Kiki Weavers is one of the first micro enterprises run by a community group, which has been working with KDI. The group is based out of Site 1, weaving baskets from water hyacinth that can be harvested near their site. Their baskets are “organic” and “well-designed” (very pretty 🙂 ), and have an aspect of “fair trade” (100% of the income goes to either weavers or the community members). Their baskets are popular in the local market, but based on these aspects, also very marketable in the international market.
Etsy, an online website for handmade goods, is one of their strategies to access international customers. However, because of the limited internet skills the Kiki Weavers have, the majority of the order/shipping process has been operated by KDI staff in the Los Angeles office. This leaves Kiki Weavers not really understanding the importance of controlling the quality. Unlike online orders where we rely on pictures and advertised measurements, in the local market, buyers actually see baskets and pick up the ones they like. In other words, buyers can choose the size of baskets they like (even though they might be slightly bigger than a standard “L” size as advertized) or negotiate the price when the quality is not as good. This has made the Kiki Weavers pay less attention to measurement and quality control. Getting involved in the Etsy sales process will make them more aware about why quality control is important. Therefore, we decided to train them on the internet skills. This also came as the first request from Kiki Weavers when we asked about what skills they are in need of.
Beth and Mandy, our two new volunteers who have experiences in business and education built a training program for Kiki Weavers. They learned how to make an email account, how to log in to email, how to send an email, how to reply to an email, and how to create a contact list. With this skill, Kiki Weavers can now check the new Etsy orders they receive, and communicate with LA staff on replying to the orders. Gradually, we are aiming them to get involved in the shipping process, and ultimately take over the role of the LA staff.
We also introduced Skype for them to talk to international buyers who want to order in a larger quantity than the Etsy website can handle. They got very excited about the idea of free calling, and video talks. We separated Kiki Weavers in two rooms, and asked them to call each other through Skype. They were giggling, shouting, and pointing things that they could see in the video. They haven’t had a chance to talk to customers yet, but we now know they have new ways to communicate. In fact, when Chelina was leaving Kenya today, they said what I always say to my family when I leave Tokyo to go back to school in LA: “We will talk to you on skype!”