LAHORE-In as search for safe, environmental friendly toys for her nieces and nephews, Farwa came up with an idea to start a business that will change the course of her own professional career but also the way people look at toys and link them with health of their children and the ecology.

Farwa Tassaduq along with two other co-founders run the One Earth Toys from a room out of Akhuwat Foundation’s office in Lahore, where she along with her two colleagues design, create, market and sell toys made out of wood. The all-female team also holds woodworking workshops for children to inculcate artistic abilities in them.

Talking to The Nation, Farwa, the founder and head of business development at One Earth Toys said that she got the idea of starting the business through her own need.

She said, “I have Environmental Science background and for my home I always tried to find toys for my nephew and nieces that were environment friendly”. She said that she was looking for toys that were made of wood or cotton. “Finding such products in Pakistan is very difficult and those that are available are too expensive,” she said.

Farwa said she started thinking about making toys that were locally made, as these kinds of products were mostly coming from outside of Pakistan thus expensive.

“The reason I started the business was borne from the safety and health concerns for children and the environmental damage caused by plastics,” Farwa explained.

Farwa, with a BS in Environmental Sciences from Punjab University and MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of St Andrews, said that the main purpose of One Earth Toys was to manufacture toys made from natural materials.

“Mostly toys in Pakistan are coming from China and are made of plastic. The quality of plastic is one concern, another was the paint used on those toys, which could be harmful for children as they often put toys in their mouth,” she said.

The plastic used in toys is non-biodegradable that ended up in the ocean or on a landfill and would remain there for thousands of years.

While toys made up of natural materials were durable and when a part broke or the whole toy was discarded, these end up becoming part of nature.

Farwa said that in Pakistan, there was little awareness about the dangers of plastic and parents were not aware about the damage to sensory development of children due to these plastic products.

She is a Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) fellow, a project of the British Council in Pakistan, which aims to empower young entrepreneurs develop and grow social enterprises that have a wider impact on the community.

About the programme, Farwa said that she was introduced to it when she was showcasing a prototype of her idea at an exhibition and a DICE member asked her to apply for the programme.

She said that in the fellowship, she gets training on different topics such as working as a team, design thinking, scaling up the business and how to manage the financials of the business.

She said, “The good thing is that there is a gap of a month in between each session, so you get to reflect on what you have learnt and how it can be incorporated in your work. We partnered up with Akhuwat as a part of scaling up our business”.

I could meet other entrepreneurs and find ways to collaborate and enhance their business during fellowships, she added.

She said, “I am looking forward to the next few months at DICE where I will meet other entrepreneurs who are working in the education sector and can discuss ways to collaborate”.

Saba Ehsan from DICE and works closely with DICE fellows said that One Earth Toys had employed a unique approach to conceptualizing the idea of toys and their usefulness in the minds of kids.

“Their approach is centered on being environment-friendly and creating non-toxic toys as well as enhancing kids’ creativity with the way the toys are designed,” she said. Saba said that DICE aimed to work closely with such socially responsible women-led enterprises and empowers them through its fellowship programme.

In the near future, Farwa hope to expand their business and buy machinery and hire carpenters to not only expand their business but also aware people about the dangers of everyday use of plastics.