Thursday, September 15, 2011

Up from the Dust Purchases in Africa

I love shopping! Although I say my passion in starting Up from the Dust is because of my strong desire to help the women in developing countries grow their businesses, I know my shop-a-holic tendencies also are a great contributor.

Here are the women I purchased from during my trip to Africa last month and of course, you can view and purchase the products at

Katchy Kollections was started by Jennifer Mulli and her son, Anthony. Anthony started designing jewelry at the age of 16 years with the aim of helping out in paying house bills, having lost his father at the age of 2 years, as well as creating employment for the youth and women. They started out in the backyard of their house with only two employees in 2006, and a jewelry product line, sold through word of mouth. Today, they employ 15 regular permanent youth and have increased the production line to incorporate leather bags, sisal baskets, sandals and home ware that encompasses beaded wooden bowls, spoons, sisal beaded table mats, cotton beaded table mats, beaded guards etc., and are proud to say that they now have a workshop to work from that allows them expansion.

Anthony continues to be the head designer with a creative and youthful open mind and sets trends for others to follow.

I also had fun doing a little design. I loved their big rings. And I looked at the beaded necklace that Jennifer was wearing when we met. I asked her to take it off and slid my ring on it. Sure enough, the ring also works as a pendant. So – I created a new design, ordered some of them, and they were a big hit at the NAWBO conference in San Diego!

My dear friend Phyllis Mwangi started Zingira Wasanii, literally meaning “embracing the artisans,” which seeks to identify, improve and manage the quality of products created by Kenyan artisans living in low income areas. Once the process is complete, Zingira Wasanii provides market access for the artisans’ products through domestic and international corporate partnerships. Most of the products do well as corporate gifts. Phyllis, who is a terrific trainer and is in the middle of conducting a fabulous youth training program, has done well capturing corporate buyers in the US, but still “humors” me and my customers by providing their fabulous beaded bowls. I hope to add beaded rings to my orders in the future.

A very touching story to my heart is Monda Africa. I bought some items from Carol Monda personally two trips ago when my friend Eva Muraya suggested I look at some higher end jewelry from Kenya. Monda Africa is a Fair Trade Certified Kenyan company with a focus on creative, socially responsible entrepreneurship with an emphasis on eco- friendly products. The products include home decor and personal accessories made of recycled glass and other materials. I met Carol on my last trip and when I contacted her this time, her husband told me the unfortunate news that she had tragically died in July of a pulmonary embolism. I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2010. I was in the US. Carol was in Kenya. Thus the difference in our outcomes. Carol’s husband is committed to continuing the business to support their son and the women who work for them, so I am committed to continue buying from Monda Africa.

I bought more dolls from Beacon of Hope. They have been such a favorite. Their mission is to bring hope to women living with and affected by HIV/AIDS within poor communities by empowering and equipping them to meet their economic needs.

On my first trip to Rwanda, I bought from a woman named Allen Joy. Allen Joy was mentored through the Peace Through Business program ( by a friend Laurie Johnson of Phoenix, who also has a retail business.

My budget for purchasing from Allen Joy was $300. When my total added up to $600, I scaled back to $500 but I couldn’t justify cutting out anything else. And of course—at my first exhibit, at the NAWBO national conference, I sold out on some of the things I had put back. I bought four beaded belts instead of the original eight I was going to purchase. The four belts sold within minutes of the exhibit hall opening!

And if there are any doubts about why I do this work, Allen Joy told Laurie what a thrill it was to get my big order and she was so pleased that I liked her products. And then she added, “And now my husband is taking my business seriously if I can receive orders like this.”

Helping our sisters’ businesses thrive, that’s what Up from the Dust is all about, and is what helps feed my soul.

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