Pathfinder International continues the focus on Veteran Owned Business with a look at The Afghan Rug Shop…
James Wilthew founded The Afghan Rug Shop in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire in 2015. He imports handmade rugs and kilims direct from the weaver’s markets in the Northern Provinces, direct to his shop. One of his 5 operational deployments was a 6-month tour in the North of Afghanistan in 2003. Whilst providing security for reconstruction, his passion for the country and people grew as did a passion for their rugs, “I bought a lot of rugs at the time never thinking I would have another chance to do so, there was no proper internet or social media back then” said James.
However, 12 years later he was able to track down the friend he used to buy rugs from after a few months of cold-calls and online searching, they rekindled their friendship and the business was born. “Traditionally you have to pay a lot of middle-men across the region, combined with a lot of associated logistical issues, which is why we established our own routes and processes. Most of my business is managed from a Smartphone and a handful of Apps, we bypass all the traditional problems of control and communication”.
James added “It’s so important for the region to have greater opportunities to export these stunning traditionally produced rugs. Security remains an issue, but that shouldn’t prevent growth and the more people that can support businesses like mine, the quicker the Afghan economy will stabilise and modernise”. James recognises that offering an alternative income that supports traditional crafts is vital, giving opportunity for many families to earn a good income and prosper away from the opium and arms trade.
He regularly ships his products worldwide and can be found at www.theafghanrugshop.co.uk
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