How It Started

The Vision...

Gogo Olive started as a simple vision of a group of women singing and laughing together while creating things with their hands – this vision is fulfilled every time we meet together!  I was living in Zimbabwe working alongside a local Church and I kept meeting with ladies who were making beautiful products but with no way of marketing them or knowing what would sell well outside of Zimbabwe.  I had some basic experience or working for some friends of mine as they built up their craft business on the island of Westray in Orkney, Scotland and I’ve always loved design and making things with my hands so the idea started to form that maybe there was an opportunity to work with some of these ladies. 

My life is full of inspirational people but 3 in particular stand out when I think of the birth of Gogo Olive.  There is my Granny (Gogo!) Nan whose sock pattern grew arms and legs and became the Gogo Olive Shamwaris, my Mum who patiently taught me the art of knitting using 4 needles and my Granny Olive – Gogo Olive’s namesake!  My memory of my Gogo Olive as I was growing up was of her knitting jumpers, using odds and ends of wool that had been given to her (making them look similar to the jumpers worn by the Gogo Olive Shamwaris!), to send out to missionaries in Africa – all done while watching snooker on her black and white TV - a lady of many talents!  Granny Olive and I shared a love for crafts and her stories of missionaries were my first introduction to Africa.

The name ‘Olive’ also ties in with the project's vision to bring hope, the olive branch being a symbol of hope from the Biblical story of Noah sending a dove out of the Ark and it returning with an olive branch, a symbol of new life after the flood.  Life in Zimbabwe has been challenging for the Gogo Olive knitters but there is hope.

In November 2008, the first group of 6 knitters started meeting together.  Looking back it does seem like a bit of a crazy time to try and start a new business in Zimbabwe – we were in the thick of hyperinflation and it was a struggle to find even basic supplies, but, amazingly, despite the challenges in the country, Gogo Olive grew and we were all pretty delighted when all 55 of the first batch of animals were sold in Hume Sweet Hume on the little island of Westray on Christmas Eve 2008, a year to the day of when the vision for Gogo Olive came about.

Since our humble beginnings, Gogo Olive has grown from 6 to about 60 ladies – with many adventures along the way!  It is these amazing, talented, inspiring ladies that Gogo Olive is all about so I hope that this website gives you a glimpse into their lives and that you will be inspired and blessed by them in the way that I have had the privilege of being.

Julie Hagan