Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What a Year

By Tracy Zhu, Owner

A few months ago we had no employees. I worked nearly seven days a week at the store, just getting the occasional day off when Drew filled in for me (he still has his day job and likely will for awhile.)  Both of us put in extra hours at night from home, working on the website, ordering inventory, catching up with e-mail, and so forth.

Well, none of that really has changed, other than the employee part! We're still putting in huge numbers of hours, but now have three exceptional part-time employees. Kristi Anna, Sarah, and Patricia are all tremendous assets whom we are lucky to have on board. Our growth month over month this year has been tremendous, something we were unprepared for. Not a bad problem to have, but by mid-year I was falling behind on daily tasks, and not able to take advantage of opportunities. We saw our internet sales level off, partly because of algorithm changes Google made, but I also believe largely because of neglect on my part as I tended to our brick and mortar store in Port Gamble, WA. I wasn't adding new items and updating descriptions; and some of the content grew stale. Now that we are staffed up I am turning my attention back the e-commerce side of things, while organizing next month's buying trip to South Africa, Lesotho, and Dubai. We'll return from that and go straight into the holiday season. The next three months will be nuts!

A few of the hit fair trade items we added this year (I'll save the misses for another post):

Zulu telephone wire baskets from South Africa
Fair trade chocolate from Congo and Colombia
Pure unrefined shea butter from Ghana
Binga baskets from Zimbabwe
Felt peacocks and other ornaments from Kyrgyzstan
Soapstone hippos from Kenya

I leave you with a beautiful image of Port Gamble, taken from the dahlia garden by the Post Office and looking toward the Port Gamble General Store.  Photo courtesy of Kitsap Tours, dahlias courtesy of the Kitsap County Dahlia Society.

Photo courtesy of Kitsap Tours.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grant Opportunity

We have applied for an expansion grant of $250,000 from Chase Bank that would enable us to hire people, update our website, and all kings of cool things.  We need 250 votes by June 30th to qualify, yes it's one of those social media things!  We would humbly appreciate your vote.  Just go to, search for Tango Zulu Imports in Port Gamble, WA, and click vote.  Easy peasy!  Meanwhile we leave you with this beautiful image of a telephone wire basket.  Thank you for supporting Tango Zulu and fair trade.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fun New Fair Trade Products at Tango Zulu Imports

We are ecstatic over our new fair trade products from Kyrgyzstan, like this stuffed felt frog.  We have assorted ornaments, scarves, toys and throws made from felted wool and silk, all handmade in a workshop in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan.

Also, our collection of African baskets continues to expand.  We now have Zulu telephone wire baskets, Swazi baskets, Botswana baskets, and more varieties of Bolga baskets.  All are beautiful, practical, handmade, and fair trade.

Last but not least, we have some incredible artisan chocolates made locally here in Kitsap County, WA.  We are especially in love with the salted caramels.  Stay tuned for some fair trade and organic chocolate from Congo.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Journey Of A Small Business Owner #8

It was exactly two years ago on this night, Tracy and I stayed up till early morning, finishing up final steps of preparation for our big day - the opening day for Tango Zulu Imports - on May 8th, 2010.  The walls had been painted, displays set, signs made, price tags applied.  All that remained was for us to carry the cash register to the shop the next morning, plug it in, and ring up our sales, except one minor detail.

We did not how how to program or operate it.

Fast forward 24 months, Tango Zulu Imports is becoming a favorite stop for many visitors to Port Gamble, looking for a unique gift.  We are getting mentions in both local and national press, and with the support of our customers have operated successfully for two years while bringing truly unique, handmade artisan gifts and products from over thirty countries.

From the first pair of chopsticks we sold at the store, Tango Zulu Imports has grown tremendously.  We have now nearly 2000 followers on Facebook, and have become one of the most prominent online sites for African baskets, which has become a favorite for both our customers and ourselves.  Meanwhile, our other fair trade, handmade artisan goods selection grows daily.

Both Tracy and I started this business as newcomers in owning a business, retail or otherwise.  From the start, we know we picked a very challenging time to start a business, when the country is still struggling mightily to recover from the deepest recession over 70 years.  We wanted to make sure we do our best to ensure the artisans who make our products are paid a fair wage, so we focused on fair trade products; we wanted also to make sure our products are priced reasonably, that we will sell only at prices that we would have been willing to buy had we been a customer, so we focused on running the business as lean as we could.  We did not hire an accountant, a consultant, a tax adviser or any other help.  We did everything ourselves.  It made very long days, but hard work paid off.  We managed to grow the business without borrowing any money from the bank or injecting any additional equity.  We are now ready to hire a couple of part-time employees.

The past two years have been fantastic.  We have met so many thousands of people coming through our store front, many have wonderful stories of their own, some have become friends.  We have built up the largest inventory to date.  Whether someone is looking for a one of a kind birthday present, a unique gift for Mother's Day, a gorgeous present for a wedding or buying Christmas presents for the entire family, Tango Zulu Imports will certainly have many choices that are fun, surprising and memorable.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Coupon Code

Our April coupon code is TABLE.  Use it at checkout for 15% off anything in our Kitchen and Dining category, which includes fair trade aprons, baskets, utensils, and ever so much more!  Offer good through April 30 and only applies to Internet sales (our brick and mortar store gets its own special deals.)  Also, as usual, we offer free shipping for any U.S. order over $100.  No code needed, just select Free Shipping as your shipping option when you check out.  Happy fair trade Easter to all!