Adventure Kenya – Product Development, Photo Shoot and Other Adventures
When I boarded the plane back to the US from Kenya in Feb 2020, I had no idea that it would be almost a year and a half before I would be able to return. During that time our sales were minimal and I was unable to place many orders and the orders I did place were very small.
All live speaking engagements came to a halt, which significantly decreased bead sales.
Our space in Fair Trade Long Beach managed to sustain itself during COVID and as things opened up more sales started to climb. I had to pull out of other locations due to not being able to pay rent.
This is our leadership team (above). Myself in the US, and Leila and Dorcas in Kenya. Leila is the Director in Kenya and Dorcas is the manager in Kipsongo. We work together as a team to generate ideas and build each other up.
I arrived in Nairobi to start our work in product development. We were in Nairobi for 3 days buying fabric and sourcing other products. Our time with the ladies is mainly for product development. We are making dog bandanas and table runners with placemat and napkin sets.
We decided to do a photo shoot of the ladies wearing the beads to feature on the website and in social media. Most people hire models in the US. We thought having the ladies model some of their products would be a bonus to connect people to the women who actually make the products.
We had a fun day and everyone loved modeling. These women are empowered. They have confidence that they didn’t have before by being part of this group.
I’m here right now in Kenya and see the confidence these women have. They would not have been able to do this photo shoot when I first met them. We work by the lift as you climb philosophy of empowering women to become leaders in their community and beyond.
We are a team and work together to build each other up. They have done the work to empower themselves and Leila, our Director in Kenya has been instrumental in facilitating the empowerment. They have an amazing work ethic and I'm happy to be part of the group.
We are planning programs and conferences (Leila’s idea) to take to other women to help them form groups and become empowered, strong and confident. The women of BnB did not trust each other in the beginning . They did not trust I would return to Kenya or market their products in the US. Many times before people have visited and said they would do something to help. Then they would disappear and the ladies never heard from them again.
I get it. Your heart gets filled when you are here and you have the best of intentions, but you get back to life and there’s no time. They assumed the same would happen with me until I kept returning, ordering and selling more. Now they are confident I have their backs, they have each other’s backs and we operate as one big team each with individual jobs and skills.
They did the work to build relationships, respect and trust with each other. They have climbed beyond the poverty mindset of just wanting food today and not thinking about the future or planning for the future. Now it’s time for them to reach back to other women and lift them up too. This is a movement powered by God’s grace and building our faith to trust he will guide our path.
As we are developing our conference idea, I realized I will need to speak fluent Swahili. I understand a lot of words and can say some phrases. However, with what we are going to do, I will be the only non Swahili speaker in the group and won’t want to waste time with people translating for me and translating my words into Swahili. Or as with some of our women, maybe some only speak their tribal language. Some of our women in our group only speak Turkana so it must be translated from Swahili to Turkana. We don’t need it translated from English to Swahili to Turkana (or their language). I’m starting with Grade 1 and I have a flash card app and also Duo Lingo. I’m committing to working on it daily and once a week Leila and I will get together online for my lesson.
Much activity here in Kenya. I’m here for another week, some of which is a long overdue R&R at the coast before I return. Follow the journey here and on social media.