Ode to Mushmina | Marrakech, Morocco
Kristy Crabtree | September 2011 Issue
After buying a $350 carpet at a MarraKech souk, Heather O’Neill experienced buyer’s -remorse. She learned that the weavers, all women, sold their intricate, handcrafted rugs to a middleman for only $10, not knowing the value of their -products. O’Neill, then a Peace Corps volunteer, saw an -opportunity for a business that would connect -rural women to the modern market and U.S. -consumers to handcrafted products. She started the -operation by scaling back the artisan’s -traditional product from a heavy carpet to a handbag. The business focused on training female artisans in -color theory, establishing cooperatives and finding the real market value for these artisans’ goods. While most other fair trade businesses return a percentage of the profit to the producers, Mushmina does more, empowering artisans to set their own prices based on market needs. Mushmina sells the handcrafted handbags, jewelry and clothing through Etsy, the online marketplace for -handmade goods, and boutiques in New York City, which allows the company to target consumers who appreciate handmade fair trade over commercial mass products. -Mushmina is also pursuing bigger retailers; its jewelry can now be purchased at the -women’s retailer and home product store Anthropologie. In Mushmina, Heather found a sustainable way to invest in development. “It’s a fair price for a well-designed -product, and since there’s a market for it, everyone wins.