Technology has had a particularly important effect on the global reach of retail, giving local artisans like Munich-based Nauli new opportunities to interact with customers outside of their home market, grow and strengthen their business, and hone their skills.

Founded by sisters Johanna and Eva-Dewi Pangestian Harahap, Nauli produces specialty CD and DVD folios, photo albums, and boxes that they sell in large part to photographers looking to package their products better.

Nauli also produces journals, dolls, stuffed animals, bags, and pillows, using high-end paper from Italy and Japan, and natural yarns.

“We started in 2008, planning to do something that we really like. I studied communication design and was freelancing, and Johanna was a language trainer by profession, but we wanted to do something with our hands,” says Eva-Dewi.

In the beginning, Nauli sold through traditional means, looking to place their products with local retailers in Germany. “We actually didn’t think about selling online,” Eva-Dewi notes, “but our local plans didn’t work out so well, and we had a lot of stock.”

In 2009, the sisters began selling online through DaWanda, a German online marketplace for handmade products, and Etsy, a similar New York-based marketplace for artisans.

“It was in our first week on Etsy, when we started to get quite large orders, that we got the impression that the overseas market could be bigger than the market in Germany,” says Johanna. “We then started to sell online ourselves via our own website about six months later. We didn’t want to depend only on third-party platforms; it’s safer to have our own shop as well.”

Today, Nauli ships the vast majority of its products to customers the United States, the United Kingdom, and other international markets.

Eva emphasizes that their global journey has been about more than accessing customers. “The Internet is more than just a place where we market and sell our products, it’s a place where we learn a lot. We’re not from a business background. Through various online channels, we’ve learned a lot about marketing and selling products around the world.”

“We are in two retail stores, in Barcelona and Bangkok, but we’re not sure if we want to get into retail, so we market our products ourselves online,” Johanna explains. Through social media marketing, blogging, and word of mouth, Nauli has been able to expand its market significantly without relying on paid marketing.

Through it all, the pair have been flexible in their approach. “It’s not good to stay too fixed to a single plan,” advises Eva-Dewi.