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A soft lullaby and a favorite blanket are often our earliest and most cherished childhood memories. Fun Brands co-founder Steve Watts grew up in South Africa, listening to the traditional African lullaby “Thula Tula” (tula tula), which means “hush-hush baby.”
When his beloved mother passed away in 2018, he was intent on finding a way to honor her and to benefit the people of South Africa. Inspired by the Basotho blanket, a traditional South African blanket, Steve, and his wife (and Fun Brands co-founder), Angela, created their tribute, the brand, “Thula Tula.”
The Basotho Blanket is a national symbol of pride and treasured part of the history of Lesotho, South Africa. Lesotho is small independent land locked country. It’s a high-altitude nation with a population of 2 million who are mostly from the ethnic group the Basotho. Due to the elevation, the temperatures are quite cold for most of the year.
In 1860 the King of Lesotho received a heavy light blue blanket as a gift from a French Missionary. The King used the traditional bed blanket as a wrap, kicking off a trend of wearing blankets for warmth instead of the traditionally used animal skins. Over the years, the blankets have taken on a deep national meaning, with symbolic patterns, colors, and designs. They are worn as part of everyday clothing, with special and elaborate designs for most every rite of passage as weddings,
childbirth, funerals, and traditional ceremonies.
The Thula Tula blankets are woven at the oldest blanket manufacturer in South Africa, Aranda Textile Mills. The factory employs nearly 700 and is growing with the brand. They pay fair wages which is key in helping the economy, which has very high unemployment rates. They only use local designers and when possible, source their materials in South Africa and from ethically certified microfiber resources.
The purpose-driven entrepreneurs’ first brand, Slyde Boards, saw a great boost in sales after appearing on Shark Tank and scoring an investment by Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher, both are also partners in the Thula Tula brand. And no matter what they’re producing, Steve and Angela care about how the items are made, where they are produced, what the working conditions are for employees and how they can do good things along the way. They focus on storytelling products, with deep roots, great quality and high integrity.
For every blanket Thula Tula sells, money is donated to help provide clean water to children in Lesotho. This is highly impactful as in South Africa, over 5 million people are without clean drinking water.
The Thula Tula goal is to fund the refurbishing of 280 water pumps located at schools. Every blanket sold provides 30 children with clean water for a month. Covid has slowed the process of reviving the wells, but the team is excited that they will officially revive their first well this month. They also donate blankets to children in need.
Thula Tula officially launched in 2020, during the pandemic, and is on track to hit $1 million in sales in its first year. Steve and Angela are the sole exclusive U.S. distributors and every one of their blankets is authentic and certified. Besides doing great things, the blankets are beautiful! They are all washable and come in several fabrications and a wide array of colors.
There are three collections: Basotho Heritage-traditional patterns (this collection has the official blessing of the Basotho nation), My Africa-inspired by African culture and Haven & Earth-a contemporary collection. They are developing new woven styles and home décor items to launch in 2022.
Thula Tula blankets range in price from $89-$249 and can be found at www.thulatula.com
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