Tips for Becoming an Online Entrepreneur: Owning a Jewelry Store

Today's I Want to Be features Tracey Krause, who is a Canadian currently working and living in Ecuador.  In 2012, she moved with her husband and two kids to Cotacachi, a leather making town in the Andes mountains.  

Since she and her husband had children, it has been their goal as parents to move with their children to another country to show them a different culture, learn a new language, and share some adventures.  She says Ecuador has been a wonderful choice.  They have enjoyed exploring its mountains, rainforest and lovely beaches.  

While in Ecuador, Tracey has also been pursuing her passions to work in fair trade and to help preserve the rainforest and has been able to combine that with her love of all things handmade through her shop, Artisans in the Andes.   Find out how to connect with Tracey at the end of this article.

How long have you had your business?

The website for Artisans in the Andes went live in December of 2012. Since then it has grown a great deal from a tiny shop with only a few offerings to one with a wide selection of the best tagua and acai jewelry. 
What led you to pursue it?

Initially I came to Ecuador to pursue my dream of helping women start their own businesses, most likely through microfinance. When I got to Ecuador, I found that there was a microfinance bank on every corner and that debt had become a significant problem amongst the local poor. Microfinance wasn't a good fit for me.

After settling here and learning about the culture and business practices, I started to see that there are many women working very hard for very little return. The lack of education and low access to technological advancements has kept artisans from expanding their businesses. My purpose in starting Artisans in the Andes is to give local artisans access to the worldwide market and to ensure that they get fair prices for their beautiful work. Artisans in the Andes gives the artisans involved a way to jump over the hurdles they face in expanding their business and making it profitable.  

I am also very interested in the environment and specifically the Amazon rainforest. Most of the items that I offer on Artisans are made from seeds and nuts that are sustainably sourced from the Amazon. People harvesting tagua trees, for example, make more money per acre than burning or cutting down the rainforest for alternative purposes such as raising crops or animals. 

Artisans in the Andes combines my passions for helping the poor, the environment and handmade crafts - I can't believe I got it all into one business!

Are you full time or part time?  If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?

I work part time on Artisans, about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. I also am raising two kids, learning Spanish and involved in a local charity that gives scholarships to children of the poorest families. Throw in a little traveling and new friends, and I am pretty busy. At this point I don't anticipate switching to full time, but I am not ruling it out as the business grows. I would also consider taking on a local partner and training her. 

How do you market your business?

Marketing is the most difficult aspect of the business for me so far, and I am a long way from mastering it. Right now I am going through a process of trying a variety of different things and then evaluating what works best. 

I am quite active on social media, especially Twitter and Pinterest. I am working with Google Adwords. I have started a blog ( with the hope of connecting to people with similar interests to me. There are many people who are interested in green products and fair trade, and I am hoping to interest them in goods beyond coffee and cleaning products.

What is your favorite part of the business?

I love to work with the artisans, learn about their lives, and meet their families. I enjoy seeing the new work and learning about the processes involved. I am often saddened by the deep poverty, but also uplifted by an artisan's dignity, hope, and craftsmanship.

What one question do you get most from people about your business? 

I often get asked how I find my artisans. But that came together easily. I have a deep passion for handmade, handcrafted items. I live in a small town in the Andes of Ecuador, surrounded by artisan villages. Each village/town has its own specialty. Cotacachi's specialty is leather work, and I offer leather bracelets from a local leather worker. Another town specializes in tagua, and I work with several artisans there.

What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do?

People have said that I must be very brave and have a huge risk tolerance, to move to another country and start a business. I don't see it that way at all. I am pretty ordinary with fears and anxiety like everybody else. I refuse to let fear stop me from living a life consistent with my dreams and ethics.

What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?

Get started! Take at least one step, even if it's really small, everyday. Accept that some steps will be mistakes and learn from them. Starting a business can be very fast and inexpensive these days. If you would like to import goods from Ecuador, contact me, and we can see if we can come up with some ideas.

What is the first step? 

The first step is to identify your own unique beliefs and passions, then start moving your life in a direction that is consistent with them. 

What websites or books do you recommend for tips?

Steve Chou from has been a tremendous resource and mentor for me.

You can learn more about what Tracey does at her website, Artisan in the Andes, and on her bog, The Earth Friendly Family.  You can also find her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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