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|Tonga improves its crafts business|
Nine craft producers and one craft enterprise coordinator from Tonga’s handicraft sector are now equipped with greater awareness, confidence and understanding in business planning and management to improve their future in quality handicrafts.
A ten-day business course workshop was conducted from 12–23 September in Vava’u, Tonga to guide participants through the CETC modules — Making Your Craft Your Business — which teach the importance of setting a vision, the steps needed to make it happen and the value of being organised.
The focus of this training was to strengthen the capacity of craft operators and master craftsmen and women from Vava’u, and to support the growth of enterprises and the business management/development knowledge of CETC business trainers and business development support agencies in Tonga.
Christine Delany, a handicraft expert from New Zealand, conducted the workshop, which also dealt with how producers can gain access to international markets, using the Langafonua Gallery and Handicraft Centre in Nuku’alofa as the conduit.
Taumosi Hemaloloto, a CETC graduate and currently the Manager of Langafonua Gallery, joined Ms Delany as co-trainer. This was Ms Hemaloloto’s first experience of being a trainer since she herself completed the train-the-trainer SPC business course. She was then qualified to work with small groups, in this case offering the perspective of a craft business manager who had ‘walked the talk’.
Ms Delany said that this had many important positive ramifications as ‘Taumosi provided an excellent role model, having experience transforming a craft business from loss to profit’.
‘Participants had a chance to get to know and trust her, which meant they were keen to take up her offer to consign their products to Langafonua Gallery,’ she said. ‘Some $2,000 worth of craft was consigned or bought wholesale by the end of the workshop.’
This workshop enabled Ms Hemaloloto to identify eight new suppliers from Vava’u and select the first consignment and wholesale purchase of products.
Workshop participants included the coordinator of Lape Craft, representing seven families on Lape Island. This community has been working with MORDI (Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation) and is keen to develop a craft enterprise. Other participants included two women from a village near Neiafu, and the rest were producers selling out of Neiafu market.
‘There is clearly huge potential for development in the craft sector in the outer islands of Tonga, which in turn will enhance the goal of Langafonua Gallery to showcase the best of Tongan craft,’ said Ms Delany. ‘Careful follow-up and mentoring is required to ensure the momentum of this programme is not lost and that Tongan craft artists are supported to reach their potential.’
Participants learned the importance of record-keeping and how to keep a simple cashbook. They were also encouraged to open a specific bank account, and strategies for financial sustainability when under family pressure were identified.
Ms Delany also provided awareness on marketing and promotion, highlighting the importance of identifying what tourists look for when buying craft and how to meet the demand without losing cultural integrity. Guidance on the marketing mix — product, presentation, promotion, place and price — was the key focus.
The training also included quality control guidelines, improved finishing techniques for jewellery and improved market stall appearance. Practical assistance was provided, as trainers worked with the participants in the market, redesigning stalls and presentations.
Since the first workshop in May 2010, the Langafonua Gallery and Handicraft Centre has continued to flourish with the new look and development. The first six months’ sales figures jumped 51% and even in the slower season increased by 34%. August 2011 was a record sales month, netting $12,000 income.
The next step in the business plan from this workshop is to develop a wholesale supply from the outer islands to enhance the product range, and build on the vision of Langafonua Gallery to become the showcase for Tongan craft. This will also have the advantage of assisting the outer island producers by providing them with a regular outlet.
Recommendations were made at the workshop to collaborate with MORDI and continue working with Lape Craft, providing carving training and access to tools, product development (weaving and jewellery) and business mentoring.
There was also request to have a replication of Making Crafts Your Business workshop in Hapaai, Nuias and ‘Eua, including a Langafonua Gallery trainer to develop supply chain linkages to that business.
Sela and her yellow nonu dye
Langafonua Gallery and Handicraft Centre : Taumosi & Tapu in Langafonua Gallery