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Behind the Scenes: Veronicah

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Our field officers recently had a chance to catch up with one of our artisans, Veronicah, in Kibera (a slum community in Nairobi). We spoke with her about her experience running a small businesses, working with Soko and her future goals.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: My name is Veronicah and I am a handicraft designer and producer. I began working in this sector in 2004. Most of the time, I spend my time around [my workshop in Kibera] doing production, and some time walking around the field to see what is happening.  
Q: Can you tell us about Kibera?
A: Yes, [the market where I work] is situated in Kibera [Africa’s largest slum]. There are a quite a number of artisans based here. We do different kinds of things, but all in the Jua Kali sector.
(The literal translation of Jua Kali in Kenyan Kiswahili is “fierce sun“; the actually meaning is the Kenyan word for “git er done,” or a person, businessman, or entrepreneur that can undoubtedly fix or practically do anything upon request).
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
A: My day, let’s see. I generally wake up around six in the morning and prepare to come here around 8am. After I arrive, I sit down with my guys and we plan the day. We look at work that is  pending and see how it should be handled to meet the delivery time. After that, if there is something that I need to do outside--maybe in town, or a correction somewhere-- I leave them here to continue the work. I also use this time to collect product, purchase materials and complete other errands.   


Q: Can you tell us about the designs that you make?
The designs that I work on vary - some are mine and others are for clients like Soko. For example, Soko comes up with a design and then we produce it. And then others, I design on my own. Many times it is because I am inspired by something; so I try it!
Q: What is your area of specialty?
We specialize in horn, bone and sometimes we experiment with brass depending on what the client or market wants.


How did you find out about Soko?
When Soko began, I was working for a small enterprise doing bone work and handicrafts - that was back in 2012. While at the enterprise, I was familiar with this group called Victorious Group because the founder is a friend of mine. So when Soko came to Kibera, someone directed them to Victorious Group and because of my relationship with them, Soko came to me and shared that they were looking for artisans who design handicrafts.
I was very interested and one evening Kaye, Soko’s Director of Growth & Artisan Entrepreneurship called a meeting and began to explain Soko’s model. I was very interested because I had been working for a while, but hadn’t achieved so much. I wanted to see the value of my work.
Soko offered me the opportunity to present them with designs for them to try and see how people respond. The response was quite good and we started making some small sales. Then in 2013, around August, Soko told me that there was a big order that came in for some of my designs (necklaces and bracelets) for about $30,000. When I received the advance for the order, I decided to leave the workshop I was working for and open my own. There was a community of people who supported me and became part of my team. Our first workshop was not far away from this one, but it was just a small room. From there, it’s just been going up!


How has Soko helped you so far?
It has helped us a lot because it has allowed for all of us to be stable. Since we came together and started working with Soko, things haven’t been so hard because the sales we make from Soko allow us to operate the workshop, take care of our needs  at home, and provide for our families. The guys I work with now are able to take care of their children really well because we are working as a team. Also from the sales we make with Soko, I am able to buy more machines for the workshop and support my family back home. Also, right now I am doing a business management course at Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), Nairobi. So, yes, things are going well.


What are your dreams for the future?
(Smiles and laughs) Dreams for the future. Okay. I dream that I will have a bigger business than what we have right now to hire more employees and purchase more machines. I also want for our market to expand to be bigger and better in the future.
Veronica is one of many women artisans that will be featured over the next few months. Head over to shopsoko.com to learn more about our artisans and their products!
 











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