By definition, the cottage industry is a small-scale, decentralised manufacturing business often operated out of a home rather than a purpose-built facility.
We admire the works and initiatives of Mary Ngechu, a woman in manufacturing, a social entrepreneur, passionate about changing lives through providing avenues for earning a decent livelihood. She said in her article, “ Development of cottage and tiny industries are equally important as the development of small, medium and large industries as they generate more rural employment. The promotion of these industries leads to an improvement in social and economic conditions; and an overall balance of rural and urban industrial activities, which in turn, retards migration of labour from rural to urban areas.” – The Role of Cottage Industries in Kenya’s Industrial Growth.
We may be a young online retail business but we do have big dreams.
Part of that dream is to see most Kenyans buy and celebrate local brands of repute on our platform.
Ours is a philosophy born to support local artisans in the industry. We are continuously scouting for, and marketing on behalf of organizations and self help groups that make handcrafted wares using locally source material. After all, our tag line ‘We Crave Great Design’ is woven in our DNA. It is the very reason we started the e-commerce business.
Our vision is to aid these SMEs by shining a light on their wares. Moreover, we have a core team of designers that are continuously consulting with the artisans and makers on value addition techniques to enable the artisans enhance their end products. Once we complete the prototyping, approvals of final product line, manufacturing the products, we then help them photograph, curate and showcase their works on our web shop to an audience that can pay a fair price for them.
We believe that by doing so, we are slowly but progressively a) marketing their work in a more gainful manner to a wider customer base; which may otherwise have been difficult for them to reach and b) encouraging more Kenyans to appreciate the intrinsic value of their work and in turn foster purchase of their wares.
One such enterprise that caught our attention, is called Tabaka Chigware Self Help Group. We partnered with them to design and retail on our store a range of exclusive nature inspired soapstone items for the modern day home. All products are beautifully and expertly hand crafted.
Not only is Tabaka the home of soapstone, it’s people, the Kisii, are well know for being excellent craftsmen in soapstone carvings and sculpture.
Chances are that when you see a soapstone carving in this country, it’s been carved by a Kisii artisan. The craft is passed on from generation to generation and it’s no wonder that’s their works are well loved and can even be found oversees sold as curios.
The organisation we have collaborated with started in the year 1996 with 20 members, 10 women and 10 men; both work on soapstone handcrafts productions. Apparently the men’s job is to do carvings and women’s is the washing of the soapstone. The leader of the group says that the crafting of soapstone in this community has changed the lives of the group members and removed the from poverty.
We are happy to announce that we have a new exclusive Nanjala soapstone line on our shop that is a celebration of their handiwork and efforts at making a living. Purchasing their wares will go a long way in encouraging rural employment and improvement of their social and economic activities in that region.
Finally, it’s surprising, that what started with just an enquiry on Facebook messenger by the lead artisan, has now become a long term relationship over telephone, Whatsapp and Mpesa. We have never met, and perhaps never will.
Indeed the technological revolution is here. It’s is ours to use it as an enabler of achieving transformative initiatives for our own people. We as Nanjala are proud to say that we are doing our small bit.
We ask all to join hands in fostering the Third Industrial Development Decade in Africa. There is no better time than now to exploit Kenya’s greatest asset for growth: its sizeable and rising population of talented young people.