The Power of a Story
KEENE, TEX. – The small rural village of Rari, Chile, is home to Crin, an intricate handwoven artisan craft made from delicate horsetail hair. It was there that Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) students met Guadalupe. She attended an entrepreneurial workshop delivered by Enactus and invited them to visit her home the next day. Guadalupe carries on a family tradition of weaving Crin into colorful butterflies, dolls and flowers. She sells to tourists from her home or at markets.
Guadalupe welcomed our students with a warm smile and served up homemade jam on crackers while sharing the story of learning the art of Crin from her grandfather as a small child. As she spoke, she unpacked her inventory from cardboard shoe boxes to display. Guadalupe is an artist, and without a market that values her craft, the future of Crin is uncertain.
Guadalupe’s story echoed the sentiment of over 30 artisans who gained entrepreneurial training from workshops conducted throughout Chile in January. Enactus, an entrepreneurial team spearheaded by SWAU’s business department, worked in partnership with the Fundación Artesanias de Chile. The foundation furthers the sociocultural and economic development of artisans with the intent of preserving traditions passed on from one generation to another.
Enactus students conducted a needs assessment with foundation representatives who expressed a desire to provide interactive training on business topics in an easy-to-understand format. The project, named ARTIVA, consisted of workshops focused on practical tips to increase sales and understand the consumer market. Participants learned about marketing, product differentiation, SWOT analysis and consumer behavior.
The culmination of each workshop came in the form of a mock sale where students served as customers and artisans used the skills learned to deliver a sales pitch. The ARTIVA project included a “train the trainer” session with foundation employees who will replicate workshops for other artisan groups. In addition, a fund sponsored by Enactus and managed by the foundation will provide raw materials necessary for the expansion of product lines and product differentiation.
Workshops stressed communicating the story behind a product, and as students heard the stories told by artisans, an invaluable cultural exchange took place. Grateful artisans emotionally spoke about pieces they brought to display and the meanings behind them. Students learned about how art can tell stories of political unrest, social issues, religion and family history. ARTIVA provided an opportunity for service in an unexpected way and taught students that the value of a powerful story exists in the ability to tell it again.
By Ana Patterson