Artisans gain business insights at Brand Assembly.

Last week, more than a dozen artisans from across the globe convened in New York City for a three-day Artisan Leadership Summit facilitated by the nonprofit group Nest.

The “industry immersion and education” program included panel discussions, lectures and one-on-one sessions with executives, designers and merchandisers from Warby Parker, West Elm, Bergdorf Goodman, Brand Assembly, the CK Home Collection and the Fashion Law Institute, among others.

The goal was simple: “For global artisan businesses to thrive in the competitive international marketplace, they should have access to professionals who know the contemporary fashion, home and design industries inside and out,” Nest organizers said.

Bruce Kayitare agreed. “I’ve learned so much more about the market, about compliance, how to treat employees and pricing strategies,” he said, adding that having discussions with global companies and brands “and getting their insights and perspectives has been extremely valuable.”

Kayitare is a production manager of Rwandan accessories company Abahizi, which employs more than 160 women artisans. He was joined by participants from Japan, Peru, Indonesia, Morocco and the U.S.

This is the second leadership summit for Nest, which helps artisans across the globe overcome supply-chain hurdles and other issues via direct programming. The organization also serves as an advocate of the global artisan community, which is mostly composed of women. It’s a community that generates $32 billion annually in handcrafted apparel, accessories and home goods.

Nest’s work with artisans comes at a time when consumers – particularly Millennials – demand greater authenticity from the brands and products they purchase. Shoppers want to know where products are made and sourced, and the narratives behind the products to include the people making the items. It’s also part of a larger trend supporting greater corporate social responsibility from retailers and major brands.

Apparel, jewelry and home goods produced by artisans are also more individualized and stand apart from mass-produced goods. Luis Heller, who serves as an administration manager of Allpa, a Peruvian WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) member that produces jewelry, furniture and ceramics as well as handwoven and knitwear textiles, said the summit is helping him gain market intelligence that will help his company grow.

“I have a much better understanding of trends and how to identify trends by looking closely at the consumer,” Heller said, adding that the program works well because it creates an “intimate experience” that fosters more effective learning. There’s also a high degree of practicality, Heller said in reference to a session on developing a pricing strategy.

In that presentation, Lisa Hendrickson, founder and chief executive officer of Spark City, told participants that if they’re using the back of a napkin to figure out their sales and earnings and create a pricing strategy, that’s simply not effective.

“Creating a pricing strategy is complicated,” Hendrickson said. “And there are no simple solutions.”

Instead, the ceo urged the artisans to spend time studying the market and understanding the consumer – especially as the market has experienced a fundamental shift since the Great Recession. “You need to ask: ‘How do I serve a customer’s needs and what do they want?’” she said, and then gave an brief overview of six different pricing strategies.

Hendrickson noted that although it takes work to create a pricing strategy, the results on the bottom line can be significant. Moreover, it requires just a small upward nudge. The pricing expert said reducing fixed and variable costs, for example, by 1 percent can bolster profits by 1.5 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. And increasing sales by just 1 percent can push profits up 2.5 percent.

But raising prices by 1 percent can increase profits by 7.1 percent. “If you just do one thing when you get back to your businesses, please just increase your prices by 1 percent,” Hendrickson said.


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