Since Jon and I moved here to Nicaragua, we’ve been on the hunt for local handmade products to incorporate into our business plan. We’ve searched through many markets in southern Nicaragua, in the streets, in stores and on the beach. There were many beautiful items being produced here, but the price wasn’t right.
We wanted to get to the heart of where all Nicaraguan handmade products were being created–we had to get to the source. After months of searching and talking to both vendors as well as our local friends, we found that the area where most handmade items were being created in was around the small northern Nicaraguan town called Masaya. Fortunately for us, Masaya was just 20 minutes away from where we were staying in Laguna de Apoyo.
We began our northern Nicaragua search for products in Los Pueblos Blancos (The White Towns), which were the small towns between Laguna de Apoyo and Masaya. These little towns were known for their beautiful handmade furniture. The furniture vendors were all on the side of the street, so we pulled over and just walked up and down the side of the road. The furniture was amazing. Vendors sold everything from wooden rocking chairs (a Nicaraguan specialty apparently) to large wooden couches to wooden armoires with beautiful carved details and lovely dark wood dining tables.
Although we were very impressed with the unique furniture, it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Jon and I always talk about how we’d rather make 5 nickels than a quarter. In other words, we’d rather sell 5 small things that equal a quarter instead of selling one big thing that sells for a quarter. Not only is it much easier to sell those five things than just one big expensive thing, but when issues arise, it’s much easier to solve them when it’s about something small. So we headed out to the next town over, San Juan de Oriente.
We had read that San Juan de Oriente was a town that specialized in handmade pottery and was a spot we couldn’t miss. This was a place where handmade pottery and sculptures had been a large part of the locals’ culture for centuries. The artists took great pride in their work and it showed.
We walked into a little store on the side of the road that was filled from wall to wall with various colorful pottery items. I loved the eclectic and colorful serving bowls and plates scattered throughout the shelves. Each dish was one of a kind. There were also statues, vases, mugs and anything else you could think of to make with clay.
The price was right for the unique, one of a kind dish ware. Stuff like this sells in the States for more than 5 times what they were selling here in Nicaragua. The issues, however, were that they were very fragile so shipping could be a problem we didn’t want to deal with. The other thing was that neither of us knew, nor really cared about pottery.
Our target market is 15-30 years and the vast majority of that age group wouldn’t dish out hundreds of dollars for a handmade bowl. I mean, Jon and I would probably either hit up Target, Ikea or Goodwill if we needed new dishes. So, although the pottery was amazing, it wasn’t our product. Time to move onto the big town, Masaya.