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6 Yawama tips on how to choose eco-friendly toys for kids

Eco-friendly soft toys from Africa

Yawama of Sweden Eco-friendly plush toys from Africa

Who said that parenting in 2014 was easy? Apart from avoiding the risk of choking hazards in toys, us parents need to protect our kids from hazardous synthetic chemicals and heavy metals that are found in toys, clothing and interior products in our homes. We need to make certain choices not only to protect our children, but to protect the environment for their children and generations to come. Here are some Yawama (good) tips on how to choose eco-friendly toys.

1) Less is best- Lets be realistic. Kids don’t need 71 soft toys. An article in SVD states that In Sweden alone, children have an average of 71 soft toys. The majority of these toys end their lives at the dump, second-hand stores failing to sell the excess.

2)Go natural -Safe toys made of organic and sustainable material like bamboo, organic cotton and wood. Make sure that toys made from wood are harvested environmentally. Know your producer. Read labels.

3)Go to Sally’s boutique -The word “Salaula” in bemba means second hand-hence “Sally’s boutique”. Second-hand and hand-downs are a great way to spare the environment. Watch out for older wood products and soft plastics that might be chemically hazardous.

4) Avoid soft plastic toys – These can contain hormone disturbing chemicals

5) Choose quality over quantity- Toys that are more expensive often last longer, can be handed down or have a higher second-hand value.

6) Be creative- Recycle, recreate, reuse.

For tips on how to keep your home eco-friendly read Undebaraclaras blogg here.

For the yawama range of eco-friendly soft toys klick here.

And if you haven’t already figured this one out- Yawama means- It is good!

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Understanding our Core Value.

I will include this into the business model section as I feel that this is a starting point to developing your social business or your inclusive business model.

A core value is the  principle that guides how we work and our relationship with the world around us. It also guide our relationship with the external world. Understanding your business core value will engage and motivate you to continue what you started out to do.

As a business that is out to make social positive impact for small businesses in Africa and in particular women I soon realised that only setting targets in monetary terms or in sales statistics, did not engage me. I read this inspiring article on how to design for real impact by the Unreasonable Institute where these 3 points were underlined.

  1. Know your mission
  2. Measure the right thing
  3. Measure it well

So what is the Yawama of Sweden core value?

  • Our core value is to create good job opportunities for women in Southern Africa.
  • Our Vision is to create unique soft toys and interior details for children and adults by amalgamating swedish design with african craftsmanship.
  • We measure the number of women knitting, crocheting and sewing our handmade products.

We have incorporated our core value into our Mission Statement. This acts as our corner-stone, our compass our motivational factor.

So what drives you?

Core Value

 

 

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Of great kin- Julia Chikamoneka

She left this world in 1986, but her spirit lives on. Thank  you Julia Chikamoneka for standing up for our rights as the people of Zambia. For believing that you could make a difference. For fighting with the only weapons you had -your voices, your bodies, your vision for a better future for generations to come. As Zambia celebrates 50 years of independence today I reflect upon this great woman who was one of a number of women who were a part of the liberation struggle. I am proud and honoured to be of such great kin.

Mary Lombe  daughter to Mulenga Lombe son of Chief Chitimukulu-Ponde of Zambias Bemba ethnic group, was born in 1904. She later was christened Julia and even later took the name Chikamoneka (meaning “victory will be seen”) for her fearless attitude in Northern Rhodesia‘s independence struggle and as a mantle to cover her operations during the independence struggle.

She started her career as a housemaid, then became a restaurant owner, during which period she became politically involved attending rallies, planning protest marches, and organizing boycotts of shops that discriminated based on race. Not having a formal education did not hinder  her from being a leader in the independence struggle. Chikamoneka was known for her effective fundraising in addition to leading protest marches. She also provided food and shelter for people politically involved and risked arrest by opening her house for political meetings. She inspired women to take an active role in the independence struggle.

