RE:13 Recycle! Refresh! Renew!

by Natalie "RE:13" Freeman in London, England, United Kingdom

RE:13 Recycle! Refresh! Renew!
We did it
On 7th December 2017 we successfully raised £689 with 36 supporters in 56 days

To start-up micro-businesses in Zimbabwe, using recycled textiles, through offering training, skills, resources and access to new markets.

by Natalie "RE:13" Freeman in London, England, United Kingdom


This Shona greeting was learned when I spent six months volunteering in Zimbabwe in 2015. This experience changed my life and has propelled me to create RE:13. This project is all about me taking my skills in enterprise and entrepreneurship training; experience in supporting business owners; passion for textiles and my life purpose to make a difference to communities in my heart-home, Zimbabwe. Tatenda (thank you!) for visiting this page and for your interest in RE:13.

RE:13 - Recycle!  Refresh! Renew!

The core activity of RE: 13 will be the establishing of textile based micro-business owners from communities in Zimbabwe, using recycled material, fabric scraps and re-purposed textiles as the raw materials for the creation of new products for him, her and home. Our objective is the long-term support for and sustainability of the businesses our participants start via our project. We'll do this through:

  • delivery of business skills sessions
  • delivery of sewing and garment construction classes
  • support to sell items and access to new markets, through marketing, sales, wholesale and retail support
  • ongoing mentoring of business owners

Who Will RE:13 Help? - Meet Rachie

Rachael is one of many women I met in her situation when I was volunteering in Rusape. Her daughter keeps her very busy, but this doesn't cover the fact that she is economically inactive and in a very unstable position, and this of course has a massive impact on her life, health and choices. We also know that the life of her daughter is likely to be subject to the same challenges if things don't change for her parents.

People I met and worked with demonstrated their interest in making a difference to their lives through volunteering, community development and outreach work. The challenge is that there aren't formal jobs or business opportunities for people to access. With some estimates putting Zimbabwean unemployment at 95%, and of the 5% who are employed, stats say that 84% of them are in the "informal economy". There is a serious challenge with employment opportunities in Zimbabwe. RE:13 is going to join the efforts to help plug that huge gap through entrepreneurship and real enterprise activities.

As part of RE:13, Rachael and others like her, can develop their skills, learn with others, and have access to much needed resources and training that will enable them to create small businesses for themselves and their families.  This provides an essential leg-up to positively shape their futures. This is why I've created RE:13 and we need your help to enable us to make a genuine difference. 

How Does RE:13 Work?

Outreach work has already begun with my colleagues from Zimbabwe who are promoting the project and gathering interest from participants that will take part in the first cycle of the project in February 2018.  Volunteers from the UK and Zimbabwe will support our project participants, working on tasks such as product design, enterprise workshop facilitation, production and manufacture, social media management, workshop facilitation, photography and film-making, presenting opportunities to develop transferable employability and enterprise skills amongst both participants and volunteers.

Alongside the technical expertise and raw materials provided by RE:13, we will also give mentoring support to ensure that each person we work with is equipped with the knowledge and skills required to start and manage their own micro business, creating sustainable enterprises for the long-term

The RE:13 project works in four stages - taking participants through  exploratory enterprise skills sessions through to the professionalisation of their micro-business. Each stage is aimed at offering value, skills development and the means to lay the foundations for their own business. Full details of the project stages can be seen here: RE:13 Project Stages Overview

Is RE:13 Needed?

Why Enterprise?

RE:13 has been designed with one main aim - to provide opportunities that generate economic activity among individuals and communities in Zimbabwe. In a country with extremely high levels of unemployment (90% - 95% May 2017) and no welfare state, there is great difficulty for many people to earn enough to eat, live and send their children to school. Schooling and medical care are paid for at point of use, so no income can quite literally mean no school and no access to health care.

The pressure is increased on women, who with an economic reliance on their partners and husbands have a lack of autonomy in many areas of life, including child spacing, regular and consistent use of contraception and insistence on practicising safe sex.

This creates an environment for behaviours that contribute towards poor sexual health, and challenges around maternal health, occurences of childhood marriage for girls and early removal from school for girls and boys due to the family's inability to afford to send them. Economic pressures have a big impact on wider health and social conditions, too

With such a high level of unemployment and a severe lack of jobs available in the country, enterprise and entrepreneurship provide a practical way for communities to stimulate their economic activity in a real way.  Through the provision of skills, raw materials and the means of production as well as access to new markets, RE:13 is directly engaged in activity designed to provide tangible outcomes for individuals, children, families and communities across Zimbabwe. 

How will we know that RE:13 is successful?

