How many people are involved in the business?
There are four men who work at the workshop and handle a lot of our gift items and jewelry. Six women are involved in selling, beading and crocheting with two that are full-time seamstresses.
We also have many women that are in our network that do casual work. They supply us with raw products, such as seashells, or they pick up orders from us to work on. They do things like crocheting on blouses or dresses. They put together earrings for us. They also do bits and pieces that we can’t do at the workplace. Basically, they supply, they also take from us and work on our orders.
Would you describe yourself as successful?
I think it’s a work in progress at this time. Very much a work in progress. But we haven’t drowned; we are still swimming. We have survived. We spent about six months trialing the idea and this is going to be our third year operating as a business. So, we trialed here and built our market. We created the big demand for our products and now we are operating as a proper business. We used to sell individual items online but we have come to realize we can’t keep up with things like that. So, we are now identifying strategic resellers, main distributors in the main centers, and we just supply the main shops instead of handling individual orders which is time consuming for a small margin.
What do you see as the key ingredients to your success so far?
Dedication, commitment and social media have helped our business growth and pushed our story further. And because our story resonates with the community; we are also able to relate to the community.
Our story is more than human, so people can relate to it, and what better way to promote on Facebook. When we post something on Facebook, people are willing to share our story as they do feel that it’s touching a life somewhere else.
I feel some success and self-satisfaction that we can help in our own little way; whether it be providing employment or a money earning opportunity, empowering other women or just being an inspiration to others.
What’s your vision for Papua New Guinea?
For Papua New Guinea, I would like to see the handcraft market move out of the craft market and make the international market. And I don’t just mean the carvings and stuff, but I mean people getting to deal with spin offs from that. Not everybody wants to keep a huge carving in their house. How about we downsize it to something like a fridge magnet?
I want to push to have a lot more things coming up from PNG that tick the boxes: Quarantine-risk free, made by Papua New Guineans, using materials from PNG.
We are invited to things like the national Fiji handicraft workshop to see what the other Pacific Islanders are doing. We are working with women in Vanuatu and seeing what they do and what we can learn. And so, we are sort of tapping into those areas. It would be great to see our products also going out that way and possibly being sold at their handicraft markets, because both areas have a lot of tourism happening, much more than in PNG. Instead of them ordering the Indonesian-made or the Philippines-made product, we can have PNG-made products selling in a bunch of places. The Pacific industry would grow a lot more if we started to do it ourselves.
*The IFC (a part of the World Bank Group) is supporting people in PNG to get safe, affordable off-grid lighting, allowing children to study, cut household costs, and help women stay safe on the streets.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.