Greetings from East Africa
Greetings Swahili Coast Fans. Tony here - writing you from the Swahili Coast! This has been a whirlwind of a week so far and there’s so much to catch up on.
I flew into Nairobi to do some product design and hang with our partners there. Nairobi is an incredible city - with a thriving food scene, you can get burritos, Ethiopian food, Ghanian food, pizza, you name it.
Big news from our visit - our Kikoy towel partnership through a group that we met through USAID is taking off. We are growing our Kikoy business so rapidly that we are transitioning away from buying traditional weaves, and starting to design our own runs of Kikoy colors that work for the weavers there. We will continue to tease you with designs for when they’re ready for Summer 2018.
We are also forming a partnership with a Co-op that produces Brass jewelry - an incredible group of folks that are organized within Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. The group is nestled into a tiny workshop, and focuses on bone & brass jewelry. I vetted a few groups for partnership - but theirs has an incredible structure. Organized as a co-op, and living within Kibera, they are truly an incredible case of how skilled artisanship can lift folks out of the bounds of poverty. Interestingly, all of their members still live within Kibera, commonly referred to as a slum, but all of them do so by choice. Victor, one of the members explained that he makes enough to move away, but he feels a sense of pride in living in Kibera, and does not want to abandon his fellows, and instead wants to work together to bring other people up within Kibera too. As you can also imagine, when our customers buy our jewelry, they are not only supporting Victor and his family, but are supporting the other entrepreneurs that Victor frequents when living in Kibera. He buys clothes from merchants along the streets - he pays Tailors to make custom shirts and pants - he eats at restaurants that are owned and operated by Kibera residents. In the discipline of Economics, we call this the multiplier effect, and can have a powerful transformative effect on economies.
Caroline is hard at work on designing our line for 2018, and we’ll have samples to start showing wholesale accounts when I’m back on the road state-side in December.