Before the relatively recent advent of the internet, American schoolchildren had their own method of exploring the world. Beginning at about the age of 10, many children started to study world geography: coloring maps, learning about governments and foreign culture, and organizing mock trials to learn about the laws of the United States. About halfway through the school year, children would be given the opportunity to receive a list of “penpals.”
World history has tendered up many famous pairs of penpals, or “pen friends,” as they are commonly called. Queens corresponded with philosophers for decades; mathematicians changed the course of history with their letters to political leaders. In an era of business that is conducted primarily over the internet with the help of technology, the old-fashioned penpal letter is starting to seem brand new.
When entrepreneurs begin to discover international business opportunities, they may find themselves overlooking a niche market that could be lucrative. Large-scale shipping ventures may focus on exporting textiles, industrial materials, or building supplies, but there is — at least in America — a booming market for nostalgia. One prominent retail website specializes in high-quality handmade goods from around the world; they sold $895 million in handcrafted items, jewelry, and clothing last year. br>
The success of websites that sell handmade products from around the world testifies to the fact that there is a market abroad for cultural artifacts that are whimsical, charming, and crafted by hand. It can be a complex process for a new business owner to discover international business opportunities. Tracking shoppers’ purchases on an existing website is relatively simple, but international shipping companies have to continue to rely on a combination of luck and experience to predict market trends.
The cargo shipping and export industry is worth over $2 trillion annually in the United States alone, and US international trade is conducted on cell phones and laptop computers as well as on a larger, more traditional scale. International trading continues to focus on sharing art and ideas, and perhaps the occasional handwritten letter to a friend.