Julia Chikamoneka, along with Zambia’s first ever First Lady, Betty Kaunda, Emilia Saidi and Mandalena Mumba petitioned colonial authorities for the release of detained political party leaders. Her most dramatic protest occurred in 1960 when she marched to the District Commissioner’s office and slapped him. Then, accompanied by Emilia Saidi and Mandalena Mumba, proceeded to strip down to her waist before leading a group of women protesters on a march to the national airport.

Affectionately called “Mama UNIP” for her contributions to the party that led Zambia to independence. Her contribution was publicly acknowledged, in 1969, when President Kenneth Kaunda (1924– ) bestowed her with the Order of Distinguished Service. When she died in 1986 she was accorded a state funeral and buried with full military honors.

I have indulged in a number of pictures from this era from the National Archives in the UK.

Portests in 1960s_Zambia

Protests in 1960s_Zambia (source The National Archives UK)

Happy Independence day Zambia!

Further Reading and references:

http://leahkabamba.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/brief-history-and-activism-of-mama-julia-chikamoneka/

http://zambia-buzz.blogspot.se/p/the-cloth-i-are-cut-from-saluting.html

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An inclusive business Model

Not for profit or not?

I moved back to Sweden 3 years ago after having worked in Zambia for 11 years. I wanted to continue to develop small-scale producers in Southern Africa as I had previously done  working both in the private sector and with NGOs in the not for profit sector. I also felt a need to run something based on my knowledge and skills and not run a project that had already  pre-defined methods and goals as is often the case in the development sector. I did not want to pursue a philanthropic venture as I have often seen these programmes start-up to collapse when funding or personal are not in place. My goal was to create a business that could survive without me. A business that could make a difference by creating jobs and increasing incomes.  A business that was not tied to a particular place. A business that would be economically viable and attract investment.  A business with an “inclusive business model”

An inclusive business as defined by Wikipedia is a commercially viable model that benefits low-income communities by including them in a company’s value chain on the demand side as clients and consumers, and/or on the supply side as producers, entrepreneurs or employees in a sustainable way. Inclusive business is not corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, which have inherent limitations of scope, impact and budget. Rather, it is the search for sustainable business models that “do well by doing good” and are part of the companies’ core business activities – the key to business having development impact at scale.

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Inclusive business model. Source WBSCD

Yawama of Sweden is a for profit business that aims to do well by doing good, although profit maximization is NOT our ultimate goal.  The current focus is to meet current expenses which include developing products and the producers, training and testing expenses and meeting Yawama administrative costs. I do get questioned about my business model some people feeling that I would be better off running my business as a charity.  Swedes are happy givers towards philanthropical initiatives and businesses can make beneficial tax reductions on goodwill.  Not for profit organisations are a large part of the business community. My personal opinion is that building fundraising into your business concept can be costly and time-consuming and requires a large network and may not be the most cost-effective tool for a smaller business and might not provide incentives for creative and practical solutions for businesses to run.

Examples of businesses in Sweden importing from Africa and their business models

Individuella Männsikohjälpen (IM) in Sweden have existed for many years running as a not for profit organisation  successfully importing crafts from developing countries but also working with development and aid. They have a large network of producers, employees and volunteers.  IM products include fair trade coffee, teas and home interior and textiles.

Sackeus is a good example of a business that started out as a not for profit being run by the Swedish Church, and today run as a large wholesaler of fairtrade coffee, tea and confectionary.

Both the above examples are predominantly importing from South America and Asia and are established larger organisations.

North and South Fair trade and The house of Fair Trade are large  wholesalers of imported goods from many developing countries. They stock food and beverage and a range of interior accessories.  The house of fair trade also stocks children articles.

African touch, Just Africa and Afroart , are physical  boutiques based in Stockholm all supporting small-scale producers in Africa ( although afroart works primarily with producers in South America and Asia. Afroart started out as a not for profit today operates as a for profit business with design playing a large part in the productions process. I intend to discuss design processes later.

