Focus on Pro Crafters: The crafting community empowering Zimbabwean crafters through social media

“We believe we are one family. No religion, no politics and no race enter into our family. We have members from all over Zimbabwe and like a family we work together,” declares Conradie.

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PROCRAFTER ZIMBABWE ELA THE GARDEN

NATHANIEL GONDO

Crafting involves the making of decorative articles by hand. Popular crafts in Zimbabwe include beadwork, woven artifacts, macramé, handmade jewelry, leatherware, crotcheting, and knitwear. The plethora of skills that can be defined under crafting has resulted in it becoming a viable vocation that is sustaining thousands of people in Zimbabwe.

Pro Crafters has emerged as the preeminent collective providing  various platforms for crafters to market their crafts and turn their passion into profit.

Founded in 2021 by Barbara Conradie, Pro Crafters seeks to give crafters exposure, both to each other and to potential customers. Conradie started Pro Crafters online, in the midst of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

She explains, ”Pro Crafters was founded in May 2021 when I realised that the artists and crafters of Zimbabwe needed a platform to get exposure during lockdown. I posted a simple question on New Zimvine, asking if anyone would be interested in a virtual craft fair.”

The inaugural virtual art fair was conducted via a WhatsApp group. From there, Pro Crafters moved to Facebook, which is where they grew from strength to strength to garner thousands of members.  

“The art fair was run through a WhatsApp group and fifty crafters and artists came forward and became our founding members. Shortly after the virtual market, we opened our Pro Crafters Facebook group that is free for all crafters to advertise,” adds Conradie.

Pro Crafters has helped the Zimbabwean crafting community in leveraging social media to come together and grow, whilst improving their craft and business acumen.  

Having built a solid online foundation, Pro Crafters hosted their first craft market as soon as the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased up. Conradie beams, “Once lock down regulations started to lift, we hosted a craft market at Belgravia Sports Club, which was an amazing experience!”

The craft market was also about identifying gaps within their community. Conradie then identified the need for virtual workshops that enlighten fellow crafters on the do’s and don’ts in the crafting industry, as well as tips on managing a crafting business in Zimbabwe.

“This led to the realisation that workshops on how to were needed. We hosted our first workshop with guest speakers virtually using WhatsApp group and had over 300 people participate,” says Conradie.

Guest speakers for the virtual workshop(s) include established crafters like Gina Draga from Simply Sew, Sarah Smit from Smit Knives, Pearl Asiimwe from Atwines Crafts, and Peckance Machifambi from Yaper Harper Craft.

In addition to the virtual workshops, Pro Crafters also runs a mentoring program that connects new crafters to  experienced crafters. This helps upcoming crafters avoid common startup mistakes and get insights on how to run a successful crafting enterprise.

“We also have a free mentoring program that pairs an experienced crafters with new crafters in the aim of giving them a head start and to avoid so many start up mistakes. This is voluntary and means so much to me that experienced crafters take the time to help new comers,” explains Conradie.

Never one to run out of ideas, Conradie is mulling the introduction of a zero interest loan facility, in partnership with Marufu-Misi Law Chambers. This will further empower crafters, considering that capital inadequacies are the biggest hinderance to their progress.

Barbara Conradie

She explains, “With the help of Fungai Misi from Marufu-Misi Law Chambers, we hope to open the crafters 0% interest loan facility. The biggest problem crafters face is capital for stock to make custom orders. This loan facility will be for small amounts with some criteria needing to be met.”

Although it started as an online movement, Pro Crafters is slowly shifting towards on the ground impact. They recently partnered with Fikile Ndlovhu to open a non profit gift shop at Ela The Garden. “In August 2023, we partnered with Fikile Ndlovhu to open our non profit gift shop. What the crafter prices the item is what they get. The gift shop is growing from strength to strength,” narrates Conradie.

She heaped praises for Eleni Athitaki, the proprietor of Ela The Garden, where the gift shop is domiciled. “I am honoured to call Eleni Athitaki a friend now. We share a vision. All Pro Crafters share the vision of equal opportunity and exposure for all,” she beams. Conradie plans on spreading the concept of Pro Crafters gift shops across Zimbabwe, but admits that these are plans for a distant future.

A key contributor to Pro Crafters’ impact and success has been their zero tolerance towards discrimination by basis of race, religion, gender, creed, or background.  They have members across Zimbabwe, and  their ethical stance has made it possible for them to remain united, almost like a family.  

“We believe we are one family. No religion, no politics and no race enter into our family. We have members from all over Zimbabwe and like a family we work together,” declares Conradie.

From it’s humble beginnings, Pro Crafters has proven it’s genuine passion for crafters and it’s vision to see them turn their hobbies into livable careers. From mentoring programs, to zero interest loans, and non profit gift shops; one can only wonder what Pro Crafters will do next for the Zimbabwean crafting industry.

If you are looking for some unique artifacts, check out the Pro Crafters Facebook group where there are thousands of members showcasing their crafts.

You can also visit the Pro Crafters gift shop at 15 York Avenue, Newlands, Harare to get yourself some beautiful crafts. If you’re a crafter and you’re looking for a platform to showcase your work, contact Ms Conradie directly on +263780398554.

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