Volunteer Stories

Haoua Cheick Seip: Artisans Achieving Economic Independence

Haoua Cheick Seip empowers women artisans.
  • Story Snapshot

  • Country: Ghana, Benin, Swaziland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Lesotho
  • VEGA Lead Member: International Executive Service Corps (IESC)
  • Objective: To train artisans to access markets and develop export-quality products
Haoua Cheick Seip

Haoua Cheick Seip

Haoua Cheick Seip
Founder, African Creations
Location: Portland, OR
Career Summary: Haoua Cheick Seip is the founder of African Creations, a wholesaler of handmade African products with a mission to help female artisans achieve economic independence and preserve cultural heritage through creation and sale of traditional crafts. As a consultant and entrepreneur, she has linked artisans in 15 African countries to the U.S. market. Haoua earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Leadership and is a recipient of the International Business Program Award of Portland Community College.
Area(s) of Expertise: Marketing, sales, consulting, entrepreneurship
Education: BS, Business and Leadership, Marylhurst University
Certificate, Business and Management, Marylhurst University
Language(s) Spoken: English

ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW
Name of project: Artisans Achieving Economic Independence
Volunteer Assignment and Impact: Haoua has volunteered with IESC five times since 2004, making trips to Ghana, Benin, Swaziland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Lesotho to train artisans to access markets and develop export-quality products.

In 2012, she traveled to Sri Lanka to advise the development of the Sri Lanka Peace Collection, an initiative to assist war widows in traditional handloom textile weaving centers by creating a competitive brand for international markets.

Sri Lanka is working to repair the devastation of its 30-year armed conflict, and remedy the economic disparities that helped inflame animosity. Particular emphasis has been placed on income generation for women widowed by the war. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce, working with the Academy of Design and supported by UNESCO and USAID, created an initiative to connect weaving centers in the Northern and Eastern districts to international markets. Named the Sri Lanka Peace Collection, the initiative is introducing traditional handloom weavers to newer designs and products in demand in international markets.

In 2012, Haoua received VEGA’s ‘Diaspora of the Year’ Award for her service.

Haoua Cheick Seip assisting artisans at the Kao Lanka plant.

Haoua Cheick Seip assisting artisans at the Kao Lanka plant.

Haoua and the Advisor to the Minister for Commerce and Industry toured the northern and eastern provinces to introduce the program and assess the weaving centers’ production capacity. She trained artisans in the basics of international design, quality, specification requirements, product trends and price mechanisms. The Ministry is allocating funds to upgrade the 21 centers.

With her knowledge of the U.S. market, Haoua advised and helped to develop marketing materials including: product packaging and labeling; descriptive literature; a catalog to circulate among potential U.S. buyers; a questionnaire to help beneficiaries practice their sales approach; and an island-wide marketing campaign. She advised the Ministry on meetings with potential U.S. buyers and recommended establishing a sales outlet in Colombo, a catalogue for display in tourist hotels and a promotional campaign directed toward hotel managers.