An Inside Look with Adriana Guzman: Getting the Industry’s Inside Scoop (MRP Alumni Edition)

An Inside Look with Adriana Guzman: Getting the Industry’s Inside Scoop

adriana with bill and carol
Adriana Guzman (middle) receives her Market Readiness Program™ certificate from Carol MacNulty (right), managing consultant for the MRP, and Bill Kruvant (left), president of Creative Learning

Outside the walls of the New York City public school system where Adriana Guzman worked as an art teacher, was a world waiting to be explored. After graduating from Pratt Institute with a degree in Communication Design and a minor in Art Education and working as a teacher, Adriana decided to volunteer abroad. However, it wasn’t until she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco to work with artisans when she realized that’s what she wanted to do.

After spending more than two years working with Moroccan artisans on product design and small business development, Adriana went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Intercultural Service Leadership and Management to get a theoretical background in international and economic development.

Last August, Adriana participated in the Market Readiness Program™ (MRP), a 4 ½ day program that provides intensive preparation for entry into the US market and vital information for building successful export businesses, along other 26 participants from around the world. The MRP is designed for international artisan producers, designers, exporters and craft-based organization leaders.

After six months, ATA sat down with Adriana to catch up and discuss what she has been up to since then and how the MRP has helped her as a student.

Adriana helps out at the Mushmina booth at Artisan Resource

What have you been up to since the MRP last August?

Besides still going to school, I was able to connect with a great company called Mushmina. It was started by a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco before I was there. I learned about them while I was in Morocco as a good example of a start-up company that a volunteer started with the community and still exists today. They were hiring for a sales position in New York for different shows, like the Grand Central Gift Fair and NY NOW. Since I was able to tell the story of their products, they thought I was a good fit to work with them. I thought it’d be interesting to do sales since it’s another branch of the industry, another perspective of how to share this work and help the artisans even if it’s not product development. It was a learning experience for me. It took me back to the MRP, thinking of all the different aspects of how people have different roles in the industry. It’s really a team effort.

How did you hear about the MRP?

I was put in contact with Maud Mabika, senior manager of ATA programs, through a mutual friend. My friend and I were talking about places that I’d be interested in working for. I kept saying the word artisan. He asked if I’ve ever heard of Aid to Artisans and I said, “Yes, they’re my dream organization.” He got me in touch with her. After a few conversations with her, she realized that being on the field and working with directly with artisans would be a better fit for me rather than sitting in the office as an intern. At the moment, I just wanted to work for Aid to Artisans because I was so excited. But it totally makes sense. Maud was the one who convinced me to go to the MRP. I’m so grateful for her because, financially, it wasn’t realistic for me to go. Somehow, she was the one who found the scholarship and made it happen.

Adriana works with fellow MRP participant, Angela Aldave, on their group presentation

Tell us about your experience at the MRP.

It was definitely a wonderful overview of the industry for someone who does not work in the industry, like me. In a way, I felt like an oddball because I’m still a student compared to the other participants but at the same time I was getting an overview and a new perspective that’s not accessible to everyone. It was really humbling that I was able to experience it from the kindness of Aid to Artisans. Being able to interact with the professionals in the industry when we worked in our groups and presentations was a great experience. The whole time I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, this is the inside scoop!”

What were some key elements that you took away that you could apply to your own practices?

Learning about trends was interesting. It’s something that I remember from being at school about how trends are important. When I was working with the women in Morocco, I mentioned the differences in tastes among cultures and how they’re drawn to certain colors and why. Learning why certain trends are in style, how it’s developed and projected so early on was very fascinating. It’s a good thing to consider in our work.

Mimi Robinson, an MRP consultant guides Adriana and Angela through a tour of NYNOW

Why would you recommend the MRP to people who are interested in working in artisan sector or student like yourself?

I think it’s the best way to get a concise overview of the industry. Whether you’re interested in one particular area or another, you’re going to learn about everything. What I took from it was how important it is to be aware of how these elements impact each other. If you’re a designer doing product development, you can’t have a successful product if you don’t have a team to sell or market it. The MRP exposes you to all of the steps to make a successful product and business. We also focus on specific topics during the presentations and activities.

What’s the next step for you?

Graduating. Getting this thesis out of the way. I’m also moving in two weeks to Belize. I’m going to be working with nonprofit organizations on how to use creative tools in their day-to-day work. These nonprofits focus on water conservation but they’re very interested in incorporating the arts into their programs and the way they approach things. I’m excited. That will hopefully help me finish school while I’m working. Ideally, I would like to be in the artisan industry, definitely doing some sort of product development directly with artisans through a nonprofit like Aid to Artisans.