Nagaland: Toyi Swuro’s inspiring story: From part time cobbler to owning ‘Craft Gallery’

26 years old Toyi Swuro is a local entrepreneur from Phek town and takes pride in his profession as a Cobbler.
26 years old Toyi Swuro is a local entrepreneur from Phek town and takes pride in his profession as a Cobbler.

Morung Express News
Kohima | July 29

26 years old Toyi Swuro is a local entrepreneur from Phek town and takes pride in his profession as a Cobbler. He opened Craft Gallery in 2018 which deals with all types of leathers such as leather footwear, leather goods such as purse, wallets, belts, upholstery, leather straps for various purposes. A unique feature of Craft Gallery is that it provides services to students and underprivileged citizens by helping them repair their footwear at minimal charges or sometimes free of cost. 

Mending shoes was a skill Toyi learned at a young age, where he would often use the skill to earn his pocket money. “Growing up from a humble family background and being the eldest among five siblings, life was always hard and challenging. I did not want to depend on my parent’s income anymore when it came to financial matter. I needed to start doing something where I can stand on my own, so I decided to take this humble work which I was good at,” says Swuro.

Craft Gallery had a humble beginning in Toyi's room when he decided to work as a part time cobbler after completing his training on Hotel management.

“I asked around my neighborhood if they had any torn shoes or worn out footwear which could be repaired. Slowly, my room was filled with torn shoes and sandals,” says Toyi. Earning decent money for repairing shoes, he decided to venture as a full time cobbler. With a small budget of Rs.3000, he opened Craft Gallery which was then known as “Fine Cobbler” at Bethany 2 Phek Town. The first months for the young entrepreneur were a struggle. “There were times when I didn't even earn 10 rs for my tea. In the evening I would close my shop without earning a single penny. It pained me and I would often wonder how I would respond to my family members that night,” recalls Toyi. With courage, he would wake up the next day and open his shop again.

Soon, he was also able to employ a few friends to work with him. He mentions that recognition of his work in various social medium platforms also played an essential role in the success of his business.

With savings, he and his colleagues were able to upgrade their tools and equipments where they went ahead to set up a larger store in Phek Town which is now known as “Craft Gallery” located in Phek Town Council Building.

Swuro also expressed gratitude to the Council which provided them a room without charging any rental fee.

As a Cobbler, Swuro notes that watching young kids going to school in torn shoes is what pains him the most. “We may not be able to help the needy students to buy them new school shoes but atleast we can help repair their shoes,” remarks Toyi.

Craft Gallery also helps provides part time employment to students during the holidays. Toyi and his colleagues has also been able to teach young students the art of making footwear and other skills related to leather manufacturing process.

“We Nagas are so reluctant in associating ourselves in menial labour work such as Cobbler, Coolie, Barber etc. With many educated/uneducated unemployed youths someone needs to start this mission to set an example,” says Toyi. Believing that change begins from the individual, Swuro hopes to set an example through his profession as a Cobbler. Almost two years since the establishment of Craft Gallery, Toyi now earns around Rs. 20,000- to 30,000 just for repairing shoes and sandals apart from selling other leather goods.

“Today I am not ashamed to be called a Cobbler because this is the work which is giving me my bread, my integrity and my honour. I don't know if I am going to achieve it throughout my life time but I'm into a mission to bring change with Dignity of Labour and i believe that the youth of Nagaland can amount to something good once we come out of our comfort zones,” expresses Toyi.

Toyi Swuro was also awarded the First North East Unsung Heroes Red Carpet Social Award 2019 under the Entrepreneur category in Mumbai last year.