How products are made: BeadWORKS Kenya

Step into a day in the life of a product at BeadWORKS!

BeadWORKS is located right inside the gates of the Lewa Wildlife Conservation.  Two red brick buildings stand tucked back in the shrubs with a covered porch connecting them. In these buildings is a community of the most spectacular human beings!

It is here where all products begin and end, and it is here where I spend my days.  There is a crew of seven that work behind scenes prepping, delivering, collecting, finishing, and packaging all goods.  They are, Nicholas, Andrew, Camau, Peter, Freida, Pamela, and Sophie. They used to deal with the final steps of production; selecting products from inventory, putting on tags, finishing earrings with hooks and backs, etc… They are the ones who sat through my intensive leathercraft workshops last year, and these seven superstars are my leather-crafting wizards.

I think it is important to shed light on the different steps of the production process.  All BeadWORKS products are made as a group effort.

Production goes like this:

  1. Wholesale order is placed
  2. Leather is sourced, ordered and picked up at Sagana Leather Tannery which is about 2.5 hours south.
  3. In-house team o’ wizards prep the leather components of each product that needs to be beaded. Leather is cut out and marked, and the beads are selected
  4. Beatrice, the brilliant production manager, contacts the different communities of ladies and decides who is ready for more work.
  5. Materials are delivered to the selected community. When the new products are dropped off, we also collect and pay out for the completed products the women had been working on previously.
  6. When the beaded components are completed and picked up, they are finished by the in-house team (belts and dog collar’s get a lining and brass buckle, and bags/ipad cases/laptop cases get assembled)
  7. Order is double checked for quality, wrapped, and shipped out.

The coolest part about BeadWORKS:

It gives the indigenous women an opportunity to earn income, while retaining their semi-nomadic lifestyle, obligations at home, and involvement in their communities.  BeadWORKS employs over 1350 women from 9 different communities.  Some of which are Maa, Massai, Samburu, Turkana, Rendille and Borana. The ladies do not come in to work, but our crew delivers all materials, and collects all finished beadwork products. The communities can be up to a 5 hour drive off road! The women are paid per completed piece, so it is on their time when they want/can work or not.

This is SO rad because:

-More money to the women empowers them and contributes to family income

-More income=less need to poach animals, more kids in school, less women making charcoal for extra cash.

-More kids in school= more education about driving force of tourist industry and the importance of land and wildlife conservation

-More educated children= less likely to carry on poaching for extra cash

so... Voila!

BeadWORKS is ROCKIN’ on creating a sustainable business for the people of Northern Kenya.  Please understand the importance of practicing sustainable and fair trade consumption in your daily life. Read about the products you are using and supporting! We have control of how we spend our money, so put yours in a place that you know is doing good for this world.