Caribbean Craft’s Sales Continue to Grow

Although Haïti has significantly reduced its unemployment rates over the last decade, it still has one of the highest rates in the world. Providing hope and opportunities to those without a job, Caribbean Craft is an example of a Haïtian company combating unemployment. Now, with over 500 artisans working for Caribbean Craft in Port-au-Prince, Haïtian artisans have another way to obtain fair wages and health insurance.

As Caribbean Craft continues to expand and has started to successfully export to Canada, there is no telling how many people will benefit from employment opportunities arising from this budding business. Joel Dresse, owner of Caribbean Craft, believes his company would still be researching how to export to Canada if it were not for the help of TFO Canada; “TFO Canada simplified our market entry process.”

Caribbean Craft opened its doors in 1990 and sells traditional hand-made Haïtian papier-mâché products. Prior to working with TFO Canada, Caribbean Craft was already exporting to the United States. Although Caribbean Craft gained hands-on experience exporting to one of Canada’s key trading partners, differences in cultures and tastes limited the company’s ability to branch out to Canada. TFO Canada helped bridge this gap. As part of a two-year project, which began in 2012 funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), TFO Canada was able to assist Caribbean Craft with its entrance to the Canadian market. It was recommended that products be modified in order to appeal to Canadian consumers’ wants and needs.

Recommendations were also made to ensure logistics were inexpensive yet efficient, that pricing would appeal to the targeted audience, that cities and provinces where products were introduced were strategic, and that networks and brand visibility were created by attending key industry and design tradeshows.

The first tradeshow Caribbean Craft attended was Le Salon international du design de Montréal (SIDIM) in 2012. Here, Caribbean Craft received product and pricing feedback from Canadian designers, in essence conducting market testing while also making connections with attendees. Each tradeshow Caribbean Craft attended improved the company’s visibility and likelihood of sustainability, as importers became more comfortable with this well-established Haïtian exporter. After modifying the products from SIDIM 2012, Caribbean Craft showcased at Montréal’s Canadian Gift and Tableware Association (CGTA) show in March 2013. As Caribbean Craft was still débuting its products, some connections were made but sales were not large. This show was followed by SIDIM 2013 where Caribbean Craft generated many strong leads, again proving the company was here to stay in Canada. At this show, Caribbean Craft narrowed the range of products showcased and focused on marketing its papier-mâché, home décor, and animal head collection.

Joel Dresse believes this project was 100% successful. The connections and visibility made, the lessons learned, and the market intelligence provided has not only simplified Caribbean Craft’s ability to export to     Canada, but Canada has proven to be a great market with lots of opportunities for Caribbean Craft. Although TFO Canada’s involvement in this project has come to a close, Caribbean Craft continues to make connections and expand its distribution beyond the French speaking Québec market.
From August 25-28, Caribbean Craft showcased at the CGTA Toronto Gift Show, generated approximately $10,000 in sales, and sold products to 15 new buyers. Because of this, Caribbean Craft now has a presence beyond Québec, with buyers located across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta. Given the success of the CGTA show, Joel plans to create a Canadian line for the next CGTA show in January of 2014.