Savvy African Entrepreneur Takes On U.S. MarketSavvy African Entrepreneur Takes On U.S. Market
East and Central African craft markets burst with color, mate-rials, design and function. Yet lacking links to trade systems, many products never make it off the shelves. Flotea Massawe’s cloth designs are an exception--these handicrafts are thriving in the demanding U.S. market, allowing Flotea’s business to expand.
In 2002, Flotea Massawe possessed talent and a determination to succeed, but lacked links to structured markets. Because of this, she was beholden to customers who happened upon her cloth designs on the streets of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Then USAID’s East and Central Africa (ECA) Trade Hub dis-covered Flotea in 2005 and provided her fledgling company with technical assistance in design and marketing.
Flotea’s talent and ambition now had an outlet. After refining her product, the ECA Trade Hub sponsored Flotea to participate in four trade shows across the U.S., starting in 2005 with Sources New York and most recently at the 2010 New York International Gift Fair. While attending these events, Flotea spoke at workshops, networked with U.S. buyers and developed a company website (www.marvelous.co.tz). To fill her growing orders Flotea needed to expand. Through a U.S. African Development Foundation grant, she enlarged her factory and now employs nearly 200 hundred women to create her popular pillows, bags, runners and table mats.
Today, Flotea is supplying her “Marvelous Flotea” products to the high profile New York designer Rachel Roy and U.S. department store, Macy’s. Flotea’s Kuba cloth clutch sporting fa-bric woven in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is now exported throughout the U.S. Says Flotea, “The clutch has created a chain of women in three different countries linked to-gether to help alleviate poverty by providing employment oppor-tunities for African women.”
Flotea has reached commercial success. She has gone from making 200 pieces a month with an annual income of $120 to producing 2,000 to 3,000 pieces a month with an annual income of $100,000. Nearly 50% of her sales come from exports to the U.S., India, and Japan.
Flotea credits the ECA Trade Hub for giving her access to a global market, saying, “You are the ones who held my hand in entering the U.S. market. Thanks again for trusting my dreams.”