A young single mum has launched a sustainable business that puts money in the pockets of destitute people in trouble-torn Sri Lanka.
Hannah Hodson, 26, from Cambridge, England, set up Tovi Gifts after being made redundant three times through Covid lockdowns.
She used her savings to launch the business with the twin aim of giving her four-year-old son, Billy, security, and improving the life of artisans in Sri Lanka, a place she had come to love since doing marketing work there.
Her unusual sustainable gift range includes notebooks made from elephant dung, tote bags made from waste plastic rice sacks, and bowls made from coconut shells, which are usually burned and contribute to Sri Lanka’s carbon emissions.
Hannah explains: “When we think of living in poverty in the UK, we think about food banks. In Sri Lanka, living in poverty means starvation for families.
“The plight of women, and other single mums, particularly struck me, as many simply do not have the financial opportunities to create a better life for their families, or the ability to provide a good education.
“I wanted to find a way of giving to people in Sri Lanka, by creating long-term, steady employment opportunities.
“Also the environmental impact of plastic waste has always concerned me, both in Sri Lanka and across developed countries such as the UK.
“I had to find something that was naturally abundant, that people could manufacture at home with basic tools, and that would sell into the UK market.
“I came up with the idea of coconut bowls, and took my son with me to visit coconut plantations and meet with artisans to make a start on production.
“From there I sourced local seamstresses, who could transform discarded plastic rice bags into our tote and yoga mat bags.
“Then, as I explored further, I found several local recycling groups and we worked together to make our recycled plastic notebooks with elephant dung paper.”
‘I Want My Son To Learn That We Can All Make A Difference’
The new business launch is a tribute to Hannah’s determination. She adds: “Over the years I have learnt that I can count on myself to provide for my son, so I have developed a self-belief that if I focus, I can make things happen.
“Supporting Billy as a single mum with sole custody, I am driven by the desire to provide a safe, secure, and financially stable home for my son.
“I want to ensure he grows up with an understanding of the world, through travel, and is exposed to as many different cultures as possible. And I want him to learn that a single person can have a positive impact on the world – that we can all make a difference.”
Travel right now means leaving Cambridge to visit Sri Lanka every 6-8 weeks. “I have an incredible team in Sri Lanka to take care of all things across manufacturing, logistics, production, packaging and day-to-day supplier management,” says Hannah.
“Working with our artisans and local communities has been amazing. They are so proud of what they produce and are excited about being able to showcase their products to the world.
“The country has been devastated by the Easter bombings in 2019, the Covid pandemic and now the economic and political instability causing massive inflation.
“More than ever, people need to visit Sri Lanka as tourists, and also buy Sri Lankan-made products.”
For Hannah, the big picture of plastic pollution and the climate crisis is at the heart of the business.
“Every single product has sustainability, upcycling and recycling at its core,” she confirms.
“This is all about building a better world for my son, Billy, and creating opportunities for other women to make a better life for themselves and their children.”
See the full range of products at tovigifts.com.