We don’t use this platform to talk much about the political situation in the Central African Republic. We prefer to use our time, energy and this little corner of the internet that is ours, to talk about a much rarer perspective of our country. We want to tell you stories of the incredible beauty and joy that resides here. The remarkable resilience defying all odds that our people embody. The healing action of creating beauty with ones hands in the middle of war.
But, today we do want to tell you a story that is directly linked to politics. Politics that has consequences that affects us daily, and therefor also you as our supporters and customers.
If you have followed the news from the heart of Africa you know that the Russian mercenary group Wagner has had a heavy presence in our country for the past years. You may also know that our government has deepened its relationship with Russia, and as a consequence other relationships with other countries and stakeholders have been affected, as you may well imagine. Without saying more, or going into political details and opinions, it so happened that a couple of months ago the local DHL office (which was the only international courier shipping things in and out of CAR) was accused of having delivered a package with explosives to the Russian embassy in our capital Bangui. Subsequently DHL closed its doors in the Central African Republic, and the only way anyone locally could relatively easily (but to very high costs) ship something out of here, disappeared over night.
Just over a year ago we took a huge leap of faith and decided to open up a web shop with international shipping. But, we knew we could not ship individual orders directly from Bangui as the only courier option was DHL (who wants to pay hundreds of dollars in shipping?). To make it practically possible to ship products we had to bulk ship products through an international freight carrier to the US, and set up a logistics hub in upstate New York from where we could ship internationally. This decision meant that we chose to take several risks, but in particular two main risks:
- We had to narrow down the selection of products that would be available in our web shop. In Bangui, where we have our workshop, we have a large selection of products and different fabrics that both change regularly – but because we had to bulk ship we had to narrow down both the number of products as well as colorways and pattern combinations. What if the products, patterns or colors we chose would not be the ones our internationally located clients were looking for?
- Using our one platform (our website and our social channels) to advertise and sell from both of these venues (physical boutique in Bangui and our web shop) means risking confusing clients. Someone sees a photo of a product in a specific pattern from our Bangui boutique on Instagram and now wants to buy it online but now finds that that specific color doesn’t exist in the web shop. Or, a client who has followed us online and seen a pattern of a placemat in our web shop now wants to buy that placemat in Bangui, but it’s not available in our Bangui boutique because the physical inventory is in the US. You get it. Lots of potential for annoyance and disappointment.
We haven’t figured out how to do this right yet. With hindsight we are thankful that we did not rely on shipping products with DHL because, well, they suddenly closed down for reasons that are completely out of our hands. But, we also understand the frustrations that clients might experience over the confusion between inventories and difficulty in shipping. With our country’s borders further closing down on itself, an increasingly complex political situation and an economy that falters across the world we don’t have any quick fixes or straight forward solutions.
We are working on it. Continuously and stubbornly. Our story is important and we believe that we have something to give to the world. We believe that if we are resilient and innovative we will find solutions, eventually.
If you are in Bangui and want to be a part of our story – visit our boutique and discover our new products as well as true and trusted staple products made with new fabrics and patterns. At our workshop you can also custom order products.
If you are located internationally, know why our selection of products in our web shop is limited. We are doing the best we can with the cards that have been dealt to us as we continue to try to find better ways to serve you. If you have any ideas on solutions or how we could improve this – we would absolutely love to hear from you!
If you are located internationally and want to custom or bulk order something for yourself personally, or for your company, it is still possible! We can find individual solutions for shipping orders as long as we have enough time to figure it out. Get in touch with us and we would love to find solutions together with you. If there is a will, there is a way!
If you want to run a business whose products and message wants to reach every corner of the world, being located in the Central African Republic is not for the faint of heart. It is then a very good thing, that faint-heartedness is not something that we suffer from. Every challenge in an opportunity. Onwards and upwards, even if the journey also goes a bit crooked and twisted in between the onwards and upwards parts.
If you are on this journey with us, thank you. Maybe you too can find some inspiration here to not give up when things are a bit wonky and crooked in your own life?