Sunday, February 9, 2014

Artisan Morocco - Shop Anou

Our time as Peace Corps Volunteers in Morocco is coming to an end. We will complete our service on Friday, May 23rd – 2 years to the day from when we took our oath to serve way back on May 23rd, 2012. On May 23rd we will fly to Turkey where we will spend some time in Istanbul before going to Ankara to visit my AFS host brother and his family. After that we will travel to Amsterdam where we have rented an apartment that comes with two bicycles!  On Friday June 6th we depart Amsterdam and will arrive Home - Sweet Home. One leg of our Peace Corps journey will be over, but that does not mean that the journey is complete. Our Peace Corps experience will last a lifetime!

As we reflect on our experience Arie and I have been talking a lot about all the things we are going to miss (or not miss) about Morocco when we leave. Arie will especially miss going to souk – the local farmers market – where he enthusiastically buys local produce and farm fresh eggs twice a week. He gets so excited about the delicious local treasures he finds there! We both will miss our little desert community – it has been so welcoming and kind. And of course we will miss our host family and our host siblings. Morocco is a beautiful country rich in culture, with kind and welcoming people and endless mountains, coastlines, and oases to explore. We have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and serve in such a amazing country!

One thing that I will miss most about Morocco is the beautiful hand made Moroccan crafts that can be found all over the country (and sometimes hiding on a side street in a little town). Some people may know this already, but I LOVE TO SHOP. I was trained from an early age by my mother, aunts, and grandmothers to be a good shopper. I grew up shopping at local boutiques, thrift stores, antique shops, garage sales, craft shows, and flea markets. I have developed an eye for quality and creativity, and I especially love high-quality hand-made products and bold, unique, creative items. So obviously Morocco was the most perfect place for me to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This country is full of gorgeous artisan products. Have you noticed that in America right now Moroccan style and design is so popular? Have you noticed that Moroccan products are very trendy and are being sold at outrageously high prices in high end catalogs and boutiques?  People are starting to recognize the magic and beauty of Morocco!

This leads me to the highlight of this blog post. Family, friends, and readers – meet Anou! Anou is an online marketplace supporting a community of Moroccan artisans who sell their products directly to the consumer at an affordable fair-trade price. Anou was started by a Peace Corps Volunteer and continues to be supported by Peace Corps Volunteers who work in collaboration with the Moroccan artisans. Currently Peace Corps Volunteers are training and preparing the artisans to completely take over and lead the Anou store on their own. This is an important facet of Peace Corps development work – ideally all Peace Corps led projects can and will become sustainable on their own without a Peace Corps presence. The PCV who started Anou explains: Anou represents a fundamental shift in the fair-trade industry. Instead of asking how organizations can help, we ask how can we build a resilient community of artisans where outside help and fair-trade organizations are no longer needed.” You can learn about how Anou's platform works here:

Why Shop Anou?

Anou is excellent for so many reasons – not only does it support Moroccan artisans country-wide, but it offers the consumer beautiful hand-crafted items at reasonable prices. Anou also offers free shipping all the way to the US (and Europe) - and not only free shipping but also free returns. If you are not satisfied with your item, you can send it back and receive a refund and you will be refunded the cost of shipping. To date Anou has had only one return. Here is what they say about returns: “Anou’s success thus far has been built on the idea that experience is the best teacher. Artisans don’t necessarily suffer from a lack of training, but rather a lack of experience. The more meaningful experiences artisans have, the better they will become at their craft and the more successful they will be. That is why we’ve made sure to make it as easy as possible for customers to return their products. While returns can be costly, we consider it a necessary expense to build the experience needed so artisans can thrive.”

 Custom Orders

Another feature Anou offers is the ability to search by individual artisans or artisan groups. A shopper can search for all items made by the same group or by a specific person. One can also view previously made items that have sold and place a custom order if they see a particular item or color or motif they like. Last October Anou noticed: “that a significant amount of sales on the Anou store...came from custom orders. The most common custom orders were requests to change a product’s size and the second most common were requests for multiples of the same product. The third, but less frequent custom orders, were requests to change the colors of the product.” Offering the customer a personalized experience is a unique benefit of this shopping model.

The Personal Experience

A personalized shopping experience is not the only opportunity offered by Anou. The opportunity to have a personal shopping experience also exists on the site. Customers can connect to each product they are searching or purchasing because each product comes with a photo and bio of the person who hand crafted it as well as information on the materials and techniques that went into creating the product.

Support Communities

Anou not only brings the beauty of Morocco to your home but also the hearts and hands of the Moroccan people who give love and time to each item they make. One way Arie and I will continue to connect to Morocco, its people, and artisan crafts will be through Anou. When we need a special gift or a new rug, we will turn to Anou first. So please take a moment to look at the beautiful hand crafted items on the site, and the next time you need a gift or a new rug for your home please consider supporting the artisans of Morocco by shopping with Anou!
What does Anou mean?
"Anou means a well of water in Tashelheet, the language spoken in the Ait Bouguemez valley of Morocco. Water wells serve as the center and source of growth of the communities that populate the valley."
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