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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

UP & RUNNING

Small businesses can bridge worlds

By Roger Pierce
www.bizlaunch.ca


Importing hard-to-get items from faraway lands can be a great small business, as entrepreneur Petra Noyes has proven. "Ostrich eggs are not an everyday item, which makes our business very unique," she says.
Connect worlds by importing one-of-a-kind products to Canada, suggests Petra Noyes. Her company promotes the exceptional talents of African artisans.


Noyes owns AfriCharisma (www.africharisma.com), a company that imports and distributes African art, crafts and fashion pieces to Canadian retailers. Her colourful business handles hundreds of hand-made items including African fertility dolls, metal art lamps and bowls woven from recycled telephone wire.

Originally from South Africa, Noyes identified an interest among Canadian retailers for arts and crafts from her homeland. "African art is popular because it really awakens the soul with its earthy vibrancy," Noyes says. "I love bringing the spirit of Africa to Canada through my business."

Noyes is proud that her company helps people in her homeland. Many of her crafts come from South African community development projects. "I've always felt strongly that underprivileged yet artistically talented South African women and African people -- especially those living with AIDS -- deserve to earn their living with dignity," she says.

She cautions other would-be importers to expect many headaches. Noyes must arrange shipments of odd-shaped pieces from remote locations, deal with fluctuating currency exchange rates and government red tape.

"To handle these types of technicalities, a small business owner must develop really good problem-solving skills," Noyes says.

After selling some investments to finance her start-up, Noyes has been in business for 20 years. She says the best part of being an entrepreneur is "the freedom to sleep in whenever you want -- but there's not many days that I do!"

She promotes her products through her website, select galleries and large retailer gift shows such as the Toronto International Gift Fair. AfriCharisma's products are currently on exhibit until March 28 at Metalurge, located at 1225 Yonge St.

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

www.bizlaunch.ca





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