SUNBIZ

Start A Village Business

Anumber of requests have come in for information about starting a Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to help support a village project. The Government has been providing start up finance
06 Oct 2018 10:00
Start A Village Business
Women from Lawai Village, Sigatoka Valley in Sigatoka with their pottery handicraft

Anumber of requests have come in for information about starting a Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to help support a village project.

The Government has been providing start up finance for small businesses and this is probably what has sparked interest.

Through a number of different agencies, Government does provide assistance in the SME areas and it is worthwhile looking for guidance there.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I outlined a SME I was looking at some years ago, the basis process remains the same.

In fact, this business never went ahead so for some enterprising village there is a great opportunity still waiting.

This business involved pottery but it can be applied to all the other crafts practiced in Fijian Villages.

At the time I was doing some work with the Western Arts Society and the concept would have been run under their banner.

Fiji pottery

Fiji has a unique and well developed pottery history and the culture has been preserved and handed down from generation to generation.

So it is still true to the old ways and traditions and this makes it interesting to potters around the world.

Fiji pottery is unique to Fiji; it can’t be found anywhere else and is authentic and true to the old ways.

Pottery making is a worldwide craft followed by many thousands of potters for both commercial reasons and as a leisure craft, a way of expressing individual creativity and developing personal ideas.

There are literally thousands of Pottery Societies and Clubs where members learn the craft and gather to exchange ideas and develop their skills.

This vast pool of enthusiasts is the key to this business concept, as they provide an clearly targeted market that is also easily reached for promotion.

International potters

The international potters are usually fairly well placed financially, have a passion to learn more and to improve their work, are interested in other cultures and ideas and generally have time to spare for their craft.

Fiji has a well functioning potting fraternity and most of the pottery is made for sale, as a source of income for the potter.

Generally the potters are village based and in any group there is a spread of skills, from the expert to the learner and each group holds a great deal of knowledge about technique, history, materials, culture and design.

It is rare in the world that such a complete pool of expertise exists and even rarer when the uniqueness and tradition are added.

There is a casual trade in teaching outsiders the potting skills but very few visiting potters are able to find out where they can be exposed to the traditional Fijian craft in a structured way.

The concept of this business was to provide pottery master classes in Fiji that would run over a six or seven day period and where the student could learn all the details of the craft but also be exposed to the rest of the Fijian culture and lifestyle in a ready packaged product that took all the hassles out of the visit and delivered a truly memorable experience.

The package would be created by travel experts and would include international travel, accommodation in Fiji, local transport, classes, meals and other visits.

Providing a master class

The focus would be on the village providing the master class and the potters and other people in the village, but outside relevant experiences would also be included.

The visitors would stay in mid-range accommodation as a group and a reasonable level of comfort and quality would need to be provided.

It would be important to ensure a good level of personal security for the visitors.

Classes would be interactive, with the master and the student working together in all aspects of the craft and there would be a carefully thought out program to ensure that the visit period was used to the full.

Classes would need to be kept small so that personal attention could be given to each student.

In the course components should cover all the stages of pottery from the collection and preparation of the clay, the design of the items, the actual making of the item, the additives and glazes needed and the firing techniques.

There should be coverage of the history, regional styles and different traditions and the different end uses for the products.

The classes should concentrate on the classic Fijian pottery but some time should be included in looking at some of the latter innovations in the craft.

Many of the people attending the master class will already be competent potters and some may even be internationally acknowledged exhibitors and there will also be some collectors.

Consideration needs to be given to the level of teaching and it may also be necessary to break the group into two different levels based on their current skill and interest.

Some may also want to concentrate on single elements of the craft such as glazes, wood firing techniques, clay types or external decoration and these should be available as add-ons.

Promotion of the master classes should be very focussed. The different clubs and societies all have close contact with their members and articles and visual material can be made available for their editorial use.

Database marketing should also be used to directly contact potters and promote the master class packages in Fiji.

It may be possible to do cross marketing with some of the larger travel wholesalers with a short master class package offered as a part of a vacation visit to Fiji.

The initial research indicated a high level of interest in the master class concept amongst Potters in the USA West Coast and Australia and confirmed that a well constructed package would be needed for the concept to succeed so it may be smart to involve one of the better local travel experts in the development of the product.

For the village, it is also important that they retain the intellectual rights and ensure that they receive income not only from the actual classes but from the provision of other services as well.

Significant research has been done with visitors to Fiji and this shows that they are seeking authenticity and a unique local experience and non potters could also be an interesting additional market.

For other villages, if you are not potters, think about the crafts you do well.

Weaving, tapa or masi, magimagi and jewellery are all crafts that could provide a similar business.

And if the master classes are done well the “word of mouth” advertising will create a strong ongoing business and a good income.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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