iLala is a small business that started by chance really. A friend and I were on holiday and saw all these beautiful baskets for sale in a market. We spoke to the ladies in the market and found out that they weave everything themselves, and sell their products to holiday goers throughout the year. Unfortunately there was always a quiet season, generally starting after Easter and going right through to the end of October. So for almost half the year, these ladies’ income was minimal if anything.
We wondered how we could help them get an income during the quiet time, and iLala was born! We started off only selling at markets in Gauteng, and occasionally taking orders on Instagram, to now having opened an online store and having a couple of shops stock our products.
We chose the name iLala because the Lala palm is the main material used to make the baskets, and we thought the Zulu reference to the tree would suit perfectly as that is where our ladies are from.
My friend has taken a step back from iLala as she is a dentist and her time is minimal. So I now fully run the business, and I’m loving it and learning lots as I go.
Our main goals as a business are:
1. To support local – we make sure our products are produced in South Africa, using South African materials, and that our ladies weaving for us are South African too. From start to finish our products are South African.
2. Fair trade – when buying our products from our ladies, we don’t haggle the prices down. We have explained to them that we will be back and will support them over and over again, and therefore we would appreciate a “wholesale” price from them. They understand this, and have been very co-operative with this. They also let me know in advance if they’re having a price increase which I in turn appreciate too.
3. Sustainability – We try and be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. We’ve cut certain products out of our listing as they were contributing to deforestation of indigenous forests. Any plastic used in our products is recycled (only our placemats use a bit of plastic to hold them together.) Our tags are compostable and we are working on getting our packaging to be eco-friendly too. (This one is on me, I stupidly ordered a big roll of bubble wrap when we started sending orders via courier. I am trying to finish this roll and will then move onto a paper version of bubble wrap.)
I am hoping to expand iLala to start including other local crafts soon. I am currently in contact with a lady who makes beautiful flat lay baskets to hang up on a wall, and another Lady who paints plant pots in a beautiful Ndebele pattern. So hopefully in the near future these items will be added.
That’s a quick and short break down of the business. Please feel free to ask any questions if you have!