My trips to Kazakhstan were in the summers of 2001 and 2003. The first trip took me to Taldykorgan, a small regional city about 4 hours through the desert from Almaty. While unemployment was high, the city was under major construction to become the new Almaty regional center. Government officials would be moving there within the next few years with hopes of stimulating the local economy.

I met with the staff of the local branch of the Kazakhstan Community Loan Fund, a relatively new micro-lending organization set up with the assistance of USAID. KCLF had decided that they wanted to form an association of entrepreneurs in the clothing sector which would work with a segment of the population which was highly talented but unemployed and lacking capital resources: seamstresses.

The president of the Association, Praskovaya Kan, was eager to learn about marketing and wanted to rejuvenate the Association which had lost it's momentum and members. Her own story is quite interesting. When she was laid off from her government position, she started to look around for business ideas. A connoisseur of fine clothing herself, she realized that there was a potential niche for ready-made fine tailored locally produced women's clothing. She invested her savings and hired 2 seamstresses to design a variety of women's dresses and suits. With suitcase in hand, she went door to door building her business. With assistance from KCLF through the micro-lending program, Mrs. Kan has developed a highly effective small scale business.

Unfortunately, the unique characteristics of thetextile market in Kazakhstan made it unlikely that it would become a viable and effective member organization. I worked closely with Mrs. Kan, helping her develop her own mission statement, and planning short and long term objectives for her company. I worked with her seamstresses on team building and customer service, as well as time management.

In July 2003, I worked with the marketing manager of KCLF, doing market research into the textile industry of Almaty in particular. While KCLF does micro-lending, they have a long-term goal of developing actual manufacturing businesses in the city. However, their loan process doesn't support or offer the capital necessary for such development.

I enjoyed working with the people of Kazakhstan and learning more about their country and in particular, the unique aspects of the textile industry. Indeed, talented and innovative seamstresses and designers can be found in abundance. While most home seamstresses in the West rely on patterns, Kazakhs can imagine and design almost anything you want from scratch!

If you would like to know more about this industry in Kazakhstan, please contact me. Perhaps there is an e-business out there for someone!

Kazakhstan

A Case Study in the Textile Industry

Photographs from the Everyday Salon.

Praskovaya Kan and Laura Mack in tailor-made clothes from the shop.
Everyday Salon Shop and some of the ladies that work there.
Inside the shop with the sales staff.

 

The workshop and the staff during a seminar.