How did you get your name –Tugende Design?
We named our social enterprise initiative Tugende Design. The word Tugende means “let’s go” in Luganda, one of the local languages in Uganda. To us, let’s go is empowering and motivating. It is action oriented, let’s go and help those in need! Our philosophy and vision as a social enterprise business is to build strength and empower women while creating beautiful jewelry, bags and accessories. We also design unique pieces, that are colorful, vibrant and made of upcycled and recycled materials such as paper, fabric scraps and cow horn. So, we also want to use the word Tugende for action toward recycling initiatives and that target sustainability. Finally, we think that is is empowering for women to wear beautiful jewelry made by talented artisans, who create something so pretty from nothing.
Is the jewelry really made from paper beads?
Yes, we know it sounds odd, but actually artisans have made paper beads for a long time and all over the world. The women teams we work with use mostly recycled paper scraps, magazine papers, old outdated medical text books, and leftovers from printing businesses. These papers are cut into strips, rolled tightly and made into beads. It is a time-consuming process that require both skills and patience.
How do I care for my jewelry?
The beads have been varnished 5 times, so they all have a strong coating on them. You should not need to worry about wearing them or getting them a little wet. And, as my kids say, they probably would survive a round in the dishwasher, but please don’t try. Best, to clean them with a damp cloth if needed. Sometimes if they are exposed to very high heat (like here in Atlanta during the summer), they may get a little sticky. If that happens, just let them dry and separate the beads by pulling them gently if they have gotten stuck together.
How can I help Tugende Design?
We are always looking for brand ambassadors, models, photographers, blog writers, and anyone willing to help. If you have just a little bit of time and value what we do, please send us a note. We have lots of ideas and gladly accept help. Also, if you are interested in an internship we can create one as well and will be glad to serve as a reference for work well done. We have a very small marketing budget as we seek to support our women artisans, so any help to spread the word about us is also greatly appreciated.
Where can I find Tugende Design products?
We are currently selling our products in our own shop, on amazon handmade (where are products ship with prime), on etsy, and also in the local store here in Atlanta called the Beehive (they also ship). If you have a recommendation for a store we should contact to feature our products, let us know. Also, if you have a store and want to buy our products wholesale, please contact us for sales sheets and details.
Which social media platforms are you on?
We are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler as Tugende Design. Please find us, follow us, like our posts and interact with us. And, please use the hashtag #TugendeDesign in your posts while wearing our jewelry, accessories or bags for a chance to be featured on our platforms.
How does Tugende Design benefit the women artisans?
All our sales benefit the women artisans. Our goal and priority is to create a living wage for the women that are part of our 5 Tugende Design teams (about 100 women). We engage in fair trade practices, pay up front for all the products and we also invest a minimum of 20% of all the profit in community building, health projects and training programs. A few things we have funded include a new cooking area for an orphan school in Kampala, a small pig farm in Jinja, a training project for the women to learn new skills. We have also purchased new equipment such as paper cutters and other materials to support the women entrepreneurs.
Who are the people behind the scenes at Tugende Design?
Tugende Design is run by us, a couple with lots of motivation to make the world a better place. Charles is from Uganda, he also runs a community based organization, the Twekembe Foundation and he does a lot of the legwork behind the scenes. He organizes the shipments, keep the artisans informed of our activities, organizes the jewelry and products, product photography, event planning and he also handles all logistics regarding the supply chain. He also makes some of the jewelry. Monica is originally from Sweden but is also an American. She does most of the jewelry design, makes several of the jewelry pieces, she does the social media, pr and general marketing strategies and she also is the main photographer. And, she also has a day job as a global health professor at a university. Our business is a social enterprise initiative that is both black-owned and woman owned. The goal is to serve the communities of women who have partnered with us.
What is a social enterprise initiative?
There are many definitions for a social enterprise, but we love the one provided by the social enterprise alliance which says it is:
"Organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social or environmental problem through a market-driven approach"
They also recognize that there are three different types of social enterprise businesses and organizations. Those that provide opportunity employment, those that provide transformative products or services and those that donate back to address an unmet need. As it turns out, Tugende Design is represented across all 3 categories. We provide opportunity employment to the women artisans we work with because there is no market place for their skills and products. We also provide a transformative product, designing and making jewelry, accessories and bags from mostly upcycled or recycled materials such as paper beads, fabric scraps and cow horn. Finally, we also fit in the category of donating back as we set aside at least 20% of the profit to give back to the communities for capacity building, basic needs and health projects.