The first project cycle is taking place from the 1st February - 6th March 2018.  My main aim is for our project participants to feel that they have developed - in regards to knowledge and skills, increased understanding of enterprise and increased economic activity.  

Success for this first project cycle will look like, at least:

  • 85 particpants taking part in enterprise skills workshops
  • 45 taking part in sewing lessons
  • 15 going forward to the full business start-up phase - that is completing all Four Stages of the Project 

Other measures include the following indicators of empowerment which RE:13 will assess with the project participants at the start and end of the project cycle:

  • Confidence to access new resources and services
  • The confidence and drive to earn a living for themselves
  • Generating an income from their own endeavours and the implementation of new skills 
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Sharing new skills and training with others
  • Increased particpation  and economic contribution to the home
  • How will the money be spent?

    Our aim is to raise £5,500 during this campaign.

    This will enable us to deliver our first project in Zimbabwe in February 2018. 

    Funding will go towards the following:

    • enterprise training venue and project participants costs
    • purchase of sewing machines 
    • purchase of haberdashery supplies ie. zips, buttions, finishing, lining, patterns etc
    • production of enterprise handbooks and a start-up kit suited to the Zimbabwean market in English with Shona and Ndebele
    • running pop-up shops
    • marketing and promotion of the project for the purpose of selling items created by the project participants
    • Zimbabwe and UK volunteer support costs

    Who is behind RE:13 ?

    That's me! I'm Natalie. In 2015 I volunteered as a Team Leader with an international development charity and was eventually placed in a community called Rusape, in Zimbabwe. I cried on the plane as I sat on the runway at Heathrow, not quite believing that I was going to be away from home, family and friends for six months.

    My role was to act as a project co-ordinator on the project, supporting the work and wellbeing of the group of 18, 18-25 year old volunteers from the UK and Zimbabwe. I was a lot older than everyone else.  In fact the organisation I went with no longer permits volunteers of my age to take part in the programme at all! Future Serendipity 1...

    Our aim was to deliver a range of outreach activities focused on information and education about sexual and reproductive health.  I was fully engrossed in my ever changing work and community for six months, but I always had my eyes open to the realities of my environment. I asked lots of questions of the professionals and community members I met, and listened intently to the responses. I was trying to learn as much as I could, all the time. 

    Despite thinking I would be driven to return home after just three weeks in – ! - I completed my placement.

    I was greeted by rain at Heathrow on the 31st August 2015. I vowed that if I got a job I would return to Rusape. I did, flying out again four months later on Christmas Day.

    The differences between my experience and those of my Zimbabwean volunteer colleagues was brought into sharp focus by the fact I secured a job within one month of returning to London, like all of the other UK volunteers. Many of the Zim volunteers weren’t in the same position. Some were at university, but many remained unemployed.

    As I completed research into the enterprise support that was available in different areas in Zimbabwe, I found that the missing element was resources and diversity in projects. Many enterprise projects are rightfully focused on livestock and agriculture. However these are at risk of creating more suppliers than buyers in some areas. Then further inspiration came on a rural road during my holiday, research trip thingy: 

    I saw RE:13 in my mind. I would source the raw materials - recycled material, fabric scraps and unused textiles and we would work with people to produce a variety of different and innovative items, with a sustainable angle. That way someone could stop and buy from more than one seller. …and now we’re here!

    "Natalie, are you qualified to deliver RE:13?"


    • I've been working in enterprise and entrepreneurship education and support for over 15 years
    • I currently run 13 Rhythms, a business and professional development service that provides coaching, workshops and training to individuals and organisations
    • I have extensive experience in supporting others to start their own businesses as a business advisor, mentor and coach
    • RE:13 has been two years in the making with research, partnership work and planning
    • My six months in Zimbabwe gave me experience of the challenges of working in an international context and with RE:13 operating there, my network of colleagues there form a crucial part of this project 
    • I'm a SFEDI qualified business advisor and an UnLtd Social Enterprise Champion both relevant to this project
    • I ran my own boutique in London until 2008

    I say all of this to say, that your donations will be in safe hands with me!  It can be difficult to know who to support and why, but my passion for this project is matched by my skills, qualifications, experience and drive to make this project successful.  I'm not doing it alone, I'm just the face of it all...

    How can you help?

    Great question!

    The simplest way is to make a pledge now that you've read this far!  I hope to have answered enough of your questions to help you see and share my vision and for you to offer financial support however large or small. I have a list of Rewards for your pledges too and new Rewards will be added all the time, so it'll be good to keep checking back with us.

