December 5, 2003

A World of Multicultural Gifts Comes to San Diego

The home-based business phenomenon of the 1990’s gave birth to a new category of businesses in the year 2000 – micro-enterprise. Of the estimated two million micro-entrepreneurs in the US, the majority are female, minority, and fairly well educated. A significant number of these businesses are owned by those who fall into the low-income, working poor, or welfare recipient category. And it is these businesses that help move many of them out of public assistance and above the poverty line.

Most micro-entrepreneurs are engaged in selling retail products or services. The Small Business Administration estimates that 60 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years. However, studies indicate only 43 percent of micro-enterprises (companies with less than five employees) fail.

The risk for micro-entrepreneurs differs significantly from their small business counterparts. Most have little overhead and can operate their companies from home, even as a part-time, supplemental job.

Into this emerging category of industry comes Where the World Meets: Culturally Unique Gifts. Located at Market Creek Plaza, near the corner of Market Street and Euclid Avenue, Where the World Meets is a showcase for micro-entrepreneurs. What sets this store apart is the offering of one of San Diego’s best selections of culturally-inspired gifts, many made by local residents.

At opening, the store will feature the work of 28 local artisans, as well as gift items imported from around the world. Products will range from as little as $5 to as much as $1,000. Merchandise will reflect the distinct cultures of the communities surrounding the Plaza: African-American, Hispanic, Laotian, Samoan, Somalian and Native American.

“My parents taught me to honor all of my grandmothers,” said Michael Cheatham, one of the artisans in Where the World Meets. “This is how I keep their memory alive.”

Cheatham makes beautiful copper and silver jewelry reflective of his Native American roots. He’s one of 28 local micro-entrepreneurs whose wares make up the unique collection at Where the World Meets.

For local craftsmen and women, this store is an opportunity to venture outside the home and sell their products in a high-profile, high-traffic location without the risk and overhead of traditional business ownership. Spaces as small as a shelf or tabletop can grow with the artisan to a cart, kiosk or even full retail space.

Similar to a cooperative arrangement, each merchant will pay a minimal rent for space in the store. A small percentage of their sales will help cover expenses such as tags, wrappings, and packaging.

“It’s the perfect way to support microenterprise,” said Jennifer Vanica, president and CEO of the Jacobs Family Foundation and Jacobs Center for NonProfit Innovation. “Opening a store can be overwhelming, and the risk is tremendous. This store provides the venue to expose their product to a larger market. It includes the structure and support to grow their businesses from a supplementary to major portion of their income, if that is their goal.”

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