Move over Barbie, Love Nonku dolls are here to stay. Each doll in the Love Nonku collection is hand-crafted by Nonku Jijita. Raised in Zimbabwe but now based in the UK, Nonku chose to make dolls in order to share her love for craft with the world.
Loving the satisfaction of sewing is one thing but making a business out of it is another. Watching cartoons with her kids lead Nonku to realise that comical cartoon characters are more beloved by children. Nonku Jijita currently plans on establishing a workshop in Zimbabwe that will distribute her dolls across Africa.
Why did you decide to make a business selling dolls?
I have always been very crafty since I was little. I make anything and everything with my hands and dolls was one of them. I wanted to chose one of my craft activities to share with the world, so I decided to share the dolls.
What ideas went to developing this doll that is “not your typical Barbie-style doll”?
I wanted to create a design that is simplistic enough to let a child use their own imagination as to what they want that doll to be.
I’ve spent years watching cartoons with my kids and noticed that the comical simple cartoon characters are what made my kids laugh and be happy. This is as opposed to characters that where created to look a certain way.
Children are a blank canvas when they come into this world. They should be given a chance to use their own imagination without being bombarded with certain imagery they feel obliged to conform to.
What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me goes like this
- Take my kids to school,
- Come back home, make a coffee
- Get sewing in my home studio
- I have until 3:30 to collect the kids from school.
- When they are back home, I tend to them
- Sometimes, I go back to sewing in the evening.
In which countries do you operate and do you have plans to expand?
I am currently delivering to UK, USA and Europe. My dream is to expand into Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe, so I am still looking for opportunities to do so.
There are some very talented and gifted people in Zimbabwe who do not have access to opportunities. I want to empower and inspire them so they know that there is no limit if they wish to use their gifts and talents. Once my workshop is set up in Zimbabwe, I would like to use it as a base to later connect with toy stores and boutiques throughout Africa.
I get a lot of requests for my dolls all over Africa and it would logistically make sense to have a distribution hub in Africa. The dolls would be easily accessible if they are in boutiques across different African countries.
Before expanding, I will also need to start connecting and networking. I want to establish relationships with boutique owners, as well as look at marketing strategies that cover the whole of Africa.
What processes have you put in place to ensure that your business is effectively run?
Attention to detail is key. From the fabric used, to the quality of the thread and paying attention not to waste precious fabric. Each doll is made individually to ensure quality.
There is a lot fine cutting as some pieces can be quite small. A steady hand and a good eye is required and definitely lots of light needs to be accessible. The eyes, lips and hair of my dolls are all done by hand and getting the correct measurements is crucial to achieve a uniform look.
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