This summer, Artistri Sud collaborated in a unique partnership which provided Artistri Sud graduates with an opportunity to develop their business and skills while producing an order for Montreal-based skin care company, Etymologie.


What was our Partnership all about?

Etymologie special-ordered one-of-a-kind cosmetic bags and hand-woven hemp facecloths for a special holiday season promotion, which were produced by women who had graduated from Artistri Sud’s entrepreneurship boot camp held last December.   One group of artisans from Sapa, led by Chu Lothi and Phin Tan May, produced the pouches using traditional methods and incorporating Hmong designs, and the Lung Tam Textile Cooperative produced the facecloths made of natural, undyed hemp.  

Prospective business students participated in the production process, working alongside the women producers.   They are currently studying at Princeton English, a consultancy based in Hanoi which helps students apply to universities in the United States.  The company had approached Artistri Sud looking for a chance for their students to engage in the community and learn relevant skills. “Many of our students will be studying business and entrepreneurship at university, and we are really drawn to your organization for its focus on social enterprise,” explains coordinator Stanton Sharpe. By leveraging real hands-on business experience paired with time in the classroom, these students will be ready to apply for a formal education overseas.   A group of six students worked with the artisans to oversee the process and ensure Etymologie’s order was filled to specification. They gained hands-on experience working within the supply chain and acting as a liaison between the artisans and Étymologie.

A Win-Win Process

Their responsibilities included mediating orders, managing communications and production, and dealing with unforeseen issues. 

In one instance, after the artisans completed the first order of cosmetic bags, there were inconsistencies in the bags’ sizes. Going to the root of the problem, they learned that the artisans did not have measuring tapes to correctly measure the fabric.  “Someone had a smartphone, so they ended up using some kind of on-line app which depicts a ruler,” explains Artistri Sud Executive Director, Jennifer Lonergan, “but you can imagine using your smartphone to measure fabric–you’re not going to get very precise results.”  The students and the artisans discussed options to solve the problem, such as offering the client a discount for the off-size bags, or re-doing them. The artisans decided to re-do the flawed pouches, to ensure client satisfaction, and keep the mis-measured bags to sell at another venue. 




What did the client think? Raquela Cheesmond, owner of Etymologie, was thrilled with the end-result.  “I love that they’re all unique–these will be very attractive as one-of-a-kind gifts.” 

Program Coordinator

In June, planning for Phase II of its program in Vietnam, Artistri Sud sought to recruiting a local, Hmong-speaking program coordinator on location in SaPa to support a needs assessment in the region, organize focus group discussions, collect baseline data from prospective participants, and recruit for the fall 2019 program.  Although her coach, Kristina, had suggested she apply for the 3 month contract, Phin was hesitant. “I wasn’t sure I could do it,” she smiles. “I didn’t really know what it was.” Only after Artistri Sud director Jennifer Lonergan reached out to her directly in a voice mail on Messenger encouraging her to apply did Phin decide to give it a try.  “She’s a strong leader,” Lonergan says, “but the only selling point she could think of in her application was that she speaks 4 languages. I mean, that’s a great benefit, but it’s hardly her only selling feature. The program coordinator role is a developmental opportunity, so it’s understood that they don’t know how to do the job. But we need someone reliable, and mostly they need to be willing to learn. That means, willing to make mistakes, to be out of your comfort zone.  That’s what’s hard.”


Since then, working with Kristina and another graduate, Phin has conducted interviews and focus group discussions with over 50 craftswomen, shopkeepers, and hospitality business owners.  She’s also helped recruit nearly 70 participants for our forthcoming entrepreneurship program in Vietnam. “Besides all the organizing skills she’s building, she has to submit weekly work summaries and expense reports with receipts,” says Kristina, whom she reports to directly. “She’s learning a lot about how to work in different contexts and to be accountable for what she does.  It’s a special opportunity for her, and she says it’s helped her in her own business, too. But the most important is that she is far more confident now–she explores different opportunities, she is less afraid, she eagerly takes on things she knows nothing about, like collecting data for Artistri Sud’s baseline study–she would never have done that before.”


Etymologie is now offering these one-of-a-kind items!  A portion of the proceeds from all sales of their Miracle Moringa Oil go to support Artistri Sud’s programs.  

You can help make change possible by contributing directly to our women’s empowerment work in Asia and Latin America, you can donate to Artistri Sud by clicking right here

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