Discover Moldova with #MOLDPRES: Molovata Noua village, where nice toys are produced
16:23 | 11.09.2023 Category: Tourist Moldova
Nice toys are produced at Molovata Noua, due to the support of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The occupation handed down from generation to generation made Maxim Alexei from the Molovata Noua village open a workshop of crafting wood toys. The craftsman associated with a specialist in marketing, Irina Agafita. This is how the PINO toys were born. With the support of the European Union and UNDP, provided within the EU Confidence Building Measures Programme, the entrepreneurs bought modern equipment.
„Coming from a family of carpenters – my grand-grand-parents were processing wood, in the beginning, I was playing with cubes; afterwards, I started making doors, staircases, tables, just as any carpenter. When my first child appeared, my father told me: ’Let’s enter the workshop and make some toys.’ I can say that, at that time, I re-oriented myself and in this workshop, we produce exclusively wood toys,’’ this is how Maxim Alexei recalls his way in the world of toys.
A vehicle, a bulldozer and a crane. These were the first models created by Maxim, with which he re-launched the work of carpenter. Since then, he has manufactured hundreds of models, turning wood logs into toys. He has been doing this every day for more than 12 years.
„I do not draw, do not make sketches. I imagine how a toy should be and after that I take a piece of wood and transform it. If I like what comes out of this, I continue, if not, then I put it on shelf and leave it there. I can produce several hundreds of toys per day; other times, a make one toy in two days. Everything depends on the model and how sophisticated it is,’’ Maxim Alexei says.
A friendship turned into a business partnership
For many years, Maxim was making toys and presenting them at fairs where he was invited as craftsman. He had neither brand nor perfect business, till the moment when he got acquainted with Irina Agafita. .
„I got acquainted with Maxim when he was selling toys in the street. Ever since that times, I thought that it is a very good idea to manufacture wood toys. At that time, just as at present, I was dealing with the organization of craftsmen willing to participate in events, festivals. This is how I got acquainted with him and we became friends.’’
The cooperation, not also the friendship between Irina and Maxim entered an impasse when the pandemic started, as Maxim till that time was selling his toys only at events. The uncertainty made Maxim seriously think about settling in another country, as he was facing a situation of not being able to maintain his family. At that time, Irina proposed Maxim to launch an online shop, where toys were to be displayed and sold. This is how the PINO brand of toys appeared.
„I deem Maxim as quite gifted; his talent is something unusual for me. When he said that he wanted to leave, I told him: ‘No, no, no. You are so gifted, you cannot leave.’ At that time, I proposed him that we sell online, as I have education in management and marketing. He was quite skeptical in the beginning, but he accepted. I created the visual identity and he was making the toys. I told him that it would be good for us to extend the range of toys and Maxim said me that he had no fit equipment and then we again thought that we should do something,’’ the manager of the online shop business, Irina Agafita, said.
From skepticism to the enthusiasm of a new beginning
Enthusiastic in the beginning, Irina Agafita started looking for solutions. In this way, in the spring of the 2022 year, she participated in a contest of grants launched by the EU’s Confidence Building Measures Programme, implemented by UNDP. The proposal submitted was a success and Irina and Maxim got financing worth 15,000 euros – money with which they bought the equipment needed for the production of wood toys.
„Maxim was incredulous; he was thinking that only other people can get financing, not also him. He was quite happy when we got the first grant, after than another one. He understood that it is possible and that this is something realistic and especially how easy is to work with new equipment. This is how we enhanced the productivity; now, he manages to make a much bigger quantity of toys and, what’s most important, he works in safe conditions,’’ Irina says.
A CNC cutting machine and a lathe for mending wood were purchased with the grant provided.
„We have earlier had quite risky equipment. When we worked at it, we did this with fear. Now, everything is safer, more efficient, the wood comes neater and this means that we now have good and advanced equipment.’’
The wood toys from PINO represent an example of sustainability
Maxim Alexei has always been opting for a sustainable way of producing toys. Thus, the wood used in the production of toys is purchased from local residents of Molovata Noua or from the neighbourghood. Maxim chooses to use, most often, the wood from fruit trees, in order to give toys a special texture. Besides, this is also a way of reusing natural resources.
„People who no longer need a tree or maybe it troubles them, call us and we go and cut the tree or take over the stump. We turn it into board, dry it and afterwards we make toys out of it. Nut-tree, sweet cherry tree, mulberry tree, pear tree – practically any kind of wood growing in the area is fit for our toys,’’ Maxim says.
Although the wood is bought from local residents, the price of the raw material increased following the war in Ukraine.
At the same time, Maxim gave up producing toys of tank type; although till that time, it had been one of the most demanded and sold models.
„When the war started, I simply was no longer able to produce this model. I gave up, even if it is just a toy. I renounced, although the wood tanks were sold better than small vehicles or airships,’’ Maxim stresses.
Is the apprenticeship no longer is fashion?
Maxim does not manage to independently ensure the production of toys, as well as to participate in fairs. The craftsman wants very much to extend his business and to employ more people at the workshop. While he learned the profession of carpenter from his father, Maxim now do not quite have whom to convey his knowledge, as his children are small. Maxim notices that young people from the village would not be interested in apprenticeship.
„Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult now. We cannot provide as high salaries to young people, as they want; besides, many of them leave the country. We employ women, elderly people, people without experience. Some work tasks demand that the person just polishes or join certain pieces.’’
„We are just quite demanded. Quite often, we sell everything we have,’’ Maxim said. The carpenter also organizes creative sessions for children involved in the manufacturing of the toy desired: ‘’Then they go home twice happier, as they made their own toy and caught the idea of how the toy is made, the process.’’
Maxim would like to have a roomier workshop, in order to host events and receive more visitors of all ages.
Another long-run idea is the creation of a nice space for children from both banks of the Dniester river.
„On the bank of Dniester, Maxim has a ground surrounded by pine trees and we think to build a workshop and an open space there, where both children and parents are able to reconnect to nature through games. This is a grand project we dream of,’’ Irina added.
(According to UNDP)