Paper-Making: Product Sales

Paper beads made from handmade lokta paper.

Selling handmade paper products is an uphill distribution and media battle. The market is flooded with good and bad products from around the world. Finding a solid market requires organized production, marketing, distribution and ideally participation in the Fair Trade Industry.  Mahabir Pun embraced these concepts but was unable to put them into practice despite meeting with fair trade officials and help from a former volunteer.                                                                                                                                  A good example of a successful non-profit organization is  Bead for Life. They have excellent products, provide financial services, market artfully and appeal to humanitarian service. When I was teaching a bead making workshop in Nangi last fall, the women and I would use the products on the website for inspiration.

Hand stamped, colored and sun dyed notebooks.

Sales were bleak until 2008 when a former volunteer, Sarah, started her own non-profit called White Circles and sold the books in Australia and on-line. She was instrumental in improving the quality and sales. In 2011 a volunteer family, Kim and her daughter Jessica, taught the women to make paper gift bags. These are marketed at grassroots sales in Singapore, USA and England. The bags are also sold in the Etsy store. Occasionally individuals will take a suitcase load of books home and sell to friends and family. Based on the honor system, they send the money after the sales. Sales have also picked up with the start of the Community Trek Project as more tourists and trekkers pass through Nangi. They have the opportunity to visit the paper-making workshop to see the process first hand and make purchases.

Overall quality and sales have improved but joining a fair trade organization and having a clear marketing plan run by the women would provide a solid business less dependent on volunteers and sporadic sales. Are you in global marketing? Do you have suggestions for how to improve the paper-making business? The readers and I would like to hear your advice, so click on the comment bubble above and leave a message. Join me next week and meet some of the paper-making women, hear their stories and live their dreams.


2 thoughts on “Paper-Making: Product Sales

  1. Hi Deb,

    These beads made by the Nangi women are very nice. I congratulate you on your effort in getting this bead making project started. I think it has great potential and look forward to being apart of its success.

    Living as I do in Boulder where Bead for Life exists I am so familiar with this organization. For those of you not familiar with it check out their website at .

    While I agree that it is not easy to market Fair Trade products across the world I believe that we can make it happen for Nangi and other villages in the greater Community Trek Project area as well.

    To do this is going to take some real planning and not by just one individual involved in global marketing – is my guess.

    In less than a month I will be in Nangi with some other former Nepal Peace Corps volunteer friends. I am in hopes of meeting with Chitra Pun to consider how we might develop a process that will work for making bead projects, bags, and notebooks available for sale in the West.

    Thanks Deb for your initiative and I will report back to you all on my travels to Nangi and beyond. I cannot imagine a more logical opportunity for promoting Fair Trade than through our efforts on these various projects.

    Dave Carlson

  2. Dave,
    Keep us posted on your insights into how HEF can begin marketing the paper products in a manner that provides a reliable chain from production to sales. I think having a business savvy volunteer work directly with the paper-makers would give them the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and understand the challenges on the production side. In the past there have been delays in filling orders and getting them delivered.

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