Unique handmade products made by Beverīnas County artisans and handicraft are available in the online store. It is possible to purchase toys, clothing, accessories and more, however it is possible to place individual orders based on client’s needs. The founders of the shop like to emphasize the importance of reinforcing social security by buying products available in the shop since by doing so unemployment in the rural areas is decreased.
Linda Krūmiņa, the chairman of the board of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) “Iespēju durvis” (eng. The door of possibilities), owns the idea of creating this online shop. NGO “Iespēju durvis” was established in 2010 during the “Soros Foundation – Latvia” initiative “Change Opportunities for Schools” (www.parmainuskolas.lv) as organization that would continue to enlinven the idea of Changing Schools and to encourage activity of the inhabitants of the municipality as well as the corporation between the municipality and the three schools from Beverīnas County.
“Iespēju durvis” is encouraging civic participation and support for the development of small entrepreneurship. Linda is not only taking care of the money but also writing project proposals and encouraging other NGO staff to be active, what’s more, she is creating communication channels and cooperation between municipality, craftsmen and NGOs from other counties. One of Linda’s duties is to maintain the online shop and gift workshop.
The idea of establishing an online gift shop was born in a discussion between the NGO and representatives from municipality and department of culture when it was pointed out that there are a lot of local craftsmen, both, those who lack the knowledge of how to sell their products, which they are eager to do, as well as those who are already selling their products in different ways. Linda suggested that the selling channel could be established through an online shop. At that moment they didn’t think if the NGO would be able to make profit but they thought more about the shop as the way of supporting small entrepreneurs and craftsmen. Second phase of Changing Schools was the right instrument at the right place for the “Iespēju durvis” to create a homepage with the shop as one of the subpages.
At the moment Linda is the only one that is maintaining the shop and her volunteer colleague is administrating the homepage. There is no agreement of the way of how to best promote the shop. Already at the beginning other members of the NGO expressed support of the idea but they honestly don’t have the time nor interest to involve in the things that are connected with the entrepreneurship or trade. Maintaining the shop does not take a lot of time but the second part, the gift workshop which is also a physical place for the customers to place orders, in Trikāta, requires constant devotion of the owner. At the moment Linda is trying to organize her work so as to ensure the gift shop is open once a week. In autumn, when the school starts, the workshop offers different activities to the kids and their parents and the same time attracting people and introducing them to the possibility of seeing and ordering local handmade products. Linda believes that for inhabitants of Trikāta, like for inhabitants of any other rural area, an online shop is a necessity, because like any initiative the shop proves the idea that if you are active than there will be someone that will support you. Both, the shop and the workshop are good proofs of how important it is that things happen at the right time and the right place.
Linda is convinced that the idea was very useful and that at that moment also urgently needed for handicraftsmen and producers. Conditions developed in such a way that while “Iespēju durvis” was preparing project proposal and were waiting for the approval and financial support, County’s most active craftsmen have gathered and established an NGO, they rebuilt a room with personal resources and opened the handcraft shop in Valmiera at the premises of a museum. The result is positive anyway because the NGO “Iespēju durvis” is anyway leading the corporation within the Beverīna County to promote the field of small entrepreneurship. The workshop in Trikāta has a great value for the County’s inhabitants because, slowly and with a lot of patience, they are convinced that the local handmade product is much more valuable than the industrial product. Internet shop is one of the possibilities. At the moment online trade is not really active mainly because of small interest of producers that is why NGO “Iespēju durvis” is not searching for new solutions to increase the sale.
The greatest surprise in the process of establishing and maintaining the shop was the fact that craftsmen really don’t want/are not ready for the public demonstration of their work with the aim to sell the products. Another surprise was limited assortment. This fact seemed almost impossible because the supply was thought to exceed the demand.
In the high trading season, such Christmas or early summer when the grand fair is held at The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, as always when there are city festivals, it is impossible to beg even the photographs of the products from the craftsmen let alone the products themselves.
Another challenge is uniqueness of products: almost none of the craftsmen deliver more of the exact same work, so a trader puts the picture and price of the work online understanding that if this piece is sold through some other channel, there won’t be a second exemplar. There is also volatility of craftsmen: many of them do a lot of different things and even if there is an order from the online shop there is no guarantee that it will be possible to ensure its acquisition. This uncertainty interrupts the “Iespēju durvis” to build corporative deals namely bigger quantity orders of products from companies. Most of the orders are made in Trikāta gift workshop while there was just one purchase in the internet shop a couple of days after its opening.
Linda does not know if the internet shop has perspective in Trikāta , Vidzeme or Latvia. She feels that Latvians are not yet ready for online shopping for handcrafts, although in the world this opportunity is widely used, for example the famous Etsy.com. Therefore it is planned to focus on international customers.
The products that are offered in the store and in the workshop are the so called emotional purchases- I was walking through the flea market when I saw a dwarf. I touched it and I just felt the need to buy it. Perhaps it could be possible to improve sales to local customers by active and extensive marketing as the enthusiasm of the people involved and their motivation to act is of a high importance.
Project will be realised as part of EEA Grants sub-programme “NGO Activity Support Measure” of the programme “NGO fund” for period 2009.-2013.
Project financially supported by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Programme financed by EEA financial instrument and Latvia. More about the programme can be found on the following webpages:
www.sif.lv www.eeagrants.lv www.eeagrants.org