Visit to an Entrepreneur in Handicrafts Alumna’s Business

By Kianoosh Tahbaz-Salehi

During a recent trip to Kenya, I had just enough time to visit Jennifer Mulli, Managing Director of Katchy Kollections, and a 2010 EinH Direct training participant. This would be the first time that I would be visiting an alumna’s business after their participation in one of our EinH trainings and I was excited. I was most looking forward to seeing and hearing about how she had applied the skills and knowledge gained through the training to further develop and grow her business. 

Jennifer's 22 year-old son, Anthony, also the genius designer behind the products, took the time to show me around. My first stop was their workshop. They had recently moved into a larger building in a new location to accommodate the growth of their business. When I entered the workshop I was greeted by a group of about 10 women seated in groups of three or four, working on the beaded pieces. As I walked around the room watching them work and occasionally interrupting them to ask a question or two, I noticed their focus and sense of pride in their tasks.

Anthony then introduced me to Ruth Mwikali, a soft-spoken and sweet woman with a pretty cool professional path. I learned that she had been with the business for six years, starting as a beader, and within a couple of years was the first beader to graduate into a managerial position. She currently supervises the beaders and sources raw materials. As she described her history, you could tell from the tone of her voice how appreciative she was for the opportunity and investment that the business had made in her. Ruth also informed me that she is a student at a local university and since she wants to focus on her education she is in process of training another beader, Grace, to take up her position.

After speaking to Ruth and hearing about her professional and personal goals, I was pleased to see that Kathy Kollections is investing in the development of its employee’s while also trying to grow the business.

Then I was introduced to Ann, a recently hired operational manager. She was brought onto the team to assist with the daily operations of the business, but, more importantly, to help create a positive growth-oriented environment for all employees. After two weeks on the job she implemented a new strategy that groups the beaders into small working units, with individuals with varying skill sets and strengths to monitor quality control and promote mentoring amongst the group. 

After speaking with and observing the work of a variety of employees of Katchy Kollections, I was gratified to see an alumna really use the concepts and tools taught at our EinH training and incorporate it into her business. During the delivery of the EinH Direct trainings, I witness numerous "light bulb" moments, but wonder if, upon returning to their home countries, they will take on the difficult task of implementing changes that will in both the short and long term positively impact their business.

To see Katchy Kollection's bead and leatherwork and buy from their online store, visit their website: Katchy Kollection

To buy from US-based Up from the Dust, click here

Download the full 2011 Vital Voices EinH catalog [PDF]. 

Kianoosh is the Program Coordinator for Vital Voices' Entrepreneurs in Handcrafts program. 

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