October 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Crafts: Imports: Small Business: Albuquerque Tribune: Morocco RPCV Tim O'Brien is co-owner and manager of Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: October 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Crafts: Imports: Small Business: Albuquerque Tribune: Morocco RPCV Tim O'Brien is co-owner and manager of Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

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Morocco RPCV Tim O'Brien is co-owner and manager of Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

Morocco RPCV Tim O'Brien is co-owner and manager of Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

Morocco RPCV Tim O'Brien is co-owner and manager of Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

SHOP TALK: Marrakesh Mercantile Co.

Owner: Tim O'Brien

Title: Co-owner and manager.

Company: Marrakesh Mercantile Co. The store at 111 Fourth St. S.W., just south of Central, sells Moroccan imports including mosaic and inlaid wood tables, carpets, pottery, ottomans, trays, drums and henna light fixtures. Prices range from $35 for pottery to more than $1,000 for large mosaic tables. The business is online at www.marrakeshmercantile.com.

Number of employees: Me and my partner, Younes Souki, who buys for the store in Morocco. Sometimes I get my girlfriend, Amanda, to help out.

Time in business: I set up the company two years ago and have been putting together the inventory a year and a half. We opened our doors in August.

Age: 31.

Previous jobs: I've done a lot of different things. I was in the Peace Corps in Morocco. When I got back I worked in a dermatology clinic and as a baker at the Daily Grind and a cook at the Quarters.

Education: I have an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of New Mexico. I'm a Manzano High School graduate.

How I started this business: I applied to medical school after college and didn't get in. So I joined the Peace Corps to do something totally different. I was in rural Morocco from 1996 to 1998 doing health education. It was hard, and I had a love-hate relationship with the country. But when I left I realized it was one of the unique places in the world.

I had a hard time adjusting to life back in the states. I wanted to do something meaningful and bring Moroccan culture over here. So I tried to save money and stay focused on starting a business. It took about four years to get investors and put it together. In 2002, I formed the parent company, Korimat Enterprises, named after the Moroccan town I lived in.

Main responsibilities: I manage the store, make the buying decisions, do the publication materials. Yeah, I do everything.

Best thing about the business: That I have a tie to a very mystical, mysterious part of the world with amazing crafts people. Americans are less likely now to travel to a Muslim country. So it's becoming more and more mysterious and inaccessible. For Albuquerque, we need as much culture as we can get.

Worst thing about the business: You've got to not be depressed when people aren't rolling in every day. Because we're getting started, there are ups and downs.

 Tim O'Brien

Caption: Tim has a moment of joy when the entire first shipment is unloaded, finally

Best thing about doing business in New Mexico: I love New Mexico. I grew up here. It's geographically one of the most beautiful states. What we are trying to market goes perfectly with the culture and the Southwest style.

Worst thing about doing business in New Mexico: People don't tend to spend money on really nice things. There's a bargain mentality.

What is a distinct challenge to this business? I'm basically creating a market in Albuquerque. Santa Fe already has stores like this and a clientele. I have to persuade people to come in and invest and put their hard-earned money into this store.

What is your biggest worry about the business? Pretty simple - that it won't make money.

What was your best business idea? Since this is my only business venture ever, this is it, to bring something unique to Downtown Albuquerque. There's nothing like it in the city.

What was your worst business idea? I hope this isn't it.

Future plans: I'd like to open a cafe in the store. You could have a glass of mint tea and go back and conquer the world. A Moroccan restaurant is another dream. And I plan to do my own olive oil brand. Moroccan olive oil is the best in the world.

Advice to someone who wants to get started in this field: Make the products as authentic as possible. These are things that crafts people in another country made with their hands. Be persistent. You have to be determined to make it work. It's not enough to just have a good idea. You need the idea, then the money to get it going and the money to sustain the idea. I have to say I can make it work, that I can fit into a niche.

And make things reasonably priced. Make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Nancy Salem

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Story Source: Albuquerque Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Crafts; Imports; Small Business



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