I arrived in Nairobi late the evening of June 30th. One of my business partners, Tom, picked me up from the airport, and after only having video chats for three years, it was amazing to see him in person again. He dropped me off at my hotel, Emara Ole-Sereni, where I went right to sleep.
The next morning, I had a lovely breakfast overlooking Nairobi National Park and then got straight down to business. With only 3 full days in Nairobi with two of my business partners, we had no time to waste!
Tom picked me up from my hotel and we went to the tannery we work with. I had been there before, but it was great to be back. I was able to meet the manager of production and get some questions answered about process and color. Tom and I were also able to look at swatches and samples together, which makes such a difference because color changes so much in a photo. We picked out a few samples that we’re going to work with for upcoming designs.
After the tannery, we went to Tom’s workshop, which is attached to his home. A lot had changed since the last time I was there, in 2019. He added another room to the workshop which is used as an office, hired a couple new employees, and he and his girlfriend had twins! It was so exciting to meet these new faces! I was also able to watch as a Sling Bag was made start to finish. It gave me such appreciation for finished product getting to see all the craftsmanship that goes into it! I can’t wait to show you…I have lots of video!
We spent the rest of the evening chatting all things design, business, life, politics, culture…no topic untouched. There is nothing quite like being in person!
The next day I took an Uber to Isabell’s workshop, my other Kenyan business partner. I was greeted by the most beautiful song and smiling faces and hugging Isabell after three years of video chatting was almost surreal. We just kept hugging!
Seeing some familiar faces in the workshop was so reassuring that even through a pandemic, we are still here. But seeing how the workshop has grown - more than a dozen new employees - gave me so much joy. And then when Isabell told me that the new in-house jewelry making department was made possible by my orders, I was speechless. Isabell and I often talk about our vision and dreams for our companies and to see the growth before my eyes was an answer to countless prayers.
I spent the day watching many of our pieces being made start to finish…watching beautiful jewelry get created from cast aside brass padlocks melted down and repurposed. Absolutely amazing!
Being in Nairobi gave me such a clear picture of our interconnectedness. I truly hope you feel that connection when you wear one of our pieces.
After our time at the workshop, Isabell and I went to visit someone to see about a special project involving wool that I am working on. Fingers and toes are crossed…if this works, it’s going to be amazing. More to come, I hope!
After that we did a little shopping of our own at some local markets. It was quite a day!
Today I spent the morning on the roof of my hotel enjoying the beautiful views of the city before Isabell picked me up. I was able to spend the day with Isabell, her husband, and two of her kids. We visited another workshop where they are employing women to create some incredible products - including these poufs made of recycled tired and sisal. I love the creativity - so inspiring!
We then visited the Giraffe Center, where we could feed giraffes - it was a very cool experience. The center was created as a conservation center for the endangered giraffes called Rothschild Giraffes and is also used as an education center for the children of Nairobi.
Isabell then took me to eat at one of her favorite local spots for nyama choma, or bbq. Such a delightful atmosphere - outdoor eating with live music and the most delicious food. In Nairobi it’s easy to eat more “western” food, but I’m so appreciative of the authentic food. I even enjoyed the goat!
After a little more shopping, Isabell dropped me back off at my hotel. I had an early flight the next morning to Kilimanjaro, so after a lovely dinner I tried to go right to sleep. To be honest, I didn’t sleep one minute that night because I was so excited to return to Tanzania.