A common challenge for many artisans in Africa is getting access to markets and gaining the right kind of exposure for their work. The Nanjala Company in Kenya is one enterprise looking to provide a solution, thanks to the interest and commitment of its founder, Teresa Nanjala Lubano.
LoA chatted to Teresa Lubano to find out more about this interesting business venture.
What does your company do?
We are an online store that creates and collaborates to deliver one stop solutions for design, customized gifts items and eye catching potted plants. All of Shop Nanjala’s work is locally sourced and made in Kenya.
The globalized world sees DESIGN as a tool that evokes change, fascinates
the senses and inspires a generation. DESIGN touches all aspects of life.
SHOPNANJALA.COM is the ‘lens’ that authenticates this very definition.
What inspired you to start your company?
Launched online on the 1st of December 2015, Shop Nanjala was born from a recognition that many local artisans and craftsmen are held back by a lack of exposure and opportunity. Through our e-commerce platform, we are committed to helping them take their talents and wares to the market in a more professional and gainful manner.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
By buying Shop Nanjala's products, customers are guaranteed that they are supporting local artists to not only enhance their talents, but their livelihoods. Most of the designers and innovators in Kenya (Nairobi to be specific) are just not savvy enough to market their wares. Most work in warehouses or from their homes far away from where the real market is. Moreover, high-end design products in this market are normally appreciated by urban middle to upper middle class citizens, and accessing this target can be elusive to the designers/innovators. Therefore, Shop Nanjala carefully selects the products based on certain criteria such as: contemporary designs, futuristic/ innovative parameters, eco-friendliness and sustainable design concepts, and showcases on their behalf their works online. So customers are guaranteed a quality product at a value price. We believe we have a double bottomline, one of economic empowerment as a for-profit marketing venture that nurtures homegrown talent in the creative industry.
"I want to see the day when Kenyans will buy Kenyan made products because they believe that they have global standards of quality and echo a sustainable ethos."
Tell us a little about your team
We are a team of creative, visionary people, and though small, we have a vision to change the mindset of Kenyans and prove to people that by buying our own homegrown designed products we are significantly empowering our own talented citizens to validate design as a viable career and contributing to the much needed economic opportunity for our people. The Shop Nanjala team primarily compromises of Teresa Lubano, the Founder and Chief Creative; Velma Obuya, our CFO; Beatrice Mmbone the Head Gardener; a legal advisor who is also a Director, Noella Lubano; and a little ‘apprentice’, Maya Kendi who is only 20 months old! We also work with several "Collaborators" http://www.shopnanjala.com/about/collaborators/ who are primarily our designers/manufacturers who stock their products on Shop Nanjala's site. The list of collaborators keeps growing as we grow!
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Im actually a corporate creative addict. I love the fast paced life of agency life and have worked for over a decade with Kenya's most reputable agencies. So currently I have two jobs, an Art Director for a global agency based in Nairobi, as well as being a start-up entrepreneur. SHOP NANJALA was an epiphany of "giving back" a little something to the world, that happened when I got my little girl Maya. I just felt it was the right time to harness all the experience I had gained in the industry and build a legacy that would inspire others. Nanjala Blooms, which is a sub-brand of Shop Nanjala and sells succulents, was initially conceived when I realised I had an inate love for nature and succulents in particular. Slowly I was collecting them and eventually got people requesting to buy them. And as they say, the rest was history!
"We want to connect our customers directly with designers, saving consumers money and promoting our homegrown talent."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Our team is really looking at growing the brand to be like Etsy.com. or Made.com. A great platform that supports and collaborates with creatives/designers in Kenya and Africa at large. I want to see the day when Kenyans will buy Kenyan made products because they believe that they have global standards of quality and echo a sustainable ethos. I just want the local designer to be given true recognition and merit, as well as value for their work, instead of their work being taken by a middleman, shipped and repackaged for a foreign market where the designer gains very little if anything from their intellectual property and unfair compensation from their work. We want to connect our customers directly with designers, saving consumers money and promoting our homegrown talent.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Seeing people appreciating our work and drawing inspiration from it. Or the recognition that Design is a valuable profession in this millennia. And just being happy that however small our contribution may be, it is a step towards bettering someone’s life.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
The idea should become reality. One famous quote I like is that "Its not ready until it ships"! Another favourite is "Fortune favours the bold". I believe that if you are passionate, have the drive and just keep at it, the universe just makes you gravitate towards realising your desires. I think women have the backbone to achieve so much as we are intuitively wired to nurture. We just need to focus on what we want to achieve, lock onto it and go for it!
Contact or follow Shop Nanjala
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we are passionate about Africa’s artisans, particularly those women who are taking age-old traditional crafts and elevating them to a different level. Yet, one of the challenges for any artisan on the continent is getting their products recognised and into the hands of potential buyers. Teresa Lubano is one entrepreneur looking to put Kenya’s artisans on the map through her new online retail venture, ShopNanjala.com and, as a result, open up new markets for these talented creatives in her country. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa