Karelian artisans become customer-oriented

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Pictures by project team

Karelian craftsmen from Kalevala, Kondopoga, Konchezero, Kostomuksha, Olonets, Petrozavodsk, Pryazha and Svyatozero gathered for the first face-to-face meeting of the capacity building programme Business Skills for Craftsmen. A series of online and offline trainings is a unique opportunity for manual labor professionals to build up their skills in marketing, sales and financial management, that is, to become professionals in commercial activities, too.

Irina Ponomareva, an embroiderer from Petrozavodsk, believes that trainings and webinars gave her a set of practical tools for doing business: “This is my first educational program and, by far, its biggest plus is changing my outlook on craft as a business. First of all, I got an understanding of customer focus."

The creator of the Taivas workshop from Kostomuksha, Tatyana Vasilyeva, is not a newbie in the craft business, but she also sees benefits for herself: “It was interesting to get acquainted with the personal experience of the curators, their real stories and their creative and entrepreneurial paths. It is very interesting, motivating, inspiring. Although I have already had many years of experience as an entrepreneur, I am constantly trying to test and analyze my business again." According to Tatyana, for the first time in the territory of Karelia, craft from the point of view of entrepreneurship is considered in educational programs.

During the in-person meeting in Petrozavodsk, the participants were offered a versatile program that, at first glance, is not always directly related to the craft. For example, psychiatrist and science journalist Viktor Lebedev talked with artisans about the entrepreneurial mentality, and economist Yuri Savelyev elaborated on methods of generating brilliant ideas and forming imaginative thinking. Sociologist Andrei Sukhorukov reflected on the life cycle of creativity.

The great interest of artisans was aroused by the speech of the "mastodon" of the Karelian tourism industry Elena Bagaeva on the prerequisites for the development of craft tourism. Under her leadership, the participants themselves tried to develop and present examples of craft tours around the republic. Together with the economist Oksana Bondarevskaya, the craftworkers counted taxes and chose the optimal legal form of business organization. The headliner of the event was the famous Russian reenactor of kokoshniks Juhann Nikadimus. Many participants acknowledged that his idea of ​​the “core” and “ecosystem” of handicraft entrepreneurship made them take a fresh look at their activities.

The educational program Business Skills for Craftsmen is carried out by the Association of Ethnocultural Centers and Heritage Organizations ECHO, the University of Eastern Finland and their partners within the framework of the Russian-Finnish project Northern Crafts ID with the support of the Karelia CBC Program and the Presidential Grants Fund. The lecturers are experts from Finland and Russia. In March, the next events of the program will take place - webinars on internationalization and service design. The program will end in May 2021, but the Northern Crafts ID project is already working on a new comprehensive lifelong education program for artisans. The goal of the Northern Crafts ID project is to expand opportunities for the development of craft entrepreneurship.