Elaine Bellezza
product designer, USA


Craft Sector Specialist, elainebellezza.com

Elaine is an artisanal sector specialist with over 17 years international experience. Her grass-roots approach to development coupled with her strong entrepreneurial spirit and indefatigable energy is a wining combination for leading fledging entrepreneurs to success.

She is a product development expert and trainer in leather, wood, textiles, basketry, clothing furniture, and more. She works with indigenous producers as well as established master artisans in helping them create market-driven collections. She helps build entrepreneurial and production capacity and leads producers to viable market options.

She was founder and owner of Mia Mali, the premier crafts boutique in Mali.

Lonely Planet said of Mia Mali:
"Far and away the most innovative and stylish boutique in Mali, Mia Mali has eminently reasonable prices and its commitment to working with over 175 artists deserves to be supported. The array of items for sale silver jewelry, masks, statues, textiles, artwork and home furnishings is endless and of the highest quality. In addition to traditional pieces, Elaine Bellezza, the American owner, and her local craftspeople combine traditional themes with creative design twists. If you only visit one shop in Bamako, make it this one."

However, her biggest reward came when she decided to leave Mali and decided to hand over the baton to my her staff to give them Mia Mali in total. They were shocked and scared. No one, not artists, clients or friends, or themselves, thought they could make it without her. Elaine was the only one who believed they could survive. She negotiated with Peace Corps to place a volunteer with them to help them through the first transitional year.

A few months after her departure a major US buyer contacted her for a very large order of mudcloth tote bags. She steered them to Mali Chic (their new name). With the assistance of USAID and the volunteer, Vina Verman, they were able to secure the order for 60,000 totes and complete production and delivery in the allotted four months.

They were able to add additional artisans to the nearly 200 with whom we already worked, they purchased additional sewing machines and hired more tailors who continue to work in their production facility. Now Mali Chic is participating in international trade shows in the US and regionally in Africa.

Elaine is proud to have fostered this business and enabled them to continue to grow.

To see a broader range of her work go to her site, www.elainebellezza.com.


these pages submitted to africancraft.com by Elaine Bellezza,
May. 2002 -- last updated, May. 2009