At Branch Out Market there are many ways we communicate with all our partners (aka suppliers). Most of the time email, whatsapp, skype, voice notes, etc work well. However, there comes a time when you really need to sit for a cup of coffee or tea.
This month I have had the pleasure of traveling to the other side of the world to revisit some of our existing partners and meet new ones.
Getting to visit in person has definite perks. Spending facetime with people shows you truly care about their people as well as their product, it gives you a chance to listen. Meeting face to face in Africa is also heavily weighted. Relationship building in a personal way is a big part of creating business relationships as well. One of the best lessons I learned while living hear the first time was to sit down and just partake in tea time. Yes, there are many things to do, but getting to know the people around you now will make asking them to respond to an email later much easier.
It has been an absolute pleasure to spend time with Alfred in Simonstown, see his shop, talk about different products he is making, and get to hear how his family is doing (which is harder to do through voice-notes). Walking together down the main road in we ran into ten or more people that all knew him by name. He smiles, waves, and asks how their day is going. The best part is, he is asking how it is going since the morning when he first greeted them. His warmth and generosity are contagious. We had a chance to talk about the coffee bar he wants to build in his shop, how it will look, what the advantages are, and when was I in a retail store with coffee last too. From one entrepreneur to another we brainstormed ideas and enjoyed a good laugh here and there too!
I also had a chance to meet new partners. I sent an inquiry through to Street Wires and asked if I could stop by. I told them a little about my project and what I am up to and they said to stop on by. I arrived a little early and despite that they were excited to show me around their workshop, meet their artisans, and learn how traditional beadwork is taken to the next level. I had a chance to talk to their sales and marketing team about how they cost products, receive orders, and manage a showroom of artwork. We spoke about their signature pieces, what sells well, and what they think best showcases their abilities. After speaking about their team of artists we walked through the store and explored how we could create a range for the American market. I explained what it would take from the US side and they understood as well. Then we sat at the big table and wrote up the order together. Just like sitting around a kitchen table we created a memory that will now be the foundation of our partnership.
I’m often asked at pop-up markets and conferences if I travel to purchase products. The honest answer is no. I travel to create the relationship. It helps to be able to buy in person but a lot of what we are doing is talking about how we can work together in the future and what I need to understand better to tell their story. It’s about getting in as many tea-time conversations as possible so that the order which follows later is received and then created with hope and joy which you will be able to feel through the product.
I hope you get a tea-time conversation today that helps turn a business colleague or partner into a friend.