BY VICTOR ADAR
In the midst of harsh business environment, only individuals who out think will put their businesses on the right path. One Goodie Odhiambo is proof that it is never business as usual. Ms Goodie is behind Goodie’s Limited, a company established in 2009 mainly to provide sustainable employment for craft artisans by developing the production and design of quality Kenyan handcrafts.
A year after her company was birthed, which might seem such a long time, she has been procuring products directly from handcrafters, over 150 talented artisans, who create stunning works that are mostly sold locally. She currently boasts of a wide range of products from a key-ring costing Sh300 to an art piece of Sh35, 000. She says that those who are in a business like hers will need to place emphasis on pricing to cater to the unique needs of customers. She is into better things.
“I work with craft artisans across Kenya, developing and creating excellent quality decorative and functional handicrafts,” she says. “The handcrafters comprising men and women form our team who have a simple dream – to earn an honest living, to provide for their children and to be employed in a job that brings dignity and self fulfilment.”
With a physical shop at Viking House, Westlands, Nairobi, where someone can walk in and buy locally produced range of accessories, kitchenware, home décor and furnishings, furniture, jewellery, toys and gift items, Ms Odhiambo is tapping the high-end market in a push to boost sales while positively impacting communities, particularly those living in slums.
Although Nairobi county (Korogocho) and Taita Taveta county are some of the places in the country where Ms Goodie has mentored and addressed craft workers, she says that there is room to focus on other places such as Mathare and Kibera slums before spreading the same to towns like Nakuru, Naivasha and Kisumu.
Her mission was not merely a case of social sustainability, but to thrive while creating a greater impact in low-income settlements where people face challenges including joblessness, hunger, poverty and security issues. What she calls “the basket value chain”, which is eventually culminating in the formation of the Taita Basket Association, for example, was just a small idea that would later turn into a big thing. Partnering with others has meant that they offer training to artisan groups.
“Our model is different,” she says. “We work with producers within their own spaces – they are paid based on productivity, or piece work. We work mainly with producer groups across Kenya; groups would range from 15 to 60 artisans”
Art and craft business is not easy, though. Due to the challenge of getting quality and well-implemented products, the shrewd entrepreneur is more often than not forced to start working with the crafters on a one to one to help develop products, something that has since grown to three quarterly training programs attracting 40 to 60 artisans. Sometimes it is such small ways that can prevent the perennial problem that the country has been grappling with – a jobless generation is.
The training involves product design and development, quality control, and marketing thereby providing the enterprise with a healthy business relationship. The training programs have also become an avenue to educate by partnering with other experts in different fields such as health, finance, tourism and even remaining a great attraction to those who preach self development.
“I have developed training programmes – mainly focusing on developing products suitable for the market needs. With these groups we have some measurable results in that we are scratching through the markets with these products… These productions have helped create a sustainable production and income generating activities for those we work with,” she says.
Ironically, it is tough getting seed capital these days. But guess what? Ms Odhiambo has a special relationship with her family members and friends. To be honest, she says, “I got my capital from family, friends and savings.” Downplaying how much the amount was, she agrees that to accumulate true wealth in this day and age, you need to worry about sustainability. To her, a model like this one is becoming more essential.
Calling it “Fair Trade”, her philosophy is that of helping to build a sustainable future based on the principle that trade should have a conscience. Through Fair Trade, she points out; artisans receive the respect, dignity and hope that come from working hard and earning fair value for their work.
“We train and mentor the artisans across Kenya who partner with us, we also link them to opportunities and platforms that help them continue improve their lives… What gives me confidence to succeed in the local market that is very crowded with gift items is the willingness of the Kenyan artisans to adapt and grow, through the global ever changing trends,” she says.
Describing herself as “a Kenyan, working in my simple way to make a difference through social entrepreneurship”, the forward looking lady is on top of things, representing the artisans who work hard, and make some super good quality handmade products. Behind the humble and passionate look, Ms Odhiambo has managed to win accolades that many entrepreneurs at her level are just dreaming about.
With a professional CV to boot, Ms Odhiambo is truly transforming the mind set of communities, and is proof that sometimes a shift from the formal sector to the informal sector can turn in fortunes. She is an Alumni of CopyrightX, which falls under the auspices of Harvard Law School, the HarvardX distance-learning initiative, and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
“I was nominated for the 2014/2015 African Woman Entrepreneurship Program (popular as AWEP). A nomination awarded by the US State Department. AWEP is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that targets African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth, increase trade both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities,” she says, adding that she has also bagged SAI SA8000 – Social Accountability International.
Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organization advancing human rights at work. SAI’s vision is of a decent work everywhere – sustained by understanding that socially responsible workplaces benefit business while securing fundamental human rights. SAI empowers workers and managers at all levels of business and supply chains, using its multi-industry SA8000®