The Toy Project Story
Toy Project is a community-based initiative for previously unemployed women of the Groenfontein Valley outside Calitzdorp, and more recently, the Wittedrift community outside Plettenberg Bay.
We started the project in July 2011 in response to high unemployment levels in the Groenfontein valley.
Renee Leger, a fine arts and interior design graduate, is the creative driving force behind the project, while hubbie Paul takes care of the messy business of finance, marketing and general admin.
We currently have two dedicated workshops where training and production takes place in a convivial and supportive environment. Apart from acquiring a new skill, most of our members have progressed to the point where they can produce a highly sellable product in the competitive open market, whether it be a cute donkey, rhino, rag doll or teddy. All completed products are paid for on completion.
The main market for our handmade toys tends to be be high-end decor shops and tourist outlets, both locally and abroad. Like any business, the challenge is to balance production with sales, supply with demand.
We hope to achieve several goals with the project…
1. To provide unemployed women in poor rural communities with a steady income. To this end we are proud to say that several of our members have already become instant breadwinners - though admittedly coming off a low base.
2. To teach the women a new skill that they can take forward into other initiatives. We find most of our members had some sewing experience; all they needed was a little guidance, affirmation, and a product to channel their skills and enthusiasm into.
3. To create a meaningful and pleasant work context where people can come together several days a week without domestic distraction and the usual home stresses. It's most gratifying to witness the subtle personal growth unfolding before our eyes.
4. On a wider front we are creating a working model that can be rolled out to other communities. Our satellite Wittedrift group outside Plettenberg Bay is an example of this, where growing demand for our products spurred the need for a second workshop. While each group works independently of each other, they are linked by common goals and shared resources.
Toy Project represents what can be termed a 'social enterprise': a project with social goals (employment, income generation and skills development), but driven by business principles. In our case all labour and materials are covered directly by product sales, with initial seed capital kindly funded by a private trust. Although relatively new on the block we are already 100% self-funded. By demonstrating a workable alternative to the 'charity model' common to most community projects we hope that other poor communities can be encouraged to adopt a similar sustainable approach and we can all learn from each other.
Can you help? You sure can… Spread the word to your friends, Like us on Facebook and Pinterest, recommend our products to your local shop, write an article, visit our gorgeous valley to see firsthand what we're doing, buy our adorable products…