TecBridge Entrepreneurship: Aya Fair Trade’s First Big Shipment, Part III

Ellen Clauss and Randy England are back at it again, this time with a whole lot more bags in hand.

The 2016 TecBridge Business Plan Competition winners in the collegiate division Aya Fair Trade received their first major shipment from Ghana of over 1,200 products at the end of August.

Included in the shipment were their standard totes, backpacks, purses, and duffle bags along with a couple of trial items: aprons and placemat sets. Over 90 different fabrics were used in various colors, all with names of English and Ghanaian origin.

The shipment’s arrival comes ahead of a major push by Aya in their craft and trade show scheduling. Over the next few months, Aya will be selling at shows across PA and NJ every weekend to sell and test their products. In October, they are double booked as Randy and Ellen set off separately to try and reach as many places as possible.

These shows ultimately will lead Aya into their wholesale distribution. These opportunities give Aya a chance to see what products sell well and what kinds of changes they need to make in the next few months, from the products themselves to their sales approach and website catalogue. They also provide a great chance to meet prospective wholesale customers.

While the two of them eagerly await and prepare for the shows, they are careful to keep their expectations in check and their strategies in mind.

Ellen explained how one of the shows they expected hardly any sales at yielded by far the most of any event they have attended while the opposite occurred at another. The kind of event, whether it is a trade or craft show that is inside or outside, also dictates how they handle the setup.

“At an outdoor show, we can have purses hanging from our tent and far more visibility for our products,” Ellen explained. “At an indoor show, we have a smaller table, so we are learning to get creative. It’s a process, but we are learning quickly.”

Randy elaborated on the behavioral dynamic of each as well, explaining how people get to see all of the products in a tighter space at indoor shows without having to approach a table directly, while people need to come up to and into your tents to view everything at an outdoor show.

“We’ve been paying attention to how people react to our products, seeing what we want on display the most and what we want inside,” Randy said. “We’re learning how to engage with customers much better and how to explain our mission more concisely too.”

With the family gathering and gift-swapping holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, Aya is excited at their prospects and eager to handle their challenges head on.

One bag at a time. One future at a time.

Read more about Aya Fair Trade at their website and check out their products on their Etsy shop.

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