Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Marta Krajnik; when I started Kipato Unbranded, I had a full-time job. I was working for Oxfam in Nairobi and then later for the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). With over 12 years of work experience in International Development all over the world, I felt that as far as International Development was concerned. I didn’t see it going any further…My whole life I have always been committed to empowering people, I had gotten to a place my job wasn’t quite satisfying that passion and desire so I really wanted to do something that will help people improve their livelihoods and use their creativity to get a platform where they can make a fair salary and be able to improve their community, that is why I took the leap into entrepreneurship. I actually majored in Arts while in high school; where I painted and wrote. I like to do all those things but because of having a very busy career, I never really managed to do them as often as I would have wanted… you kind of lose those hobbies so for me Kipato Unbranded is such a creative outlet- it releases my creative juices.
What exactly is Kipato Unbranded?
Kipato Unbranded is a social enterprise in Kenya that collaborates with local artists, promoting their talents and skills and giving them access to markets. Kipato Unbranded is about beauty and unique designs. We create jewelry that is inspired by everyday people and for everyday people. Our pieces are made from local materials that include brass, recycled bone, and beads.
What inspired you to start Kipato Unbranded?
I think what inspires Kipato Unbranded – and the people who created it – is to quite simply help people. Our tag line is ‘by everyday people, for everyday people’. We want to empower artists from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to help them succeed in their lives. The income they receive from our business model enables them to improve their lives significantly. We were inspired by the vision of a vibrant and creative global economy that promotes ethical fashion – a socially conscious generation. We envision breaking down the barriers between producers and consumers – to empower the everyday person to understand and stand together as one with those less fortunate.
How did you come up with the name?
Kipato is the Kiswahili word for income. This underscores the social justice core of the enterprise. We ensure that our artists are empowered by their work and receive fair wages for their creativity. From its’ beginnings, profits from the artists’ work, whether sold in international or local markets, go directly to the artists, creating a model that is sustainable and fair to them. We are “unbranded” because we are focused on creating jewellery by everyday people, for everyday people. We believe that beautiful jewellery should not be out of reach for everyday people and therefore are striving to create an enterprise that is accessible and approachable.
Your products are made from recycled materials; can you tell us about that?
Our pieces are made from local materials that include brass, recycled bone, and beads. Brass is indigenous to East Africa. We are an eco-friendly social enterprise, and even our packaging and displays are made out of recycled materials (wood by-products and recycled paper).
Is there a favorite product?
I really can’t say I have a favourite product! There are so many great ones to choose from. I alternate between quite a few of them.
What is your favorite part about running Kipato Unbranded?
Watching our artists growing both personally and profesionally, being able to build better lives for themselves and their families is a driving force. These artisans manage a whole network of other artisans that they work with to create the individual pieces of jewelry. This also includes a Bone Makers Association in Kibera that sources recycled bone from local butcheries. Equally motivating is watching young women developing their skills through working with us as Brand Activators. They are responsible for holding events, conducting promotions, selling products in bulk, engaging media, bloggers and Brand Ambassadors in spreading the word about Kipato Unbranded products.
What is your least favorite part about running Kipato Unbranded?
Dealing with unplanned stressors to the economy. Last year we had unrest during the 2017 elections. A lot of people in Kenya have closed their businesses before the elections afraid of bankruptcy in case the unrest was similar to that in 2007. Back then a lot of businesses died because of long and heavy riots and general destabilization of the country. Fortunately this time around it wasn’t so dramatic, nevertheless, the business slowed down to the point where for a while I thought it could be the end.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Through everyone that believes in our vision, considers themselves as the “Kipato Unbranded Tribe” and supports us…
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
What I would really advise people is to take the time to develop their skills very early, while still at university. Moreover I think it’s extremely important to have mentors, your success depends on it because they are the people who can really help you through roadblocks.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying?
Hustle & Grind!
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
We work a lot with youth, specifically young women, who tend to observe what is currently trending and what people are into when it comes to jewelry trends and how they are able to keep up and be on the know with the latest trends in the industry.