A home-made souvenir from Laos spurs Iowan man to launch a green business venture to help alleviate poverty in northern Laos.
During his visit to Laos in 2004, Bill Newbrough was given a bag made by a villager in a northern remote area as a gift.He brought it back to the US and one day had a chance to use it. That was when he found out an interesting thing about the bag. Even though it looks not too strong but it turns out to be the opposite and has some remarkable qualities about it. Mr. Newbrough told VOA in recent interview,
“I became very interested in it, used it for a number of years and then during that time pursued the possibility of sharing it with the rest of the world, because I found out that it is an amazing product.”
Mr. Newbrough believed that selling the bags which he now called Nature Bag, would benefit the environment and helped poor people in northern Laos who produced them. So he went back to Laos and launched his Nature Bag project
Mr. Bounsou Keo-Amphone, a representative of Nature Bag in Luangprabang told VOA that the bag is made from a vine called “Piat”, which is abundant in the northern region of the country.
Mr. Bounsou said 4 northern provinces, including Oudomxay, Luangnamtha, Bokeo and Phongsaly, are currently involved in producing the bags. And the project is now expanding to Houaphanh and Luangprabang.
Mr. Newbrough said that his partners in Laos buy the bags from villagers from around $5 to $10 a piece and then sell them through the website www.naturebag.ORG and some stores in his home state of Iowa carry the product which might cost as high as $70 a piece for a more elaborate one. But not all of that is profit. The expenses, besides payments to the villagers who make the bags, include storing, labeling and shipping which is very expensive, said Mr. Bounsou.
Since the project started more than a year ago, less than 1,000 bags have been sold. Mr. Newbrough said he now has about 10,000 bags on hand, and that might be good for negotiations with big companies he wants to represent him and sell his bags.
For more details in Lao, listen to our audio files. And for further information, visit the website www.naturebag.ORG