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Meet the Artisan: Gabriel Muragu

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Soko prides itself on offering authentic, original and high quality handmade jewelry. We owe this to our team of talented artisans who work tirelessly to ensure quality craftsmanship. Today, meet Gabriel Muragu: a Kenyan artisan based in Nairobi and renowned for the famous brass fringe. In part I of our two-day feature on Gabriel, we’ll share the story on his background, business, and some of the challenges he’s faced as an artist and entrepreneur.

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Starting out

To learn about Gabriel’s business straight from the source, we headed over to his workshop in the heart of Nairobi Central Business district. There, Gabriel and his father craft the incredible pieces available on Soko.

Gabriel was born and raised in Nairobi. It was not until after high school that he developed an active interest in following his father’s footsteps. His father, an artisan, ran a successful business where he always had a lot of work.

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“I had just finished high school and I was doing a short course in IT,” explained Gabriel. “I always loved art but I started developing an interest in being an artisan after watching my father do it. His business was doing well and I wanted to join him. So I dropped my IT course and my father taught me the basics.”

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Since choosing this career path in 1998, Gabriel’s business, and family, have grown. He and his wife Marylne, a hairdresse, live in the Nairobi neighborhood of Jericho, where they raise their nine-year-old daughter. He loves taking her out whenever he can.

Challenges

Like any entrepreneur, Gabriel’s journey to success has not been without its challenges. He says that business took a nosedive after the American Embassy Bomb blast in August 7th 1998. The resulting plummet in tourists hit his business hard. The recent attack in September 2013 at Westgate mall was also damaging.

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Gabriel and other artisans in Kenya are now competing against the huge influx of cheap counterfeit products from China – new players in the crafts market have proven to be a large hurdle to their businesses. Gabriel complains that there are now “too many artisans.”

Despite the difficult circumstances that Gabriel has faced, his design genius and commitment to quality have enabled his business to grow and get international exposure. Learn more about his creative process and inspiration in the next installment, out Friday! In the meantime, check out his profile and products on our website, including our new favorite brass fringe earrings!

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