“TAEC has found a model that promotes culture and income through a successful tourism business” Said Tara Gujadher, Co founder of TAEC, and the judges agreed.

Artisan Origins by TAEC (Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre), a social enterprise from Lao PDR, are one of the 4 startups to take the Australian Government’s 2017 Mekong Business Initiative Innovation Grant at the MIST tourism accelerator investor pitch. TAEC offers high quality artisanal crafts from rural ethnic communities in Lao PDR with a cafe and information center. Inside, displays educate visitors on ethnic groups, cultural context and techniques. The central areas of work at TAEC involve encouraging learning and awareness through community outreach, supporting sustainable income opportunities through advocacy and livelihood programs, and documenting material culture.

This innovative tourism idea is having a significant community impact on the lives of Laos ethnic minorities, especially the women. TAEC works with some of the poorest population in the region, where community disruption and development have brought undergoing village resettlements, dependence on market economy, and erosion of cultural practices.

Now with the 2017 MBI innovation Grant, TAEC can upscale its mode and continue to innovatively work with the ethnic minorities and share their unique cultures, arts, stories and skills. In 2016, with TAEC’s 50% commitment they were able to bring in $125000 USD to these ethnic minorities, but this is expected to grow.

Artisan Origins by TAEC is an impressive example of how innovation in traditional tourism has so much potential. Through teaching visitors the artisanal and ethnological heritage of Laos, there will be growing support for sustainable livelihood development.