First and foremost it is important to note that Zulu Mien is a social enterprise. We exist to serve our target population/clients (rural women artisans) by helping them access markets. We operate as a ‘market intermediary model’ assisting craft production groups to access markets for their products.
Zulu Mien adds value to the products and offers product development services, production and marketing assistance, we also assist with transport costs. We pay for the development of sample products and never expect the women we work with to carry business costs. We pay for orders upfront – meaning the women need not wait for sales to be made before they are compensated for their material and labor costs. We then sell the products in high-end markets at a mark-up.
Zulu Mien is the culmination of the founder’s years of experience on the ground at a grassroots level, working and living with rural women in their communities.
The aim of supporting rural women to access markets is largely to preserve rural sustainable livelihood strategies. Women in rural regions are some of the busiest women in the world. They participate in numerous activities to support their families such as growing and selling vegetables, providing cooking services for local crèches, sewing and selling garments for traditional ceremonies, rearing and selling chickens etc. But one of the most important methods of earning an income is making and selling craft.
One of the great aspects of crafting is that it can be completed in between other income generating activities and childcare. Working from home and as a group of women the craft group members can support one another and manage childcare whilst completing orders for their products.
Our aim with founding Zulu Mien was to support this system by ensuring that the women have consistent orders for their products and a continual stream of income from craft. The women are both socially and geographically removed from the market for craft and so we provide the bridge to market. We also remove the burden of marketing and selling the craft because the women cannot be expected to do it all.
Our aim is to grow the number of craft production groups we support through the provision of ongoing orders for their products. By doing so we hope to support rural sustainable livelihood strategies throughout South Africa.