Welcome to Folk Art - Handmade Souvenir Shop Supporting Azerbaijani Artisans since 2010
Where is Folk Art? Baku / Old City Gesr Street 15 (next to Shirvanshakh Palace)
Где находится магазин "Folk Art" ? Баку / Старый город. Улица Геср 15 (около Дворца Ширваншахов)
HISTORY and MISSION
In the summer of 2009, Normisjon’s representative organization Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise (NHE) sought permission from the Commission for International Humanitarian Assistance under the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan to survey the needs of home-based businesses under the project proposal “Cottage Industry Promotion Project.” The main goal of this proposal was to determine the needs of home-based business owners in western Azerbaijan. The survey determined that the greatest needs were for training and marketing.In order to meet these needs, the NHE project staff moved their base of operation in 2010 to the Old City, right next to Maiden’s Tower, and opened a store front under the name “Enchanted Cottage.” Here the project staff was able to take products from producers in the regions, receive market feedback, and provide a return on the sale to assist the producers. At the same time and for the benefit of the producers and the community, the operations were governed by “FairTrade” business principles.
In 2013 external funding was coming to an end, and the project was ready to consider becoming an official Limited Liability Company (LLC). In order to serve the network of over 150 producers, investors helped to transform the project into a sustainable business. This transition was not easy as it occurred during an economic downturn and it became necessary to move the project out of the Old City and into a temporary location. As the business plan was being prepared, there were a lot of options on the table and the future of the project was not certain.
After a lengthy process in 2014, a strategic partnership was formed with Chiraq bookstore that enabled the project to continue and to find its place in the market. It was during this transition that that the LLC was founded, and the project changed its name to “Folk Art.”
The partnership with Chiraq had mixed results. It provided a stable location and allowed the newly formed LLC to combine café services with authentic, unique gifts. But Folk Art still did not have access to their customers as they had in the Old City. Because sales were not as strong as had been predicted, the owners considered closing the project all together and took a pause for 3 months to carefully consider the need in the market and the ability to continue.
After the break, it was clear from our producer network that we were serving them and that they had the will to help us continue the business. In 2016, the business was moved back to the Old City and opened as an Art Boutique under the leadership of Zenfira Mahmudov, the original project assistant from 2009. Even though the space was very small, Zenfira, as owner-director, created a warm, friendly feel with high quality, unique gifts from a network of producers from all over Azerbaijan. A new round of funding was acquired, and there was a renewed will to celebrate the beautiful creations of the Azerbaijani people.
Unfortunately, in 2019 this store front location was sold to developers, and Folk Art was once again required to move temporally. With the business in the balance once again, a new partnership with an American investor provided this stable location for the Folk Art team to continue to demonstrate their love for the people of Azerbaijan by providing beautiful, high quality, unique gifts to the many visitors through the business principles of Fair Trade.
So look around and see what treasures you might find that you can take with you to share your love for the people of Azerbaijan with those back at home, thereby assisting Folk Art in continuing to help those artisans in the regions that have little to no access to the many guests of Azerbaijan.