Jun 19, 2011

High Altitude Shopping

Or moving upmarket!

We're always looking for ways of increasing sales for our Artisans.  The Latest venture / adventure is THE DECK.  It is hard to raise your profile, never mind highlight your shop entrance when it is in the second basement level after going through a poorly lit Mongolian Stationary Shop and when the restrictions for above ground sign-age are major.

So our latest cunning promotional plan has been to hire the wooden deck of a Hair Dressing Salon run by a bemused Korean lady.

So as you can see we have a form of awning and more sign-age, wonderful customer facilitators AND of course products on display.  Two days in and the actual sales are low - break even level - but everyone who visits THE DECK also overcome their fears of the subterranean cave system and burst into the light of our best kept secret - THE BASEMENT SHOP - maybe with a little help from our staff who are out looking for customers.  Better still customers buy as well as looking!

Jun 14, 2011

Finding the SNOOSHY

Or a micro and many cars ...

We visit our artisans to encourage and teach and to see how they are doing personally.  This time it was Irene's turn  ...  and the task to help a Cooperative in a town some 200km away learn how to make the famous Dutch SNOOSHY.  Read on.

Travel is always full of surprises, and sometimes the destinations are too!
Last week saw me and Uyungaa, one of our students head north up the train line to visit Zuun Kharaa, and the felt cooperative.  The reason being – we have an initial order for a ‘character’ called ‘Snooshy’. www.snooshy.com

Hi we're breeding well and getting better looking every generation!

This has been really challenging for the cooperative – it is not easy to make things that are designed asymmetrically with a lot of different detail!   Our first order is for 250, so a lot of opportunity to make a lot of mistakes.  But more on production in a later blog!

We had a great time with the ladies and finally after much angst over the ears managed to produce a couple of samples we agreed on.

Tungalag, the leader then headed off telling us we could phone for a taxi to get back to UB or wait for the 4am train.  The taxi seemed like a good idea so we phoned and waited and waited.  About an hour later, Tungalag arrived back saying if we hadn’t heard from the taxi folk there wasn’t a taxi.  OK, so off to the station to buy tickets.  Meantime, Uyungaa had been terrified by a mouse running round the room – the mouse certainly wasn’t frightened.  We had by then struggled with the lock on the room, and at different stages were either locked in or out.

At the station we met a lady who said – don’t wait for the train, I have a microbus, we are going north but can take you to the small town on the main road where you’ll easily get a taxi to Ulaanbaatar (UB).  So after returning to the room and another extended fight with the lock, we got our bags and set off across the Mongolian Steppe in a minibus.  Uyungaa was amazed as we passed herds of horses, sheep, goats and cows.  She had not been in the countryside since she was 7.

The Micro folk held up their return to help us find a car going to UB.  Mongolia is the land of limited safety regulations, so we found ourselves in a small car with another 5 adults and 2 children – very cosy!  Mongolians also love their food so the journey was an occasion of passing round whole salami and biting off chunks, tearing up loaves, munching crisps and biscuits and washing it all down with fizzy drinks.  Amazingly no one was sick!  I got hit on the back of the neck with an extremely hard loaf of bread when we had a sudden stop – just as well it wasn’t a brick.

We arrived in UB just before 1:00 am in the morning and got dropped off at a bus stop on the far west of the city.  Got a taxi to take us to the east side and as we were congratulating ourselves on that, the taxi driver suddenly stopped and said we had to leave he had something else to do.  So, again we found ourselves at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere (it felt like nowhere even though it was in the city).  However, we did get another taxi after a short wait and arrived home safely.  It was great to be back and sleep in my own bed but I did wonder if waiting for the 4am train might have been more sensible?