Iyaloo is a community project originally started by Red Sky Ventures to assist employees and their families with extra income and skills. The aim of the project was to use materials and resources which were surplus from our existing operation, we began with items of furniture which were made from discarded building materials.
After receiving a container of polystyrene beans we began developing bean bags and poofs. The first few were a success with our clients and BEAN THINGY's was created. BEAN THINGY's became the trade name for the founding products of the project that would become Iyaloo.
With Bean Thingy's, ideas were given to the ladies, in the form of basic patterns, and materials sought from local suppliers. Prototypes were refined a little, and quality procedures put in place, the result was a range of fun and functional high quality bean bags, cushions and poofs.
The cartoon character prints are particularly popular with the children, and the drill cotton bags are very comfortable for alternative furniture. Both are more affordable than your typical vinyl bean bag which costs about 3 times as much.
As demand grows for more Bean Thingy's, Red Sky Ventures has extended the project to assist other under privileged community groups.
FROM BEAN THINGY'S TO IYALOO
Our first community group involved to extend the project was the Ladies Support Group from the Aids Care Trust (ACT) in Windhoek Namibia. A volunteer training program was offered to the ladies, and five women attended. These women joined Iyaloo with little or no sewing experience, and were trained to operate sewing machines and make products by the first member involved. Once they successfully completed the training program, they had the opportunity to earn income from their production. Income was dependant on sales and demand, and sales were initially slow. Two ladies from the original group remained with the project, and grew in skills and capability.
At this point the project needed an identy, and the ladies involved were asked if they would like to come up with a name. The result was Iyaloo - which simply translated means "Thank-you" in Oshiwambo the main Namibian native language.
To diversify and to fill customer requests new products were developed. The first product was patchwork baby or pet blankets, evolving from on off cuts from the bean bags and proving very popular. Customers and supportive clients brought new ideas and requests to Iyaloo such as pet baskets, linen, and hand bags. The Iyaloo range now includes a diverse set of items such as linen, pet baskets, furniture, wine bags, baby clothes and the ladies have proven that no task is too difficult if they have a request and a some guidelines on how to create it.
SUPPORT TRAINING, AND PROGRESSION
Members of the project are taught basic skills required to make the crafts and provided with designs, facilities, and materials to enable them to begin production. Many items have been created through their own trial and error without any training.
Members are encouraged to provide ideas or input to develop the project, and all participants have the opportunity to progress from crafts to trainers and managers. Red Sky Ventures and a group of supportive volunteers assists with distribution and marketing of the crafts through our main business contacts and expertise.
Most items are priced according to market demand. Labour rates are decided by the ladies, based on what would equate to an average wage for similar work in Namibia if they were to make the items full time. The ladies are paid labour rates on successfuly completed items, and the entire remainder of the money is used for purchase of new materials and taxi fares to pick up and drop off products, or put into an account for the ladies to decide on capital purchases or bonuses for school fees and holidays. The members are active in managing their own funds, and are incredibly adept at ensuring that enough money remains for new product purchases, these skills no doubt developed from years of trying to survive and support a family on a meagre few dollars from casual wages.
The project owes a great deal to it's commercial clients, who have chosen to purchase from Iyaloo because of a sense of community responsibility.
Our first big order for bed linen, proceeds of which enabled Iyaloo to purchase two new industrial machines with their own funds, was from Leisure Pleasure. http://www.madisacampsite.com/projects.html
The second big order came from Amani Lodge for Linen and Tableware, sustaining Iyaloo's development and capability. http://www.amani-lodge-namibia.com/
Namib Mills kindly donates food to Iyaloo ladies on a regular basis, Wages, even when consistent, although industry based, are still meagre, and this donation allows the ladies to save their wages for badly needed health care and education and savings. http://www.nmanamibia.com/members/namibmills.htm
We hope that one day the financial empowerment provided by new skills and capability may see the Iyaloo ladies in a position to purchase a regular housing structure and move their families out of the poverty cycle.