YEWO is one of 15 social enterprises/ independent brands stocked at Textile Candy and their story is amazing!
Founded in 2018 by duo Maddy and Kyle, YEWO (Pronounced 'yay-whoa' : meaning 'thank you’) is a social enterprise and jewellery design studio based between Asheville, North Carolina and Manchewe village, Malawi.
The YEWO workshop in Malawi overlooks the mountains that make up the great rift valley and, although beautiful, these rural settings have created many production challenges. There is no electricity in the village, running water only 20% of the time, and the location is three hours away from the main town. Despite this the team at YEWO are thriving and providing stable employment for talented craftspeople in the local community. YEWO employees work Monday through Friday on contract, guaranteeing a stable salary with benefits, consistent work, and annual raises. The average salary of a YEWO employee is at least 2x higher than the national minimum wage in Malawi.
With roughly 95% of the community in Manchewe either unemployed (depending solely on subsistence farming— growing enough food annually for their family) or working in the informal economic sector (i.e. selling goods in the marketplace or one-off jobs— usually paid well below minimum wage), YEWO provides much needed employment.
One of the reasons I decided to stock only independent makers and social enterprises at Textile Candy is that these businesses are already doing so much good and that should be celebrated! As well as providing employment and financial stability to their team, YEWO also invests a portion of the sales into local community development initiatives. Currently, YEWO sales support:
- The YEWO Nursery School: providing ages for four nursery school teachers
- A daily feeding program for twenty nursery school children
- Salaries for Two Primary School Teachers
- Scholarships for Three Secondary School Students
YEWO is a great example of a product based social enterprise that is investing into their local community. They strive to continue this by sourcing locally as often as possible. Although almost everything in Malawi is imported, YEWO has been able to invest funds back into the surrounding economy by buying local produce for daily meals and working with nearby wood carvers to create their product range.
So how does this fantastic social enterprise operate?
Here’s a break down of their making process:
1. Maddy comes up with new designs at the studio in Asheville, NC.
2. Kyle figures out how to make the designs and the best way to source the raw materials needed.
3. Head to Malawi for five months. Kyle trains the YEWO workshop managers how to make the new product from start to finish at the Malawi workshop.
4. The workshop managers are then responsible for training the YEWO team and oversee quality control, packaging, and shipping.
5. Maddy figures out how to sell the product back in the US
6. Funds are sent back to Malawi monthly.
If you'd like to see more YEWO products and look behind the scenes of a Malawi based seocial enterprise check out the YEWO instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/yewomalawi