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  • Artisanas Trade


Through the years I met exceptional women from the communities of Piriati and Ipeti Embera. They confided in me some of their biggest dreams and fears about continuing their craftwomenship. Laura is one of those women who I became close with. She always had a clear vision of where she wanted to take her art and how far she was willing to go. Her vision inspired ours.

In the beginning, both Laura and I thought of ourselves as partner entrepreneurs, and we were going to make this work because we knew we had a wonderful story to tell. But Laura and I lived very different realities. I was going to startup workshops and building a website, while she was simply trying to sustain her family. We also live 96 miles apart.

Because women in these communities face great challenges such as the impossibility of reconciling employment and work at home, and insufficient support for care activities; for Laura I needed to design a partnership model that could match her context. I needed to adapt to her reality.

Our original concept was to identify the needs of the artisans from two communities and place their art pieces to be sold through a crowdsourcing model, where every piece bought would represent a step closer to the artisan’s yearly economic goal. Through Laura’s leadership, we were able to work collectively with an initial group of eight artisans that were excited about the project.

Our strategy (which we thought was a good one) was to sell the pieces through their life's story. I guess it wasn't that obvious or alluring to the visitors of our site.

Even though this continues to be our base model, we realized we needed to explore some creative alternatives. We empowered Laura to see her work as a design process that could lead to handmade home collections from which she could organize and teach the women to collectively hand weave the patterns into pieces. We supported her to compose each collection based on colors, patterns, shapes, sizes, and organize a production line.

This strategy of leveraging their capacities and skills has led to two handmade dining collections, one that is still available on our website.

A recent study revealed that Panama is the second most common country to have female entrepreneurs out of 43 countries analyzed (GEM, 2020). Nonetheless, access to entrepreneurial training opportunities for vulnerable populations in Panama and the region is still scarce, as these women pursue entrepreneurship as a pathway towards economic resilience, financial stability, and asset building.

The story of Artisanas Trade is one that is still in progress. Our refreshed vision includes strengthening and building technical skills for Laura and her team, while having them teach us and the world their collaborative and humane skills.

To know more about Laura and women behind the trade, please visit our site.

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