The cooperatives were in full preparation mode in the weeks leading up the fair. Cocoki’s foot-powered sewing machines whirred as they raced to produce the right balance of products. Rows of women lined the floor at Covanya weaving and individually signing their brightly colored baskets. The women also requested that, in addition to the scheduled classes, Indego Africa lead extra Hand Up training sessions on business English, product pricing and accounting.
When the day finally came to go to the crafts fair, the women were ready and anxious to start selling. Even though they were armed with new business knowledge, they were still somewhat unsure of themselves with their limited use of the English language and not knowing if their products would sell.
Not surprisingly, the customers responded! While our competitors struggled, Covanya nearly cleared out their entire inventory of baskets, and Cocoki's biggest sellers were their yoga bags, coffee bags and laptop sleeves (also available on our SHOP). It was amazing to watch their confidence grow as the day went on. Their English improved rapidly as they answered questions about pricing and styles. They handled the money, wrote out receipts, and even balanced their receipt books against their cash drawer to make sure they matched at the end of the day.
This was a defining moment for these women and for Indego Africa. They were learning by doing and believing in their capabilities as independent businesswomen. As the number of products dwindled, Daphrose, a master weaver at Covanya, said through a huge smile, "This gives us courage!"
Photo (Amity, Jadot, Sarah, Daphrose, & Emelienne) is from an article about the craft fair in Rwanda's New Times.