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'African design with a European touch'

Female entrepreneurship

Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. For PUM, this means: cooperation with other parties that give added value. This is not always self-evident, organisations must complement each other and not overlap (too much). A great example of how cooperation can lead to something beautiful, you can read in the following story, where PUM expert Henk Oost advised a cooperative of female entrepreneurs in Tanzania.

Henk Oost, expert in the Business Consultancy sector: communications & marketing consultancy visited the Tanzanian Gatsby Trust. This charity (currently NGO) founded in 1923 supports the SME sector in creating work and income opportunities for the poor. A PUM avant la lettre, in other words.

There are around 500 mostly female entrepreneurs in the agricultural, cotton growing and poultry farming sectors, and a large group of women who sell jewellery, soap, wine, preservatives and those who produce printed textiles (batik). For 60 entrepreneurs of that last group, Henk organised a workshop on marketing, presentation and creating an own house style and label. Also, he visited the businesses of those entrepreneurs. That immediately led to a whole range of recommendations.

Quality improvement

Henk Oost: “Besides in marketing, a significant quality improvement could be made in the products themselves. The main reason for that was the unavailability of electric sewing machines. But in my opinion the printing was also rather unprofessional, namely by hand. Better quality products and more knowledge of what European tourists like could help boost the entrepreneurs’ sales. Dar es Salaam is centrally located in an area visited by many international (safari) tourists, an ideal target group for these products.”
Henk also advised on how the trust organisation could operate more effectively and efficiently and, in particular: how the products could be presented better and more attractively.

The mission of Henk Oost is a fine example of how cooperation with external parties can lead to synergy.

Added benefits

It is not uncustomary for PUM experts either during or at the end of their mission to visit the Dutch embassy or consulate in the country where they are active. Henk Oost received a warm welcome from Eugene Gies, first secretary of the embassy in Dar es Salaam. Henk told about his mission and the challenge facing the women. Could the embassy perhaps help in some way? Financial support indeed appeared to be possible, meaning that a budget of € 20,000 is now available to help the woman improve the presentation of their products. But it did not end there. Back in the Netherlands, Henk went hunting for second-hand electric sewing machines. In Emmen, he found a ‘Tanzania working group’ that could donate twenty electric sewing machines. The Hans Blankert Fund of PUM made € 1,050 available to cover the transport costs.

Vlisco and Gered Gereedschap - The story continues, for Henk visited Vlisco, a Dutch company that (since 1846!) designs and produces textiles based on batik techniques for African consumers. Henk Oost and Tanzania country coordinator Samuel Goldfinger are involved in talks with a retired Vlisco employee, PUM expert Joop Martens, who as PUM volunteer can give design advice to the women in Tanzania. A true networker, Henk Oost also coincidentally spoke with Gered Gereedschap, an organisation that since 1982 has been collecting tools for starting entrepreneurs in developing countries. The Amsterdam office of Gered Gereedschap has 500 refurbished sewing machines ready for shipping. From a previous mission, Henk knew a chairman of a textile club in Vietnam, where there are many studios that work with people with a physical or mental disability. Henk managed to get these refurbished sewing machines transported to these studios in Vietnam.