Christian Syphus and Dr. Christopher Meek, Marriott School of Management
The economic and political instability of Haiti has rendered it “the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and its only least-developed country” (1). Familiar with social unrest due to military takeovers and high unemployment, Haitian leadership has struggled to provide consistency for its citizens since Haiti became the first black independent nation in 1804. The future of Haiti depends on the ability of its leaders to discover solutions to bring it successfully into the 21st century.
Haiti cannot overcome its problems alone. “It has the lowest per-capita income in the Western Hemisphere and is heavily dependent on foreign aid” (2). Its fate depends on the willingness of the international community to contribute necessary aid in the form of funds, supplies, and opportunities. The Haitian Development Network (HDN) is a U.S.-based non-profit organization devoted to the successful development of Haiti and its citizens. The HDN acts as an intermediary between Haiti and the international community, creating opportunities for growth.
Initially, I had coordinated with the HDN and my BYU advisor to prepare a method of investment that small and mid-sized investors could follow to increase economic activity in Haiti. This investment plan would have been monitored by the HDN after the completion of my research project, and become a standard means of creating investment opportunity in the Haitian economy. As I began researching, the HDN contacted me and asked if I could alter my research plans in an effort to help a specific Haitian company, Visions Industries, S.A., develop a marketing plan to introduce their products in the United States.
Visions Industries, S.A. is a small Haitian handicrafts company operating out of the country’s capital. Visions, like many other Haitian companies, draws on one of the many strengths of the Haitian people, the ability to accurately work with their hands in producing custom work. In an attempt to market its products to the United States hobbies and handicrafts market, Visions Industries has relied, in the past, on small vendors and distributors to promote their handicraft products. Striving to more heavily promote its custom needlework competencies, Vision Industries approached the HDN and asked for industry research and a marketing plan.
Visions Industries’ core competencies include the expedient production and accurate manufacturing of custom needlework based on a photograph. The client sends the photograph to be stitched. The photograph is sent to a specialized firm where it is converted into a stitching chart. The stitching chart is then sent to Visions Industries, and the stitching is done. The finished piece is shipped to the client. The entire process takes about eight weeks.
With a knowledge of Visions Industries’ method of production and marketing goals, I set out to research the U.S. hobbies and handicrafts industry and prepare a custom marketing plan addressing Visions’ goals and the U.S. marketplace.
I began the project by first contacting several people directly involved in the hobbies and handicrafts industry, and particularly those companies in the cross stitching and needlework niche within the industry. Their feedback about the size of the niche and its challenges was very helpful, yet many companies did not offer any information that could decrease their market share in the industry. I had anticipated this unwillingness of these said companies to offer hints to their competitors and began searching for other sources of information that would be more objective in their dissemination of information.
The internet proved to be a valuable source of information as I was able to tap into web sites with free public information about the hobbies and handicrafts industry. The prime source of internet information was obtained from the Hobby Industry Association’s web site. They supply industry research and quantify the size of the cross stitching and needlework industry. With this information, I reviewed Visions’ goals and prepared a preliminary marketing strategy plan to introduce Visions’ custom products to the U.S. industry.
The marketing plan contains information and analysis of the hobby and handicraft industry and recommendations for Visions Industries based on their products and the industry information. Within the Analysis section, one finds a definition of the consumer markets, information on market size and sales statistics and characteristics of consumers. Custom needlework is very popular among handicraft enthusiasts according to industry insiders. The needlework niche of the hobby and handicraft industry had sales of $1.5 billion in 1996 and is expected to grow in 1997 and 1998, years for which figures have not been calculated. The typical consumer of handicrafts products is female and over the age of 18. The recommendations for Visions Industries, S.A. followed the Analysis section.
Recommendations for this small Haitian company were made based on four main categories:
Competition within the U.S. marketplace is high for handicrafts products, and recommendations were made according to the level of competition. In all, Visions Industries has greatly benefited from the information accumulated. The Recommendations section was very detailed and gave Visions management a robust perspective from which to make marketing decisions.
I learned a great deal as I researched and prepared a marketing plan for Visions Industries, S.A. I was able to combine my love for the French language with my keen interest in business practices as I did the project. The most fulfilling aspect of the project is knowing my work will help Visions Industries specifically, and the Haitian economy in general. I have gained a greater appreciation for Haiti as a country and for its people, and am devoted to effecting positive change wherever I may find myself in the future.
- http://web.unfpa.org/exbo/hai.html; Internet; accessed 10 October 1997
- http://www.pe.utexas.edu/~nzhang/E316K/haiti-short.html; Internet; accessed 9 October 1997