Monday, September 20, 2010

Product Development

Today was a very special day because Leslie, the American importer who bought some of Dioss' cards, came to visit Dioss and Thies. She purchases leather goods from the artisanal village in Thies so we were her second stop of the day. I got to Dioss' early since I didn't know at exactly what time Leslie would be done with her first appointment so I got to talk to Dioss and the rest of his man posse for a while before Leslie and Abdou, her employee in Senegal and translator, arrived.

Unfortunately, the ship carrying Dioss' cards only just departed Senegal so Leslie hasn't seen what we sent her, but she really, really liked the samples that Dioss still had at his house. Hopefully she will be even more pleased when she receives the shipment. One of the really cool things about Leslie is she enjoys building relationships with her artisans, she works with over 50 individuals and groups throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and helps them with product development. While she really likes a lot of what Dioss does art is a difficult sell and glass is extremely difficult to ship so she came with some ideas about how we could expand our partnership.

Her big idea for Dioss was bookmarks. Leather bookmarks. I wont even pretend to understand the market for African goods in the US since almost everything here looks exactly the same to me. But, leather bookmarks with traditional painting are huge sellers on Leslie's site and all of the current products come from East Africa so Dioss' spin could be unique. She had an East African example to look at, but I'm very unsure about how Dioss feels about the project. Him being Senegalese he was of course polite and receptive, but I don't know how he feels about taking direction from Leslie yet. He was open to creating the market scenes on the cards for her, but that was more of an extension of what he already does. It was obvious that he was concerned about getting the primary material, the leather, for the project. Leslie and Abdou put him in contact with some of the people they know at the artisanal village in the hopes that he could use some of their scraps and there are two PCVs in the Thies region who work with leather workers so it is probably possible to get the leather.

It will definitely be interesting to see where this goes. Dioss told Leslie at the end of the meeting that he would try and see if he could get her some samples by the time she leaves, October 1. I'm going to try and go see him tomorrow because we both had to go after the meeting today and I couldn't get a read on him. Although Leslie has a translator and I was there to help, Dioss was still out of the loop at the meeting since Leslie was doing most of the talking and Abdou and I were the two who understood all three languages being used. If I was Dioss it would be disconcerting to see in a meeting about myself, but not understand everything that was going on. A strange experience to be sure.

The meeting was oddly exhausting and I've been ridiculously tired for apparently no reason lately so while I had a bunch of errands on my To Do list for this afternoon I ended up taking a long nap. I suck. In my defense it did rain for a while which makes it difficult to do anything and I was sucked into my family's general bad mood. No one was happy today. My mom and Khady are both sick and Big Ahmed had another diabetes episode this morning which put everyone on edge. Tomorrow rain or shine I must run my errands.


  1. We are all holding our breath for Dioss. I'm glad you recognize how difficult this must all be to can help him process.

  2. Alyssa,

    Very exciting, go slow with Dioss and see if some of his posse can get involved and assist him. Hopefully he sees the value of the relationship and finances.