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The global market for handicrafts was $752 Billion in 2022, and it is forecasted to reach $1,297 Billion by 2028 If the wood carvers, potters, glass blowers, and other artisans of the West Bank and Gaza are to capitalize on this growth, they need access to export markets. As a shrewd business leader, Suzan facilitates this export market access for artisans. And as a compassionate member of the Palestinian community, she ensures that her artisans can earn a living wage through fair prices for their work.

Suzan founded Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans (BFTA) in 2009 to provide producers of traditional Palestinian handicrafts access to equitably priced, foreign wholesalers ready to import in bulk. In 2015, BFTA became a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) by maintaining uncompromising principles of fair wages, safe working conditions, gender equality, and opportunities for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

In addition to fairtrade standards, BFTA differentiates itself from competitors through collaborative relationships with artisans to design new products that appeal to foreign markets. For instance, Suzan taught Bedouin women’s groups how to upcycle discarded sheep’s wool into Christmas ornaments prized by US buyers.

By 2019, BFTA had matured into a network of over 50 fairtrade microenterprises and women’s groups with a steady flow of orders from European wholesalers. Then the pandemic wiped out global markets, all orders were canceled, and the very livelihoods of Suzan’s artisans were in jeopardy. Suzan’s resilience and business acumen helped BFTA renegotiate deals on outstanding inventory and the artisans lived to fight another day. 

As a part of its efforts to recover the Palestinian tourism sector from the lingering effects of the pandemic, the USAID SMART Project identified BFTA as one of the few handicraft exporters that survived the economic shock and was ready to get back to international markets. Suzan and a SMART Business Advisor devised a Recovery Plan focused on marketing to new US-based wholesalers. The Recovery Plan included funding and technical assistance for e-commerce, product catalogues, branding, marketing consultancy, and social media support. It also supported participation in an international tradeshow in New York, the NY Now Summer Market in August 2022.

In New York, Suzan was able to connect with wholesalers that she had been trying to reach for years. “You can email people so many times, but when you meet them face-to-face its totally different,” she explained. Furthermore, Suzan was prepared to approach these buyers with product samples, catalogues, and a well-planned marketing strategy. Following the tradeshow, BFTA made sales with seven new importers in the US and export revenues increased by 40%.


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