Posted by : Posted on : 30-Mar-2020

The talented Solomon Islands crafts men and women need support with a dedicated online store to market and sell their quality products.

Last week local journalist Georgina Kekea wrote a touching story about Susie who became handicapped as a young child as a result of a shark attack and how Suzie’s life changed with one set back after another stemming from her permanent disability.

This week Georgina has told of another hearty warming story with a focus on Peter a wood carver who hails from Choiseul but who is now in Honiara and struggling to make ends meet and unable to sell his handmade crafts.

Writing her account of Peter and the difficulties he faces, Georgina said this in yesterday’s edition of the Solomon Times on Line.


“This week alone I only earned SBD$200”, Peter a rural Solomon Islander said.

Today Peter lives in Honiara and sells carving for a living. Like most other artists in Honiara, rooms are provided for locals like Peter at the National Art Gallery.

This is a hub hosted by the government’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism for locals to sell art and crafts, artifacts and painting.

But the room comes at a cost. Rental fee per room depending on the size is SBD$500 to SBD$1000 per month. Peter has the $1000 package per month. This room he shared mostly with his relatives.

Today, when spoken, to Peter said he has not sold any carving at all.

“I also have my sales man here who walked from door to door. Today he went as far as King George but as you can see, he sold nothing today”, Peter said.

King George is the name of a location in the eastern side of Honiara. To get to King George one has to travel about 5km from Honiara’s CBD. Local sellers in Honiara often travel these long distances trying to sell their items.

As visitor arrivals in Honiara dropped, people like Peter are now finding it difficult to make a living from their hard work.

Unlike daily necessities like food stuff and toilet paper, products like carving and artifacts are now being pushed back to the end of the shopping list.

For most shoppers, these items do not even make it into the shopping list. But for Peter, monies earned from his carvings are his bread and butter.

For some 30 years this has only been Peter’s way of life.

The money Peter earns is used to support his family back home and for his daily sustenance.

The travel restrictions enforced by government plus the global restrictions of travellers worldwide has really been a blow to people like Peter.

With hardly a visit from tourist cruise boats to Solomon Islands annually, for Peter his customers are mainly visitors who come to Solomon Islands for businesses.

Now NGOs and stakeholders are also cancelling meetings and forums which leaves no room for Peter to thrive.

“Our domestic market is very small. And this product is not like noodle and taiyo (canned tuna) which people would want to buy on a daily basis. I do not know what to say. If I do not pay my rent I will have to close my shop and go home”, Peter said.

 “Keep the faith that all will be well. Just keep smiling and laugh a lot even when the situation is not good. This is what kept me going”, he said.

The answer to Peter’s dilemma and for the other talented craft workers is selling on line.

It is a competitive market place with challenges but a market place to the world outside the Solomon Islands.  A market place that one can sell online way beyond Honiara or Gizo, or Auki or in any other place in the Solomon Islands where reliable internet services are available.

The situation Peter mentioned to Georgina about the difficulty in selling his crafts due to the curtailment in tourist visitors is a reality and especially so because of the coronavirus threat globally.

It is a fact which the Solomon Islands government is aware of and raises in my mind the necessity of government, or the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) or a non-governmental organization, or even an established business stepping up to create the on line e-commerce website to assist local crafts people market and sell their well made and rather unique products to the waiting outside world.

Local craftsmen and women are deserving of support and should not become handicapped or desperate for basic income when e-commerce is the answer and when it would be so easy and in-expensive for an online store to be created to help all those like Peter facing hard times.

Where to start?  I’ll share with you some e-commerce advice.

There are simple ways to figure out how to sell online, and they all stem from the answers to three basic questions – why, what, and how?

But here’s a neat summary of everything you need to know about how to sell online.

When you learn how to sell online, any place in the world can become your office, and more often than not, you’ll end up working weekends, nights, and holidays.

The beauty of the online world is that you can get the business off the ground with very little initial investment.

With minimum overheads, such as paying for the hosting of your website and running some online ads, you can sell online and build a profitable business in just a few months. And it’s not some kind of fantasy.

Whereas physical shops are restricted to opening and closing times, online stores run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Start your initial research by casting a wide net. First, review the new and upcoming trends on online retail giants, such as eBay, Amazon, or Etsy. What are the month’s top picks, most favorite products, or best-selling items?

When you have a rough idea of what you want to sell online, it’s time to find a way to source these products for your online store. And one of the best places to look for drop shipping products is Oberlo. Give its ‘Product Statistics’ a thorough look, and you’re almost guaranteed to find something that meets your needs. Your next logical step is to choose high-margin products.

Oberlo has a handy tool called profit margin calculator that will give you a better idea of your options.

Again, sometimes the best ideas hide in plain sight. Why try to reinvent the wheel? Capitalizing on useful resources, such as Oberlo’s 100+ Best Products to Sell in 2020 ebook and ‘What to Sell’ section, is the ultimate shortcut to kicking off a successful online store. Don’t be discouraged from investing in a particular idea just because someone else is doing too – the online world is big enough for all hustlers.

Thanks to platforms like Shopify, setting up your website is easier than ever. You can take advantage of free trials and endless online resources to get it off the ground in just a few days. 

 An online store is almost free to set up, no initial investment means there are very few risks involved, and the factors determining your business’s success are entirely in your control. If you have the time and resources for going at it alone, then remember – sooner is better than later. 

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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