Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Botswana at last

Hurry up and wait...that's exactly what happened. We made it to Botswana, ran around (thanks to Tony lending us his car and a place to stay) and we commenced to do nothing. OK, so we had meetings. We talked to Local Enterprise Authority several times, the Competitiveness HUB, USAID, Botswana Tourism, and many friends about our idea to market Botswana. We were so gung ho! It all seemed so promising from the States, but reality is a bummer and we didn't get anything more concrete than a handshake and business card.

Marketing Marula Oil was one of our main objectives. We have set the foundation for branding here in the States through sales, advertising and articles. Word of mouth had grown not only through my online business with plastic surgeons discovering that I carry the pure oil and recommending the "miracle" oil to their patients. Masseuses had found out about the oil and were buying wholesale amounts for use on their clients. And several boutique bath and body products used marula oil bought from me. I wanted to spend a lot of time with the women in Lerala, but it just didn't work out. There's something holding this product from expanding - production, funding, community infighting, personality conflicts, the list goes on and on and I'm stuck on the receiving end, not able to receive any oil! From my website a cosmetics company found the oil. They hadn't heard of it before and wanted to test its properties. Wouldn't you know it, the oil sample I sent them was old. The product tested poorly and they decided not to use it...if the community trust in Botswana could only bring their production up to par, they could do well for that entire community. I've got some on the way, but I was really hoping to rest my business on the oil and now I'm having to re-evaluating our relationship.

We were able to place an order with the famed Gabane Pottery. Martin and his wife Katherine have been steadily growing that business so that they have a nice group of women to help them produce the ceramics. Again, I was looking forward to getting these mugs to the US. There is a great need for fair trade mugs to go with the fair trade coffees/teas, and they certainly are beautiful. We have great footage of Martin taking us through the process. Can't wait to incorporate it into the TV shows we're working on. I ordered so much from them and all in the midst of the new President issuing a statement to all of Botswana Government Departments mandating that local producers be utilized for office supplies/needs. And so, Gabane Pottery was supplying many of the big departments with tea sets (Botswana's English rule until the 60's left behind rituals like high tea that is embedded in much of Bots' culture even today). From the look on Martin's face, I had very little confidence that my order would be done in the 6 weeks I had left in the country - but he provided me wrong. In the end due to many banking problems, I couldn't pay for the full amount and also couldn't carry the heavy ceramic mugs, platters, coffee pots and jars back to the States. It is the end of October and I still haven't been able to make full payment, resorting to Western Union since our bank in Botswana won't allow us to transfer money from the US. I still have no idea how I'm going to get 100lbs of pottery to Cold Spring, NY or if they'll make it.

I brought some in my luggage and have sold all of the mugs (at a loss since it cost so much to ship). A few pieces shattered - could it be from the air pressure or the valet who dropped my bag helping us to our car at JFK? Who knows? All I know is that I'm chomping at the bit to get the products I ordered and anticipated having in the store during this holiday season. After all, this was the reason for the trip, no?

Or was it? We wanted to have wholesale products to market, to do shows with/for and that just wasn't panning out. Knowing full well that if it wasn't coming to us easily, then it probably wasn't meant to be, we kept an open mind and tried not to stress over plans unfulfilled...what then? What were we doing in Botswana...we couldn't wait to find out.

1 comment:

bathmate said...

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