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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Kudhinda Factory Visit

Visiting Kudhinda was one of the things I was looking forward to most of all. You have to understand that this is a company started by a woman with a dream. I don’t know if it was her dream to start a business, but I do know that her dream was to make a social impact. Social entrepreneurship is something rarely seen today, let alone in the late eighties when she started… Growing up I had many female role models who were self made entrepreneurs. While I have always loved entrepreneurship, I never really considered that my love of crafts, color and fabrics could become a viable social venture, as I had never really seen such a business model least until I remembered Kudhinda in Zimbabwe.

This was going to be my first visit to the factory because Tashanda’s initial stock was selected for us and mailed directly to the USA by our distribution team in Harare. I had visited their retail stores in Zimbabwe though & I was always dazzled by the gorgeous colors. My mother offered to accompany me to the factory since she already knew some of the staff there.

Upon arrival we were ushered into a gorgeous sales room exquisitely decorated with African themed wall hangings, cushions, pottery and posters. It was so tempting to just pull out my camera and start taking pictures but of course that would have been foolish (not to mention over zealous)… so I waited for Mr Jonas (sales manager) to come and greet us. It was nice to finally meet him after e-mailing one another back and forth over the past year. After chatting with Mr Jonas for some minutes Ros herself (founder of Kudhinda) passed by and we were introduced to her. We did not talk for long though as she seemed to be tied up. It was nice to meet her though.

Mr Jonas was a great host. He introduced us to the staff and talked about the business process from end to end. He has worked for the company for over 10 years and worked his way up to his current position. All the staff seemed to genuinely like him. I could tell right away that this was a well run operation with good internal controls and people management. The premises were very clean, the employees had on protective clothing, environmentally friendly dyes are used and many of the workers had been there for most of their working careers. Mr Jonas allowed us to take photographs of the staff at work. I decided it would still be polite to get their permission & they jokingly answered that as long as I sent them copies it was ok by them - I still need to send those pics!!

As we toured the premises Mr Jonas explained that due to the current agricultural decline the company was no longer using potatoes to stamp their fabrics. Instead they now use rubber stamps. He showed us the dye mixing area, the large stove with a conveyor belt for color fastening and the fabric stamping area. The stamping process was the most interesting. The women doing the work were so skilled - there were no smudges or errors even though at least three of them were working on one piece. They explained that it takes three or more hours to complete one wall hanging. That's a lot of labor, time and patience. At 10 am every day the factory speakers are turned on and the staff can listen to music as they work. I can't think of a better combination - making crafts & listening to music at the same time.
The cutting and sewing area had a huge cutting table and lethal cutting machine, sewing area, finishing area, and finally a distribution area. Kudhinda makes pottery, household ornaments and much more...The company ships its products to retailers and wholesalers all over the world, and I have no doubt that they will be continuing their amazing work for a long time to come.
Thanks Mr Jonas (or "JJ" as his staff call him) for the tour!