Summer 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW1

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Marketing: An Essential Link


Betty Feather
State Textile and Apparel Management Specialist
University Extension
University of Missouri-Columbia

Alma J. Owen
State Home Economics Specialist
Lincoln University Cooperative Extension
Jefferson City, Missouri

Edie Pigg
Home-Based Business Committee
Missouri Alternatives of the 80s
University of Missouri-Columbia

People engaged in home-based businesses are often challenged to find markets for their products and services. The Home-Based Business Committee of Missouri's Alternatives for the 80s, a task force aimed at strengthening the state's rural economy, set out to help some Missourians with a marketing strategy. The committee noted that crafts is a major home-based business activity,1 one that could prove instrumental in supplementing farm incomes, and that mail order catalogs are today's fastest growing retail market.

Combining these needs and opportunities, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University, and University Extension published the Best of Missouri's Hands, a 208-page retail and wholesale catalog featuring the work of 178 Missouri artisans.

Working with Artisans

As we communicated by telephone and mail with those whose work was selected for the catalog, it became apparent this was an audience in need of educational help to be successful entrepreneurs.

A series of fact sheets, based on their questions, were developed so they could respond to sales opportunities. These have since been published in University Extension guidesheet format. Topics include: "Pricing Your Products," "Shipping and Packaging Merchandise," "Working with Retail and Wholesale Consumers," "Sales Tax," "Record Keeping," and "Handling Consumer Complaints."

A videotape focusing on legal concerns, business organization, marketing issues, and combining family with home business was produced and made available through Missouri county Extension offices, as well as having been sold to more than 30 states.

Networking is viewed essential to the artisans' success. A conference timed to coincide with the release of the catalog brought the artisans together and allowed them to hone their marketing skills by participating in workshops and consulting with professionals. The conference concluded with a reception and display of works, which was covered by the media. The networking process continues through a newsletter.

Benefits for Artisans, Extension, and University

Eighty-five percent of the 178 artisans featured in the catalog live in struggling farm communities. First-quarter evaluations revealed that 30% of those reporting had had sales, no one category reported more significant sales than another, and more orders were received for items under $100.

National and international market contacts are emerging. Ten artisans were invited to St. Louis for a product identification show sponsored by the Missouri Department of Agriculture with a major Japanese department store.

Recognition of the success of this venture has come to Extension and the university through considerable press coverage, including The Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and many other national newspapers and magazines.

Breaking down campus, college, and departmental barriers, the Home-Based Business Committee demonstrated that multicampus, interdisciplinary groups can take action to help Missourians improve their economic status.


1. Marion Behr and Wendy Lazar, Women Working Home (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: WWH Press, 1983), pp. 184-85.