Friends of Tilonia, Inc, through its Sprout Enterprise® initiative, is building a network of artisans, designers and entrepreneurs creating sustainable livelihoods for rural communities with few economic alternatives.
We draw on the rich cultural heritage of these communities and use indigenous skills and materials to craft our artisan collections. We connect these artisan enterprises to new markets and provide the support needed to ensure these enterprises are successful and sustainable.
Our goal is to enable these artisans to earn much more than the bare minimum – and to develop the economic basis to live in dignity, free from hunger and extreme poverty.
We believe that creating economic opportunities for women and providing education for girls are significant drivers to economic development in emerging markets.
We help build the business capacity and entrepreneurial skills of artisan and rural enterprises in India, Mexico and Cambodia, enabling them to create economic opportunities and provide sustainable livelihoods in rural communities.
We help these enterprises to:
• Develop their products, pricing and business strategy for sales in US and international markets;
• Develop distribution and sales in US and international markets;
• Improve product quality and business profitability.
When these enterprises grow successfully, the artisans they employ are able to earn an income to provide for their families and improve their quality of life.
We support girls' education by providing funding support to schools serving marginalized communities in rural India. Education is fundamental to women's economic and political empowerment and basic literacy and numeracy are essential skills to enable agency.
We believe that:
• Locally owned and operated enterprises are the primary drivers to community and economic development.
• Rural development and support of sustainable agriculture and artisan enterprises is critical to economic growth in emerging markets.
• Grass-roots, community-based initiatives are core to resilient, vibrant local economies.
Therefore, we work with local entrepreneurs who have the vision and leadership to build enterprises, believe in local talent and capabilities, and are committed to sustainable, ethical business practices.
Through our Sprout Enterprise® initiative, we help entrepreneurs and artisan enterprises create the business processes and build the operations team to:
• Access US and international markets and build export sales to US and international retailers and consumers.
• Access expertise and financing to build their business capacity and grow their business.
With extensive business, academic and non-profit experience, our board and team of advisors offer the entrepreneurs in our network a rich resource.
• Business coaching and mentorship to entrepreneurs and start-up teams.
We listen to, and are inspired by, dynamic entrepreneurs with a business vision and aspiration that will change the status quo in their communities. We help shape viable business models and strategies for start-up and expansion.
• Connection to a network of designers, retailers and entrepreneurs.
We introduce and foster collaborative relationships across our network to support the development, promotion and sale of artisan products. We help bridge communication and cultural context to create productive business relationships.
• Connection to a network of buyers, retail customers and donors.
We introduce and foster funding relationships within our network to support the development and growth of economic and educational opportunities. We provide fiscal sponsorship and management for US funders who support our initiatives.
We monitor key metrics for:
o number of artisans working with each enterprise
o average income per artisan
o sales of each enterprise
o per cent of sales resulting from our partnership with them,
o per cent of product sales earned by artisans
o profitability of enterprise
o number of communities and families served
o source and use of project funds
o outreach to project supporters
Friends of Tilonia has provided:
• Funding for training of semi-literate women as solar engineers, enabling the solar-electrification of rural communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
$144,000 to the Barefoot College in India for solar electrification of more than 200 rural households in 2014.
• Funding for rainwater harvesting projects in Rajasthan providing clean drinking water to marginalized, rural communities.
$52,500 to the Barefoot College in India to support repair or construction of rainwater harvesting systems in 14 communities in rural India in 2014.
• Funding for girls' education in rural India.
$82,660 to the Bhadrajun Artisan Trust in India to support FabIndia School in 2014.
$6000 to the Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development in India to support the J. B. Singh Girls School in rural Bihar in 2017.
• Funding for development and expansion of women weavers' associations in rural India.
$10,000 to the Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development in India for training, looms and materials for a weavers association of 24 women in 2015.
$6,000 to the FORRAD for operation support of grassroots initiatives in rural India in 2017.
• Business mentoring of entrepreneurs building social enterprises creating economic opportunities and improving the quality of life of marginalized, rural communities.
$46,490 in FY 2015 and $31,055 in FY 2016 to support:
o Business development and market representation for artisan enterprise sales to US retailers and consumers via Sprout Enterprise® brand. 10+ artisan enterprises in India, Mexico and Cambodia, employing more than 2,500 artisans.
o Agricultural information platform linking farmers in rural India to buyers of their agricultural products. More than 190,000 users in 4 states in India, posting more than 232,000 buy / sell ads for 210 different crops and commodities.
o Online e-commerce enterprise operated by a local team in rural India improving profitability of the artisan enterprise which creates work for more than 450 rural artisans.