The YEWO workshop is based in a mountainous rural village in Malawi where roughly 95% of the community are 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). Almost all of our team had previously never held a job in the formal economic sector, had access to reliable income, or knew a single thing about making jewelry before starting work at YEWO. We saw an opportunity to share our skills, open up a new market, provide reliable employment, social benefits, and give back a portion of sales to local community development initiatives in Malawi.
The YEWO workshop sits in Manchewe village; overlooking the mountains that make up the great rift valley— a truly beautiful setting to create.
We built the workshop in 2018 and continue to improve it every year.
Although beautiful, our rural setting has created many production challenges. For example, there is no electricity in the entire village, we have running water about 20% of the time, and we are three hours away from the main town. However, what we lack in resources, we make up with creative solutions and a team of overly positive individuals. Our workshop has become the gathering spot for all of us to come together as a small family to problem solve, laugh, and create.
1. Maddy comes up with a specific design in our studio in Asheville, NC.
2. Kyle figures out how to make this design and the best way to source the raw materials needed.
3. Head to Malawi for five months. Kyle personally trains Wakisa and Kennedy (YEWO’s workshop managers) how to make the new product from start to finish at our workshop.
4. Wakisa and Kennedy are then responsible for training the YEWO crew how to make the product, and oversee quality control, packaging, and shipping.
5. Maddy figures out how to sell the product back in the US… Sales create wages!
6. Funds are sent back to Malawi monthly. Kennedy and Wakisa manage the YEWO budget (food budget, salaries, savings programs, petty cash, etc.)
These shared responsibilities create a social business built on mutual trust and collaboration throughout the entire manufacturing process. We depend on each other to be successful and therefore hold each other accountable for our roles within our little company.
The YEWO Effects of a Fixed Salary + Social Benefits
We believe business can be used for good and ethical employment. The following are values we have implemented as a social business:
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.
95% of YEWO employees have started a monthly savings account through the YEWO savings program. These funds are used for many things that improve both the day-to-day and long-term quality of life for our team and their families. So far, our team have used their savings for: investing in higher education for their children/families, constructing or developing their houses, starting a small-scale side business, expanding their gardens yield.
YEWO employees are provided two daily meals + tea (made with love by mama Joy, the onsite YEWO cook).
Trainings + Programs:
We believe in holistic employment and offer the YEWO team annual trainings that range from personal financial management and team building communication, to jewelry making competitions and health & first aid courses.
Paid Time Off:
YEWO employees work five days a week and receive 21 days of paid time off per year plus major holidays. Providing sufficient days off allows staff to tend to their gardens, spend time with their families, and avoid burnout of the job.
YEWO employees have access to an individual healthcare fund to assist with hospital fees.
Improving the environment of our workshop and providing healthy working conditions are ongoing priorities. All YEWO employees receive uniforms and appropriate protection (gloves, eyewear, masks, etc.) for the production process within the workshop. Every year we upgrade our workshop and invest in tools/machines needed. This has led to increased productivity, access to technical training, safe working conditions, and a general sense of pride and creative inspiration in our place of work.
Our Community Give Back:
A portion of YEWO sales are invested back into the local community development initiatives. Currently, YEWO sales support:
- The YEWO Nursery School: providing wages 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
To minimize our carbon footprint, we strive to source locally whenever possible— which can be challenging as almost everything is imported into Malawi. However, by sourcing raw materials locally, buying local produce for our daily meals, and working with nearby wood carvers, we are able to invest funds back into the surrounding economy.