    You could pledge the equivalent of the cost of one day's cafe coffee and croissant and really make a difference to our project. Or maybe you could give £1 every week for the life of the campaign. Or do one big donation and make a big splash! Or maybe pledge and forward the campaign to three other people and ask them to match your pledge? There are lots of ways to support - sharing the campaign with a supportive message will really help too - but money helps the most!

    Our pledge rewards start from £1. The choice is yours - we are grateful for every penny that you choose to give. 

    If you choose to support RE:13 you will:

    • be thanked profusely! Giving is a choice and making the choice to support our work is something we will be very grateful for
    • receive exclusive early access to our collections and special product ranges reserved just for our supporters
    • be recognised as a supporter and named on our project updates, website and social media - optional 
    • FEEL GOOD!

    Below are some ways you can join us and support RE:13:

    • Share! Share! Share! Please make a donation, then share this campaign with others telling them that you've supported us today and throughout our campaign
    • Encourage everyone you know to make a donation too
    • Help us in our fundraising endeavours - post a supportive video about RE:13 on your social media pages along with the link to this crowdfunder page telling people why they should support RE:13

    So. That's it!

    THANK YOU for reading this and thank you for your pledge...Go on, make a pledge NOW! Tatenda...

    For information on volunteering with RE:13

    Watch here Natalie Talks RE:13

    Apply here to take part in the RE:13 International Volunteering Programme

    For more information on Natalie and 13 Rhythms, please visit: 13Rhythms


    What's My Why? The Big Picture - extra info

    The United Nations has committed to a global set of Sustainable Development Goals designed to create a world in which core principles and access to various opportunities, benefits and resources are available to all. These are the high level goals that RE:13's work will contribute to: 

    • Gender equality
    • Decent work and economic growth
    • Partnerships for the goals
    • Quality education
    • Industry, innovation and infrastructure

    Whilst there is a need to focus on communities and families, there is an implicit focus on the involvement of women in the work of RE:13. Globally women reinvest 90% of what they earn into their families, creating a postive knock-on effect for their children, partners and the communities in which they live. (Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation) 

    Nina Kabeer, Professor of Gender and Development at London School of Economics has stated that a wide range of economic research shows that investing in women and girls is one of the highest return opportunites available in the developing world. Bringing more women into the labour force can significantly boost per capital income and GDP growth. Women's higher likelihood to use their earnings to buy goods and services that improve family welfare can create a wildly positive and productive circle. RE:13 is all about supporting this cycle. 

    Research from the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit states that "The major strength of Zimbabwe’s SMEs is their flexibility in adapting to changes in market tastes and preferences. On the other hand, they face challenges related to management ability, financial constraints, accommodation challenges as well as weak legal and regulatory structures. The paper identifies that SMEs have been a major source of livelihood income for many households in Zimbabwe, especially those whose heads lost their jobs during the economic downturn of 2000 –2008." (Exploring the Role of SMEs in Zimbabwe's Economic Development). This research and global objectives provides the backdrop to the work of RE:13. What is important to me is that on the ground, our impact is felt in a practical way - through supporting the creation of micro-businesses among individuals in the communities in which we work.


    This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

    £1 or more

    £1 Reward

    Whoop! Whoop! Thank you for your donation! For £1 you will get a warm fuzzy feeling - make sure you claim your Reward!

    £5 or more

    £5 Reward

    Thank you for your donation! For your £5 you will get a very public shout out on our social media channels thanking you for your generosity. Thank you in advance!

    £15 or more

    £15 Reward

    Have your name featured on our plaque that will be displayed in our classes in Zimbabwe, telling everyone that you have contributed to changing their lives. Thank you!

    £20 or more

    3 of 10 claimed

    £20 Reward

    A unique one-off make-up bag, perfect for brushes, lipsticks, or eyeshadows, designed and made with recycled textiles. A perfect thank you gift for your pledge. With P&P this is perfect for you or to send to someone as a gift.

    £40 or more

    0 of 10 claimed

    £40 Reward

    A one-off, uniquely designed snood, perfect to accessorise an outfit and add colour, warmth and style to your wardrobe. Designs for him and her. UK postage and package available, so please add your address if you would like to have the item sent to you.

    £50 or more

    0 of 5 claimed

    £50 Reward

    The 13 Tote Bag. Perfect for holidays, days out, gym and to brighten work day outfits, the 13 Tote Bag is a practical, bag, perfect for all sorts of occasions and uses. Using a mix of fabrics and finishes, each bag will be individually and uniquely designed and created.

    £70 or more

    0 of 8 claimed

    £70 Reward

    Set of two interior cushions in various shapes and dimensions. These cushions will be created in complimentary colours, designed in a range of creative and styles and finishes. Perfect for the home - bedroom or living room, they will add warmth and colour to any space.

    Got an idea like this?

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