Turning ancient Kazakh jewellery traditions into business
Dulat Ashimov, founder of Ashimov.kz, devotes his life to keeping the Kazakh metalworking and jewellery-making traditions alive.
Kazakh crafts have an ancient history, dating back to the Bronze Age. The country has a rich tradition of metalworking, producing bronze, gold, silver and copper jewellery, as well as stone carving.
Kazakh crafts are becoming increasingly popular in Kazakhstan and beyond. Jewellery makers create new collections with Kazakh ornaments or various accessories with embossed leather patterns and carvings that are back ‘in vogue’.
Dulat’s path to success
Young artist Dulat Ashimov is passionate about creating jewellery and keeping the Kazakh metalworking traditions alive.
“I never thought that I would devote my life to creating jewellery,” says the 31-year-old founder of Ashimov.kz and holder of the UNESCO Quality Label. “I had always dreamed of becoming an architect. But in tenth grade, my uncle, the owner of a jewellery workshop, suggested that I start working as an apprentice for him. That's how it all started.”
In 2009, Dulat moved from his hometown Kokshetau to Almaty to study artistic metalworking at the Kazakhstan National Academy of Arts.
“I had an amazing professor, who encouraged me to start my own business”, he says.
Dulat opened his jewellery workshop in 2015, diving into his brainchild despite lacking any knowledge in business management or marketing.
“At first, I made products to fine tune my skills and develop my own metal-processing techniques. Over time, friends and acquaintances began contacting me. The power of word-of-mouth marketing is amazing! It took about two years to get to this level,” he adds
The power of digital marketing
Over the years, Dulat strengthened his brand on the market, receiving orders despite his challenges in promoting and marketing his brand to a wider audience.
“My entire advertising campaign was based on social networks. Probably 50% of clients found me there, and the other half were friends,” he explains.
To dig deeper into marketing, e-commerce, and logistics, Dulat applied for the Ready4Trade Central Asia project funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC). Ashimov.kz is one of 40 Kazakhstani companies selected to participate in this initiative.
To reach a wider audience and target potential customers, Dulat learned various techniques to enter the online market of Kazakhstan via his corporate website and social media channels, while working on a step-by-step plan to expand his business and increase its visibility.
ITC e-commerce coach Manarbek Abenov recommended Dulat to make his website more user-friendly, which resulted in collaboration proposals and more orders, also thanks to his Instagram account. In addition, Dulat has commissioned a new delivery company to offer better logistics services to his customers.
Moving on to global marketplaces
“I discovered the pros and cons of my business from different perspectives,” continues Dulat. “This has been a great experience for me as I have learned to identify my biggest business challenges, which had held me back from reaching my full potential.”
Dulat further defined his business plan with the support of his coach: “To automate my jewellery production, I had to renovate my workshop and get all the necessary tools to make the production faster, while keeping the same level of quality. I have already found an investor and bought foundry equipment, so our range of services has increased drastically. I also plan to learn how to work with gold to increase the circle of potential customers.”
In the long run, Dulat is planning to reach a global audience, selling internationally.“The Ready4Trade project allows participants to improve their e-commerce knowledge and skills,” explains ITC coach Abenov. “For instance, Dulat improved the e-commerce content on his website and social media channels. Identifying and defining customer personas helped him reach a new audience and get more orders. Today, Dulat is ready to reach the international audience and participate in the Gems and Jewellery Trade Fair & Exhibition in Monaco. I believe that his major victories are ahead.”
About the project
Kazakhstan is one of the five beneficiary countries of the Ready4Trade project, funded by the EU for a total amount of 15 million euros, and implemented by the ITC. The e-commerce trainings were also launched in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and include up to 200 participating SMEs.
The Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Trade Centre. It aims to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and Business Support Organizations. The project operates in 5 countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.