DTI-CITEM arms artisans and SMEs to make it global amid pandemic

DTI-CITEM in partnership with ByHand Consulting and Project Ripple PH spearheaded a live webinar to gear up Filipino exporters in finding opportunities despite the downturn brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sudden effects of COVID-19 might have challenged how the world does business, but Filipino artisans are ready to turn this threat into an opportunity.

The Filipino lifestyle community gathered today to listen and learn from a live webinar spearheaded by the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI’s) export promotion arm, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). The latter tapped international expert and ByHand Consulting Co-Founder Karen Gibbs to share actionable insights that can be harnessed to our exporters’ advantage even during this global pandemic.

Gibbs shared that the global handmade market is the hardest hit right now, stressing that the retail brick and mortar store model will likely find it difficult to survive in this economic landscape. However, she also emphasized that there is a silver lining amidst all of this. “Confidence in the market will always bounce back and the consumers will not go away. It is just a matter of finding new ways to get to them,” Gibbs shared.

To address this, Gibbs outlined what US retailers are doing right now that can be adapted in the international marketplace. First and foremost, it is high time to invest in digital and engage customers with interesting and relevant stories and content. She also underlined the importance of product innovation or creating new products that are appropriate with the times, like products for safety, for workspaces at home, for fun activities, or Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits, and self-care and comfort items.

The webinar also highlighted that the pandemic is ushering in a new era of responsibility and that consumers are making the big shift towards sustainability. Diversification of the market can also be expected, meaning specialty handmade products may get more attention.

“The key to achieving this and the priority for global artisans now is to really connect and relate to your customers, Gibbs said.

“Create a brand identity that will tie together your different digital tools like a website, email and social media strategy that will effectively reach out and touch the hearts of your clients,” she added.

Karen Gibbs, Co-founder of ByHand Consulting and guest speaker at the recently concluded CITEM Webinar.

ByHand Consulting is known for helping global artisan industries in building relationships, strengthening entrepreneurial skills, expanding markets, promoting craft traditions and increasing sales of handmade products. With an extensive network in the US home décor and fashion accessories markets and around the world with innovative artisan brands, ByHand Consulting offers a portfolio of marketing and coaching programs to equip global artisan entrepreneurs with the knowledge, strategies and connections to grow their businesses.




Gibbs was joined by a design panel composed of Filipino artisans such as Zacarias 1925’s Creative Director Rita Nazareno, Industrial Designer Stanley Ruiz, and E. Murio’s Tisha de-Borja Samson.

They shared how their respective companies are coping in these challenging times and answered questions from the live audience.

“My key takeaway and what I want to instill in our local exporters from today’s session is that it is essential to forge ahead and be innovative in this time of uncertainty. Rise to the challenge by offering honest and authentic content and taking advantage of the digital frontier,” said CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan.

“CITEM is mandated to promote the Philippines’ export goods and services through signature events and country participations in overseas trade fairs. Included in our roster are Manila FAME, IFEX Philippines: NXTFOOD ASIA, CREATE Philippines, and the Sustainability Solutions Expo (SSX). But as most of our events are deferred to next year while some are still in wait-and-see mode, we want to continually empower the manufacturing and export community that we serve,” Suaco-Juan shared.

“By using the digital landscape to our advantage, we can convey a valuable message across. Today, we heard how the world’s biggest markets such as the United States are responding to the challenges set by this global pandemic. It is up to us now how we will strive and adapt to these changes,” said Suaco-Juan.

The webinar is a first of many to be expected from DTI-CITEM as the agency works on ways to gear up MSMEs and artisan communities while following the “new normal” measures set by the government.

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CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan.

“Aside from tapping digital platforms, we are working together with key institutions, innovators and resource speakers to encourage growth through learning and business collaboration among our stakeholders. These stakeholders include creatives, influencers, fashion icons and design experts whom Manila FAME has been working with for years—decades even—in promoting the Philippines to the world,” Suaco-Juan added.

Manila FAME, CITEM’s flagship trade show for the Philippine lifestyle and design industries, is scheduled from October 15-17, 2020. An online counterpart—a digital trade and community platform—will launch this October alongside the physical show.

To stay up to date on the latest e-learning opportunities and government support programs, Filipino exporters and MSMEs are encouraged to follow Manila FAME through their social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or visit www.manilafame.com.

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