She Angels welcomes you to vote for Baskets and Beads Kenyas application. Baskets and Beads Kenya is a for profit business with a non profit arm. Our for profit purchases hand crafted baskets, beads and handbags from artisans who live in the Kipsongo Slum in Kitale Kenya. The primary purpose is to offer a hand up not a hand out. We are creating self sustaining families through entrepreneurship, one woman at a time. We are eradicating poverty and eliminating human trafficking and saving children from a life of extreme poverty. I personally visit Kenya and purchase the items at a market day that we organize while I’m there. They know in advance the amount I will order. We started in the beginning giving microloans to enable them to purchase the supplies to manufacture the items.
Some beads are made from paper and magazines, which creates sustainability through use of recycled materials. Other beaded necklaces and baskets are made using glass “seed beads” and we recently invested in a sewing machine and training for some of the women to learn to make purses with the African Wax Print Fabric embellishment.
This all started when I went to Kenya in Feb 2018 on a trip to serve suffering and displaced people in Kitale Kenya and the surrounding area. While there I met the women of the Kipsongo Slum which is a slum built on top of a landfill. They live in small mud huts and have no running water, kitchen or bathroom facilities in them. The water comes from the river miles away or the one working pump in the slum. The women of Kipsongo struggle to provide for their families. Most of them have left abusive or alcoholic men and most of the men don’t work, they sit around and drink all day. Some of the women used to prostitute themselves or sell illegal alcohol to earn money (similar to moonshine). Many would get arrested and thrown in prison. Many go to the landfill or dumpster to pick through thrown away food to feed their families.
When I saw the beautiful hand crafted items they made, I got an idea to buy some beads and sell them with my Think Like A Negotiator book when I speak. “Book and a Bead “was born. We had a market day with the women and I purchased something from each woman that was there; about $200 in beads and sold out immediately upon my return. I doubled the order and sold out again, I tripled the order and sold out again. In July of 2018 I brought back 7 suitcases full of beads and sold most of those out including wholesaling into some boutique stores. In March 2019, I brought back 10 suitcases of beads and some of those have sold out in the short time I’ve been back.
I’ve also reached out to some shops that have purchased wholesale lots and almost all have reordered because they are selling out. To move this forward I need more funding to hire a bigger team, have a marketing plan and introductions to more wholesale outlets to purchase the beads. I intend to hire women veterans and give my female veteran sisters an opportunity to work. As a veteran myself I know the struggles of transitioning out of the military.
We are at the beginning of the growth stage now where we need a good marketing plan and strategy, an expert in marketing and social media and a publicity team, a full marketing budget and warehouse planning and inventory control system to ensure our infrastructure is solid and we have enough team members to handle the expansion and growth. We have been growing steadily and expect an explosion of growth once marketing and publicity are in place and more people know about the women and our story.
Our non-profit was established to raise funds for the bigger vision to purchase land to build housing to get them out of the slum, a farm for food both for their families and as an extra stream of income and a place for the ladies to manufacture the beads. Currently they are doing the work in their individual huts. We are modeling after another organization “Esther’s Home” in Kitale that has the farmer who started their farm and will give us training and consulting to get our farm set up. The farm will grow fruits and vegetables and also have cows for milk, chickens for eggs and a fishpond. The non-profit will also provide funding for educating the women further, purchase of equipment and furnishings for the housing and provide school fees for children including children on the street. There is another program in the works to have each one of the families who receive a home to take the kids off the street and provide them a home. There are no foster care programs in Kenya. There are many children as young as 7 and 8 years of age who live on the street and beg for food.