All the above just like Yawama of Sweden promote fair or ethical trade and market their products as products that improve livelihoods by job creation or increased incomes or “trade not aid or “help to self-help”.  I will discuss definitions and certifications in upcoming chapters because this is a science on its own.  All the above companies have  Webb based sales (apart from African touch) as a compliment to their wholesale or retail activity.

 

 

 

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A guide to starting your import business from Africa

I have been so touched the last month by the numerous numbers of encouraging mails complementing our efforts in working with the Yawama of Sweden brand but also asking for advice on how I have gone about creating a business that includes Africans small-scale producers. Many of us have travelled to Africa, worked in Africa , been moved by Africa, been inspired by african colour, african design, african handicraft  not to mention its beautiful people.  We all understand that needs at the so-called base of the pyramid ( the 3-4 million people living on less than USD 2,50 – 8,00 per day….numbers differ depending on where the definition comes from)  are too numerous to mention. What do we all have in common? We want to do good business. We want to make change.  Many have ideas of starting up similar ventures or have already started. Some have started and closed shop. I would like to share my experiences. Not because I love competition but because I feel that together we can grow. Hopefully you can save time and money  by avoiding some of the mistakes that I have made. Hopefully this space will help your business to grow and therefore help others.  Something I have learned here in Sweden is that sharing ideas and experiences brings growth and I am grateful for the many opportunities where I have gained information because someone chose to share it.

I sincerely hope that we can use this as a platform to discuss and exchange ideas about import strategies, product development, design, freight costs, payments and more. Where possible I will refer to brands and businesses that have been an inspiration.

I do not feel that I have all the answers but I truly believe that Africa is in a position to offer products for the interior and children industry for Europe and in so doing also create market opportunities locally in Africa. The internet is providing new ways that we can work with producers in the South. A number of different freight options are available.  We are a number of young dynamic African offspring with a die-hard passion to bring change and economic development to the African continent and whether you are Zambian or Nigerian the word “Africa” says home.

The areas that I will be highlighting in  the guide to starting your import business from Africa will include

  1. Your Business Model
  2. Your Market
  3. Your Value Chain
  4. Your suppliers
  5. Your Distribution
  6. Your Marketing Mix

Please take note that I will write from my experiences from both Africa and Europe working with design for good. What might work for me might not necessarily work for your circumstances.

CASE: YAWAMA OF SWEDEN

  • Products: Interior decor and textiles. Plush toys for kids
  • Producers: Southern Africa , primarily Zambia
  • Market: Sweden
  • Marketing Tool: On Line Store
Yawama of Sweden

Yawama of Sweden

 

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Poor little Hippo

A short clip showing my home tests of our soft toys in the early days. Somewhat cruel but a must for all toy producers who are to ensure that toys are safe for children.

Our current ecological cotton plush toys are tested and certified in a laboratory.

 

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This is Anna

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She is all dressed up. Her hair is braided and she is beautiful. She carries herself with grace and laughs heartily like most African women I know do. In her hand she carries her mobile phone. She is strong, confident and positive.  Like most Zambian women she believes in a brighter future for her children. Anna plays a huge part in the production process at little Ndaba our partner for the  Yawama Kids soft toy collection.  She ensures that the other women who come to the Wednesday meetings get the training and the encouragement that they need and ensures that quality specifications have been addressed. She is also responsible for yarn distribution.

Anna has been knitting since the age of 6. Her mother was her inspiration.  She lives with her husband Innocent, in small brick house that belongs to the pig farmer where her husband works. They have electricity and running water. They have 5 children. Her oldest child is 21 and her youngest child is 8.  They own a deep freezer and a TV.  Innocent has a steady income.

20140305_104604

Prior to her involvement at Little Ndaba Anna tried to make a living knitting baby blankets and scarves. She would  spend a great amount of time trying to market her product.  Now she can spend more time knitting and leave the marketing part to little Ndaba. Most often she knits in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings in front of the TV.  Every year she plants 1 ha of maize from which she harvests 20 bags of maize for her own family consumption.

With the extra income she makes Anna dreams of one day owning her own plot of land.