Students sell Nicaraguan goods in bookstore
Charlie Ducey | Sunday, February 16, 2014
The Nicaraguan-based Custom Elevation, a company founded by three Notre Dame students in 2012, continues to expand its sale of handicrafts to improve the lives of artisans.
Co-founder and senior Christian Estrada, who is from Nicaragua, said Custom Elevation bases itself on the principle of fairness.
“It is about giving the artisans a chance,” he said. “It is about letting them do what they love and getting paid fairly.”
Estrada said the company has developed new handmade products since it began selling its goods at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore in April 2013.
“We expanded our product line to fit the likes of our various customers,” Estrada said. “In the collegiate market, we have added the Salbeke Hand-woven Bag. We introduced this product in early December and have received quite a bit of attention.”
The company introduced the new products after assessing the marketability of the Amaka Hammocks featured in the company’s first product launch.
“The hammock has proven to be a very tough product to sell because of the lack of summertime activities around Notre Dame and the high price point due to royalty expenses, transportation and packaging,” Estrada said. “This is why we introduced the Salbeke.”
Estrada said the artisans employed by Custom Elevation work out of a renovated building in the Nicaraguan city of Masaya, where the production of handicrafts stretches back many generations.
“The conditions in Masaya in general are still very bad. Given that the artisan community is extensive, it will be hard to fix this problem right away, but our vision is to help change the lives of as many artisans as possible,” Estrada said. “By eventually expanding to more and more universities and institutions, we will be able to increase the size of our facility and the number of workers we employ.”
Between business classes and collaboration with recent Notre Dame alumnus Roberto Pellas, Estrada said he has met with officials from Texas Christian University (TCU) and the University of Texas at Austin to market Custom Elevation’s products bearing the logos of each institution.
“I just met with TCU’s licensing director and it went very well,” Estrada said. “We have basically secured a license with them and will most probably start selling at their bookstore around June.”
In addition, Estrada said Custom Elevation has set its sights on the corporate logo market.
“This will be pretty much like the collegiate market in that we will personalize our products with institutional logos,” he said. “We are also selling our generic products [without logos] at different boutiques in Nicaragua and here in the states.”