Review of My Internship Experience at Comparte

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The reason I moved to Santiago, Chile was for an internship experience at the Fair Trade Artisan Cooperative — Comparte. To be honest, I didn’t know a ton about what my experience would be like until I arrived. Here is my review of my internship experience.

Overview of my Internship

For my internship, I am responsible for everything regarding their retail store. They want me to write up a business plan proposing  all the necessary changes to make their Fair Trade store a success. They want me to create a vision for the store, including merchandising, inventory, marketing and product development. Its a lot smaller than the store in Madison but I think it has a lot of potential. It was be a lot of work on my shoulders, especially since I had very little training or context of Comparte’s business.

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First Impressions of the Store 

When I arrived, it was pretty obvious that the store was an afterthought for Comparte.  They didn’t have anyone running the store, and no one to dedicate the time to working on it. The shelves were extremely dusty, some with no products on them, little organization or thought on the displays, and no vision for the store. On top of that, there was little marketing material or connections with surrounding organizations.

Essentially, I started from scratch, aside from having an actual space and some products. It was a lot smaller than the store I worked at in Madison but it had a lot of potential.

My first order of business was getting the merchandising up to date. I cleaned all the products and shelves to make them look sparkly. Then I reorganized. I created specific sections for products (i.e. a kids section, jewelry section, food/kitchen, etc) and rearranged to fit the new layout. It was a lot more open and inviting after my merchandising work with much better and easier to use displays.

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What the Store Looked Like Before

Promoting & Marketing the Store

Next, I needed to figure out how to get people into the store. In the first two weeks, I saw 3 customers… Not good. We’re in a hip and upscale neighborhood, but we’re not on the main street with the other shops, so people don’t really know about us. So I’ve been passing out lots of flyers on the weekends as well as leaving them around local business.

I also think Comparte needs to target tourists, since they have money and are looking for handcrafted goods. So I’ve been doing outreach to tour companies and leaving flyers at hostels and hotels in the area. Surprisingly the flyers have been working! They offer a discount and we’ve already seen many people come in with them. So that is promising. There isn’t really another organization like us nearby, so we certainly have the potential to be a destination space.

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Inventory Tracking & Updating

Not the most glamorous part of retail, but having a solid handle on inventory is something that is very important. Their current system is archaic and disorganized with products having multiple coding systems and out-of-date prices. It was a tedious process of changing them all and updating the computer, but once it was done, we were be able to track sales much better and understand the inventory levels.

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Store Merchandising Afterwards

Local Staff Support 

All of my coworkers have been very helpful. This is a very collaborative working environment and everyone chips in their opinion or help whenever I need it. Even though its mostly in Spanish (and at times very difficult), I’m learning so much about working in another country and in a very small organization.

Find out how you can support Comparte’s Fair Trade artisans at their website here.

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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