ASTANA – Social entrepreneurship is a global movement being successfully implemented in Kazakhstan. When small companies build values-driven businesses and identify themselves as social entrepreneurs, it has a positive effect on the economy and population as a whole.
Teplaya (Warm) and Eco-Culture Public Fund head Alesya Nugayeva runs a small business producing unique, environmentally-clean kids’ furniture, playhouses, accessories and household items. Last year, the project was put into action in 10 yards in Almaty and Esik town in the Almaty region with the participation of more than 800 children and parents.
“At the moment of profit generation, businessmen always have the question what to do next? To reinvest in your business, invest in expansion or start a charity project? So, we chose the third option. Of course, we understand that by doing this we have extended our business line, because it is crucial for us to maintain a harmonious, balanced activity where you not only take but also give something. And this is very important,” she said.
Nugayeva, a psychologist by trade, once headed the children’s development centre and obtained a management degree. Her husband, Arseniy Tarasov, was involved in manufacturing musical instruments.
Initially, young people made the wooden playgrounds and conducted eco-programmes. Later, they expanded and refocused their workshop to produce children’s outdoor furniture.
As a like-minded activists’ initiative, the Eto Dvor (This is a Yard) project was launched three years ago. The mission is to provide children with outdoor play equipment.
“We transform, together with children and parents, the space they live in. We also organise the eco-art education programme including reading evenings, watching cartoons on the walls of houses, master classes on street art and flower planting. The key moment here is to create an environmentally-friendly and creative atmosphere and take part in urban development. Due to this, the contribution to urbanisation issues and solving the social problems are the essential parts of the project,” she said.
In mid-May the Eco-Culture Fund provided furniture for kids, including playhouses, tables and chairs for the autism rehabilitation centre.
“Our philosophy is simple. Many people think that their home ends at the doorstep and the city with its grey background does not belong to them. And it’s better to wait for the ‘hero’ who will change the world. Then, the parents send this message to their children. We do believe that these norms in society are abnormal and we offer the tenants to start with their own yard,” said Nugayeva.
Their project is unique because they make furniture from environmentally-friendly materials, noted Tarasov.
“We do not use particleboard and use only wood, plywood, water-based paints and wax. Fifty percent of our enterprise is socially oriented and the part of the profit we provide for the municipal programmes supports the children’s environment. During production, we take into account age and the psychological and physical needs of the children. We do not just produce the goods, but we create a caring environment for children,” he added.
The project won the Saby Charitable Foundation’s grant this year. The financing helped purchase equipment, including milling, engraving and laser machines for a vast number of complex operations, and produce a line of wooden toys.
“Our furniture is affordable for any customer. Our clients are in sympathy with our individual approach, eco-friendliness, reliability, design and the social component of our business. We are happy to welcome new partners and parties interested in the development of our project. At the same time, we are not afraid the programme will fail if the financial support is not provided,” said Nugayeva.
The entrepreneurs aim to enter the national market and become competitive with foreign manufacturers in designing eco-friendly furniture with a careful approach to the child and respect of his or her psychological needs.
“As part of the project, our staff and volunteers provide creative environmental classes and urban Saturdays. The residents and children also participate in the installation and painting and they also show solidarity in the maintenance of the playground equipment,” she said.