6.25.2014

Interview with Anna Marie Stauss: Founder and CEO of Sinko Corp, Creator of the Toockie Organic Cleaning Cloth


Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about yourself? How did you get started?
Anna Marie Stauss: As a young girl I lived in a small fishing village on an island in the Azores. My mother had very few opportunities to make money because culturally she was expected to stay home and provide free labor to support the family. Her only source of income was embroidery. There was someone in the village that would provide the local ladies with embroidery materials and patterns. The finished work was exported to European countries. Mom embroidered to pay for her clothes as a single woman, her wedding dress, household needs, baby needs, and to buy each of her three daughters a gold cross necklace. I always think of her and how she was able to earn from home, when I see woman struggling to meet the needs of their families.
When I married and became a homemaker myself, my mother-in-law introduced me to knitted dishcloths she received from her cousin Claudia, better known as "Toockie". I very quickly became dependent on these "Toockies" to clean my home, my kids and my car. Soon I started thinking everybody should have these amazing Toockies® that lasted for years because they out performed most of the disposable cleaning products I had to keep buying every month.
I began to think about how I might start a home business, with the help of women who could use a bit of extra money like my mom did. Inspired by the Oprah show which, through the Angel Network, helped so many in sometimes very simple ways, I began to look for an organization working with women who could not only use a bit of money, but were in need of a life saving income.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers about Toockies? How did that begin? What is the Toockie project? Why is that important to you?
Anna Marie Stauss: A couple of years, and a few pregnancies later, I saw a documentary on the plight of young women in India who were forced into slavery and prostitution. I wonder how desperate the need to live must be, that someone would give up their child to some unknown fate for money to buy food to eat? In the documentary a group of people were trying to rescue some of these girls, but they were in need of funds to support them because they did not have any skills they could use to support themselves.

What could I do to affect change living here in the U.S.? What could I give to a family that would prevent the sale of a child?

One day my oldest stepson told me his girlfriend’s mother worked for a nonprofit organization that helps children in India. I met with her and exchanged ideas and information about our mutual interest in the “greater good”. I had to build a business plan.

Today we are making a difference for women and their families in Nababpur, India using a system very similar to the embroidery system my mother belonged to. The Toockie® project opens an unimaginable door of opportunity for our knitters. In Nababpur, 210 women desperate for a dignified way to earn a living, are mobilized and trained to knit Toockies®. A community center is setup for these women as a central location for them to come train, knit, pick-up yarn, and drop off finished toockies®. Most knitters work from home, allowing them to work flexible hours.

The Toockie® project makes a difference by empowering these women to take charge of their own destiny.

In gratitude we have given our knitters a voice by having them learn how to write their names and adding them to our packaging. We have also added their photographs and their wishes to our web site so that anyone who wants to know who the name on their Toockies Brand Product belongs to, can look her up.
 


Sarah Velasco: What is your mission?
Anna Marie Stauss: Our mission is to provide a dignified way for the desperately poor women of the world to earn a living wage by hand making practical house ware products in vintage designs from home out of organic materials. Our hope is that this effort will help our customers reduce waste saving them time and money.

Sarah Velasco: What types of products do you carry?
Anna Marie Stauss: We carry scrub cloths in the traditional dish cloth pattern. His and Her wash cloths for the bath as well as Circulation Gloves to scrub and exfoliate. For the kitchen we offer trivets, pot holders and coasters.

Sarah Velasco: What materials do you use?
Anna Marie Stauss:We use certified 100% organic cotton and organic Jute (a naturally fire retardant material).

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about how the products are made?
Anna Marie Stauss: All our products are hand made by knitting, crochet and braiding natural fibers. Our artisans are given training and materials they can take home. The finished product is returned to the community center where they are paid.


Sarah Velasco: What is the lifespan of the products? Can you give readers some care tips?
Anna Marie Stauss: The products can last for years if cared for. All cotton products machine wash and tumble dry to refresh after use. The jute cloths also machine wash/dry. The trivets are dishwasher safe and air dry. For best results with the scrub cloths just run under water until soaked, rollup and double fold to strain out excess water. They scrub best damp.

Sarah Velasco: 
Where can readers find Toockie products?
Anna Marie Stauss:

The Daily Grommet
Abs Market
Amazon.com
Toockies.com
Many others online and in specialty stores around the country.

Sarah Velasco: Anything else we should know?
Anna Marie Stauss: The cotton is very coarse which make them great scrubbers but they are not very absorbent when you first get them but after a while of machine wash/dry they soften up. After a few years you can recycle them as potting mess to hold moister and retain soil nutrients as they will decompose eventually.