Supporting Small-Scale Artisans


Just before I started to write this a customer left this very pleasing review for me: “Really lovely beads!! Great communication! Happy customer. Shop small business ” I also read part of an ILO report about the impact of the virus on labour around the world which confirms what we see on the news everyday.

I couldn’t agree more with the last statement in the customer review.  Why? It is now common knowledge that small businesses have been hit particularly hard by the effects of the pandemic and Tet, a small bead-maker and business owner from whom I get some of my stock is one of the many millions.

The pandemic has led to a fall in orders and therefore his income. While some workers and businesses in richer countries have had some help with their income, Tet and his small team have not;  income support measures are non-existent in the country where they live.  Not even the usual welfare benefits.  They must sell enough beads to earn any liviing at all, making it more important than ever to support them by purchasing their products. Mainly, I source recycled glass beads from a large-scale maker.  But increasingly,  suporting small-scale craftsman seems the better thing to do.

Why I Buy From Tet

  1. The quality of his work:  I have boxes of unusable beads in my storeroom but only a tiny, tiny proportion of them come from this artisan.  His beads are pricier, but in the end it’s better value for money because the quality is excellent and defective ones are very few.
  2. He only employs a few others, works in a far from prosperous area and this is their precious livelihood, and worth supporting them.
  3. His colours:  Typically, African beads are brightly coloured.  At this small shop one finds more muted and softer colours, in addition to some bright ones, of course.

4. He takes custom orders, hurray!!!  It’s not a case of take-it-or-leave it as in the bead market and some other sellers.

5. The minimum order per design was only a couple of strands which was great for testing the market.   Recently, however, I discovered to my shock that has now multiplied five-hold!  Initial frustration,  but on reflection one can understand him; his business needs to survive in these difficult times.  He did, however, make an exception to his new rule… and accept half the minimum once only, he says.

6. He trusts me to keep my word and pay for the goods when the custom order is complete; he doesn’t even ask for down-payment! In his small way, he is supporting me!

Is it Fair Trade/Fairtrade?

That is a question I get asked every now and then, and the honest answer is no.  Mind you, there are some beads from the same source which are advertised as such.  Hmm…I wonder why???

Not every product can be made to Fair Trade/Fairtrade standards and business with Tet is conducted in this way:

  1. He sets his prices and there is no haggling.  Don’t even try.  He obviously knows the value of his work!
  2. He does the job in his own time,  it doesn’t work to try to rush or chase him.
  3. He is paid in cash upfront on collection.

Like the customer who left me the lovely review today, your purchase supports my small shop which in turn helpsTet and his small army of craftsmen to continue earning an income.

More of Tet’s Beads