An Inside Look with Maribel Cedillo of Artemateria: Making Sustainable US Connections
Maribel Cedillo (middle) receives her Market Readiness Program™ certificate from Carol MacNulty (right), managing consultant for the MRP, and Bill Kruvant (left), president of Creative Learning
Brought together by their childhood memories of growing up in Mexico City, three friends, Maribel Cedillo, Dalia Lerner, and Gemma Martinez Solis, living in the Chicago area began Artemateria two years ago to help artisans from their home country.
Despite their different backgrounds, they share a passion for design, business, social conscience, and most of all, a deep appreciation for Mexican traditional crafts. Together, they created Artemateria to connect artisans from small villages to design professionals and finish their products in the US within their own community.
Last August, Maribel, Gemma, and Dalia 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. They also exhibited their products at the ATA booth at NY NOW™ last year and this past February.
Recently, ATA sat down with one of the co-founders, Maribel, to discuss her experience at the MRP, exhibiting twice at ATA’s booth, and what Artemateria has currently been working on.
Artemateria pillows for ABC Carpet & Home.
What has Artemateria been up to since last August?
One of our goals was to exhibit at NY NOW so when ATA invited us to exhibit in their booth, we were thrilled. Being able to exhibit our products at the booth last August and again this past February was a huge moment for us and helped us expose our brand. Through this opportunity, we made orders with contacts that we met like ABC Carpets, who liked our pillows, and Anthropologie, who were interested in our natural fiber line. Those two were the target customers that we really wanted so we were very excited to learn that they liked our products. Of course, it was a lot of work to get that going but it was very rewarding.
How did you hear about the MRP?
We wanted to work with the women in Chiapas so we made some connections with people we knew in Mexico. A friend of Dalia’s told her about ATA. After doing some research online, we found out that ATA has a project in Chiapas. We were instantly excited. We wanted to get that connection that the MRP provides. We decided that it was very important that the three of us participate in it to make sure we’re on the right track.
Artemateria founders pose with the participants from the ATA Mexico project in Chiapas
(left to right: Gemma Martinez Solis, Francisco Marcolino Sanchez Hernandez, Dalia Lerner,
Maria Margarita Hernandez Perez, Maribel Cedillo, and Cecilia Gomez Diaz
Tell us about your experience at the MRP?
The three of us loved the program. Learning about the different business terms was very helpful because when you’re an artisan or a company working with artisans, you’re expected to know the language that the people in the business use. One of the most valuable and important experience we got was networking and connecting with the people who have been in the industry longer. They were approachable and helpful by giving us feedback about our products.
What specific topic did you find most valuable learning about?
I liked the presentation that Carol MacNulty, the MRP Managing Consultant, gave about the export distribution channels. At first, it was confusing because each country has different laws but Carol was able to break it down to something that we could understand. It helped us understand the importance each player in the process and what role you fall in. It gave us a clear understanding more of who we are, what we are doing, and who our target market is.
Maribel, Gemma, and Dalia receive product reviews from Todd Hall (3form),
one of the buyers on the Buyers’ Panel.
Why would recommend the MRP to small business owners like yourself?
The MRP gives you an opportunity to learn the US market. In the program, you meet so many different classmates in different stages of the process. You can compare yourself to different companies and learn from them and see if you’re ready or not. During the Buyers’ Panel, you have a chance to hear other experts’ experiences and share your own. It’s intimidating because you realize the magnitude of the whole process and the challenges that you’re facing but it’s always good to know.
What’s next for Artemateria?
We’re still working very hard with the artisans and coming up with new designs and colors. Now that we have enough exposure to the industry, we’re going to focus on finding out what the US market likes. Figuring out what’s not selling too well is one of our most important tasks. After exhibiting last August and February, we’re hoping to be exhibiting again at NY NOW this coming August now that we have more customers. We’ve come a long way since then. Last year, I remember Maud telling us that we need purchase order forms and we didn’t have them. Now we know what to do; we’ve made purchase order forms, invoices, and so on. The MRP pushed us to grow. It was our starting point to make things happen.