At first glance at Taunina’s teddy bears, you might think they are too precious, too special to become your child’s best friend. They deserve to be in the arms of a child who not only will seek the comfort and friendship of a Winnie, a Paddington, a Yogi, or even an Irving (my bear’s name), but whose workmanship and the meaning behind it will be appreciated from an early age. Taunina bears are both art and soul and they made with love.
Taunina is an anagram for the African tau meaning lion and NINA, the acronym for “No Income, No Assets.” The company gives women with no assets or income to become lions of their own destinies.
Launched in 2011, by South African Tracey Chiappini-Young and Brazilian-American Karen Jansen, Taunina was born from late night discussions while the women were attending the London School of Economics. These long conversations led to the decision to build a company that employed women from poor communities to earn a living by using traditional embroidery skills. Via market research, the women discovered a new consumer profile--one who is socially-conscious who wants to use her dollar or euro power that makes a difference and changes the world.
With an idea and all the information they gathered from their studies about artisan-aid initiatives, Cape Town based Taunina came out of its den to make its mark in the world of commerce, art, and social consciousness.
The company provides a steady income versus piece rate pay in the form of wages that are higher than market-related salaries. The artisans receive 30 percent of before taxes of the company—20 percent through The Bear Essential Fund that contributes towards housing, healthcare and education for their families, and 10 percent in productivity cash bonuses.
Each bear in the various collections has a different story and sports colorful hand-stitched appliques and intricate embroidery of butterflies, birds, flowers, kites, and balloons. It takes a week to complete a bear that includes hand-cutting the pattern to the final stuffing and stitching. In addition, the bears are stamped with the artisan’s initials and an identification number. They hibernate in their own custom-made hatboxes and come with a certified passport, which bears the name and photograph of the artisan who created it.