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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From Amazon to Alibaba to Jumia, ecommerce has taken the global retail market by storm. Data suggests the trend is here to stay. With internet penetration improving across Africa, we expect ecommerce industry to expand.
Dziffa Ametam of Dziffa is on a mission to create an online marketplace for authentic handmade African goods. For any one who had spent time on the continent Africa, this is no easy feat. Internet speed and pricing are two of several hurdles ecommerce business have to surmount.
In this piece, Ametam shares tips that have helped her build her business, and pitfalls to avoid.
Can you give us some insight to some of the important tools you started out with?
1. Stick To Your Principle
At Dziffa, our principle was simple: sell authentic handmade African goods that add value to our local economy and expand the global reach of our local artisans. We started by combing Ghana for artisans who made high quality goods from locally sourced raw materials.
We partnered with them, providing professional photography, branding, and marketing services free of charge. As they had nothing to lose, they agreed to the partnership, and that helped stock the site with products that are aligned to our principle of creating a store with authentic African goods.
2. Focus on the Supply Chain
Most ecommerce sites fail because they are unable to meet demand. It was very important for us to maintain consistency by fulfilling all orders. This sounds very basic but it is actually the hardest part of our job. We work with artisans from various regions and each has his or her own challenges with getting the products to us on time.
I moved to Ghana to ensure that all orders, no matter how small, would be fulfilled. Fulfilment is crucial to turning curious customers to loyal customers. Someone could buy a bookmark out of curiosity, but if she received it on time and is satisfied with it, she just might become a loyal customer. Plus, her friends will know about her new discovery.
Pitfalls to avoid
Getting heavily involved with manufacturing. Because we work hand in hand with artisans, we are always tempted to get involved with the manufacturing process.
This was a big distraction in the very early days of Dziffa. We would get consumed with the manufacturing process that we didn’t have time to focus on our core responsibility, which is selling.
What are some tools you started without that you soon realized were necessary?
Social Media, Blogs, and Magazines.
Stories matter and we underestimated the power of storytelling in the very early stages of Dziffa. We communicate to our audience through our weekly blog post and bring them along with us on our journey. We reach out to magazines to share our discoveries. We also leverage social media to brand and sell beyond our immediate market,Ghana.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs trying to get into the e-commerce space?
1. Do your research
I cannot stress this enough. As an entrepreneur, every mistake you make is costly. Do your research or speak to someone who has been down a similar path. Make sure you thoroughly research the market you are going into and fully understand the opportunities and challenges.
2. Embrace the struggle
Entrepreneurship is not easy. You will be faced with a lot of challenges. Embrace the struggle; they teach you a lot about yourself and your potential. Remain persistent and always remember why you chose this path.
You can learn more about Dziffa? You can find out more on her website and social media pages – Facebook and Instagram. Want to learn more about ecommerce or running an ecommerce business? Comment below and let us know.