Our Story

OUR STORY

The two women behind Lavinia Trade and the Toockies Fairtrade Project are Yvonne and Phenia, mother and daughter from Denmark.


We have always cared a lot about our planet and all living creatures on it. Striving to minimize our impact on Earth, always prioritizing organic food, natural products and animal welfare above all.


When Yvonne back in 2015 opened a Nordic interior shop, she searched the Internet for an effective and natural alternative to plastic sponges/scourers. She found that this little cleaning product was incredibly hard to find quality replacements for, but understood how important it was to minimize the microplastics flooding into our oceans. 

 

After a lot of research, she stumbled upon Toockies.  


An American brand that through a Fairtrade project in India, produced scrubbers: hand-knit cloths made of jute and cotton.


Not only did the scrubbers look amazing (much prettier than the ugly, colourful sponges) but they were also Fairtrade, the result of a project meant to empower very poor women in rural areas outside Kolkata, India.

Yvonne immediately contacted Anna Marie, the woman behind the brand, and got the exclusive distribution rights in Europe. After that, it went quick. 


Many companies contacted us to become distributors all across Europe, and the interest and love for Toockies has exploded since then. 


Anna Marie spent a decade developing the Toockies Project with her business partner Jaya Basu, who is also the mastermind behind the local NGO running the project. 

Please visit https://www.promiseworldwide.org/ to see the amazing work they do for people in need in India.

 

In 2018 Anna Marie gave Lavinia Trade the unique opportunity to take over and continue the Toockies Project in North Eastern India.

And it was a dream come true!


Neither of us are educated in any kind of business studies, but Yvonne, having the experience of being an entrepreneur for almost 30 years, successfully establishing and running a business with her husband, and Phenia - newly graduate with a BA in Intercultural Education and Arabic and full of ideas, we took on this massive responsibility of securing work for all these women.


We have expanded from one village to five villages already. All the women who participate in our project have hopes and dreams, that can finally come true with the money they earn through knitting. See them all here and read about their wishes.


None of this would be possible without all of the wonderful shops, initiatives and kind people who love all Toockies products as much as we do, and believe in a greener world without plastic waste. 



THANK YOU!

 

We also want to thank Anna Marie for seeing our dedication and love for this project and believing in us. 


Please read Anna Marie's story of how Toockies was founded below.

"As a young girl I lived in a small fishing village on the island of Terceira, in the Azores. My mother had very few opportunities to make money because culturally she was expected to stay home and provide free labor to support the family. Her only source of income was embroidery. There was someone in the village that would provide the local ladies with embroidery materials, training and patterns. The finished work was exported to European countries. Mom embroidered to pay for her clothes as a single woman, her wedding dress, household needs, baby needs, and to buy each of her three daughters a gold cross necklace. I always think of her and how she was able to earn from home, when I see women struggling to meet the needs of their families.



When I married and became a homemaker myself, my mother-in-law introduced me to knitted dishcloths she received from her cousin Claudia, better known as “Toockie”. I very quickly became dependent on these “Toockies” to clean my home, my kids and my car. Soon I started thinking everybody should have these amazing Toockies® that worked hard and lasted for years. They were cost effective because they out performed the disposable cleaning products I used before and did not need to be replaced every week.


I began to think about how I might start a home business, with the help of women who could use a bit of extra money like my Mom did. Inspired by the Oprah show which, who through the Angel Network, helped so many in sometimes very simple ways, I began to look for an organization working with women who could not only use a bit of money, but were in need of a life saving income.



A couple of years, and a few pregnancies later, I saw a documentary on the plight of young women in India who were forced into slavery and prostitution. I wondered how desperate the need to survive must be, that someone would give up their child to some unknown fate for money to buy food to eat? In the documentary a group of people were trying to rescue some of these young women, but they were in need of funds to support them because the young women did not have any skills that they could use to support themselves.

What could I do to affect change living here in the U.S.? 


In answer to prayer I met Mrs. Jaya Basu who had started a non-profit for children in India. We exchanged ideas and information about our mutual interest in the “greater good”. After a wonderful sharing of our intentions her husband said it was time to build a business plan.

Jaya Basu is my partner and we are making a difference for women and their families in India using a Fair Trade system very similar to the embroidery co-op my mother belonged to.


The Toockies® project opens an unimaginable door of opportunity for our knitters. In North-East India women are desperate for a dignified way to earn a living, are mobilized and trained to create Toockies® products. A community center provides these women with a central location for training, knitting, picking-up yarn, and dropping off finished product, though most knitters work from home, as is culturally required, allowing them to work flexible hours.


The Toockies® project makes a difference by empowering these women to take charge of their own destiny.


In gratitude, we have given our knitters a voice by having them learn how to write their names and adding them to our packaging. We have also added their photographs and their wishes to out website so that anyone who wants to know who the name on their Toockies® Brand Product belongs to, can look her up.


We wholesale Toockies® to retailers in the U.S., Canada, Japan and New Zealand. Jaya and I hope to expand to more villages in need and to provide an alternative to disposable housewares for the benefit of all including our planet."


-Anna Marie Stauss

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