Tindi Nancy was born in the agricultural town of Eldoret, Kenya. Growing up, Tindi craved for independence and life away from home, so she jumped at the first chance to go to Nairobi for university. It is at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology that she developed an interest in African jewelry and it turned into a side hustle. After graduating, Tindi was not so lucky in getting a job and because she was just sick of the whole job search she decided to grow her side gig into an actual business.
It’s been three years since Tindi went full time and she says she has no regrets. Being an entrepreneur has made her grow in a lot of ways and she has also invested in meaningful relationships along the way.
You create and supply Maasai tribe jewellery. Can you brief us on the Maasai culture and why jewellery is important to them?
The Maasai are found in Kenya and Tanzania. They are known for their colorful beaded jewelry and clothes.
Although the world around them have been westernized, they have refused to be influenced. They have stayed true to their traditional beliefs and customs. Women are the ones who make the jewellery and colors used represent something in the community
How do you decide what you want to create?
It’s all a process of demand and supply. I am always watching out for new trends and l work with my tools to create something similar.
Once in a while, a “wrong turn” can end up as a new design. Another way is through customised jewellery, some of our customer’s ideas contribute to a new design.
Beyond applying basic techniques, how do you evoke an emotional response to your work?
By establishing a relationship with a client. Listening to them and making sure I deliver beyond their expectations.
I reckon jewellery making requires patience especially when you are making a piece with small beads. What other attributes are important for a jewellery maker?
Creativity and artistry.
You need to come up with provocative new designs. As a jewelry artisan, you should also pay attention to detail because you work with small pieces and it’s those small items that affect the whole design or quality.
What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt?
It takes time to grow and be the best in something. Every failure or trip along the way is an opportunity to improve your skills. You build your network with time, and through your network, you learn the ins and outs of the business, you get to learn from their mistakes and improve their shortcomings.
What materials and techniques do you favour?
I enjoy working with beads, l love being surrounded by vibrant colors. It is versatile, and I get to put it on almost everything from bags to shoes as well as other accessories.
How often do you release new collections?
At least four times in a year.
What’s your favourite solo outing?
I enjoy reading every morning, I spend at least thirty minutes reading. Once in a while, I come across books that make me struggle with the choice of finishing the read or working. It’s always a tough choice.
I just finished Trevor Noah’s “Born A Crime” and it was excellent. Every book gives me a new perspective of the world and because l love diversity, I struggle to answer what my favourite genre is.
You are launching an online marketplace in May, what are your expectations?
I am looking forward to promoting self-employment among women and young people by providing them with marketing services as well as a global platform to sell their handmade products. The aim is to give talented Africans in marginalised areas a more dignified way of earning rather than for them to rely on handouts. They know how to fish, all they need is the hook!
On the other hand, this will give consumers a wide range of unique handmade products from across the continent. I am also expecting Africans to support local economies by buying locally made products.
When supplying crafts to boutiques, what attributes do you look for? How do you choose which boutiques to supply?
The boutiques should be keen on ethical practices and it’s very important that they uphold fair trade values and value the uniqueness of every product. Mostly, they are the ones who come after me, but I have to make sure they are an ethical business and will pay on time and as agreed for the products received. Businesses need to receive their orders on time, on specification and also enjoy profitable price margins.
As a supplier and artisan, I am very conscious about pricing. I know how it feels when a customer makes an awful offer for an item that took three days to make (earning $5 for a three-day work is insulting) so I make sure the price point is profitable both for the business and the artisans. l also make sure that l supply quality products that are worth more so I take the time to go through the products. My customers have come to terms with that side of me, so when I place an order they go the extra mile of perfecting everything.
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Teta Isibo is a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and the founder of Inzuki Designs, a Rwandan brand specialising in jewellery, home décor and accessories that fuses Rwandan traditional craftsmanship and global contemporary design.
Teta founded Inzuki Designs out of a combined passion for design, style and everything Rwandan. Her brand seeks to transcend traditional Rwandan design and customise it to suit a modern and international market. What started a few years ago as a hobby designing jewellery for herself, has since grown into a dynamic brand selling beyond Rwanda’s borders.
You quit your job as a land planner to start a jewellery business, which you had no background in. How difficult was it to take that leap?
It was not easy at all in the beginning, but I was really excited about finally taking the leap to be fazed by the hurdles I faced.
I learned by doing, made a lot of mistakes and learned from those mistakes as well.
Do you think there’s an interest by African artists to break away from the touristy art and crafts?
Presentation is really important in retail, it can make a whole lot of difference in what people perceive the value of a product to be and in how much they are willing to pay for it.
As much as there will always be a need and a love for the conventional arts and crafts market, there is so much potential for African artisans to increase the value of their products through better presentation and I think there is certainly a growing interest in that.
Inzuki Designs works with roughly 10 local cooperatives. Why was it important for you to partner with these cooperatives?
The whole essence of our business is the fusion of Rwandan traditional and global contemporary, and the traditional comes from the skills of local artisans.
They are therefore an intrinsic component of our business. Their craftsmanship is a unique skill that we as a business greatly value. I wouldn’t be able to be in this business without them.
What was the biggest mistake you made starting out, and what lessons did you learn?
Trying to do everything by myself, the designing and creating, the marketing and branding, the admin., the day to day running of the business. My logic was that I didn’t have money to hire staff so I had to do it by myself.
But that sort of thinking can be a costly mistake and stunt your growth. I learnt that you grow so much faster if you have the right people on your team.
If you were to choose one colour that represented Inzuki Design’s ethos, which would it be and why?
I’ll go with yellow. Inzuki means bees and yellow is our brand colour. It’s a bright, happy, bold colour. It’s the colour of sunshine and it symbolises joy and energy among other things. It also happens to be one of my favourite colours.
We are working on expanding our home décor line, getting into apparel, starting a line for men and for kids as well and finally getting our online store up and running. Our vision for the future is to become a contemporary African lifestyle brand with a global reach.
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