Thursday, November 19, 2015

Meet Gwen // SOKO

Happy Friday eve loves! I'm a little over the moon because I'm about to let you in on an amazing company! This feature was SUCH a pleasure for me to create! You know I love companies that give back... well this one was founded on that very idea. I can't emphasize to you enough how genuine and passionate these ladies are and I'm so honored that they allowed me to share their story with you!

Soko was born out of a love of design, a combination of global perspectives, the desire to connect and empower entrepreneurs via the use of the technology around us, and a belief that women can change the world. I'm so inspired by them and their mission to reach out and provide open doors to those less connected to the world. Gwen, along with her co-founders, make it their mission to give makers in developing countries the opportunity to make a living for themselves by connecting them through technology. The growth they have had and their heart to equip women in underprivileged economies is just stunning. On average, within two months of joining Soko, artisans increase their incomes by a factor of 4x! How amazing is that? Soko works with artisans in Kenya to create modern, ethical jewelry that is handmade from sustainable materials. These ladies are all about transforming the fashion industry to be more of a positive force. 

On another note, their jewelry is GORGEOUS! I mean, take a look at the necklace they sent me below for example. It's simplistic, yet noticeably chic. Check out their website to see more and I guarantee you, you'll have a hard time not wanting to scoop it all up! As you can see, hey're all such classic pieces you can wear everyday... casual or dressed up. It really doesn't get much better than that!

PoP Geo Sasi Lariat necklace | Pencils of Promise Capsule Collection







They recently launched a capsule collection for this holiday in partnership with Adam Braun's Pencils of Promise. Soko will donate 20% of every purchase toward Pencils of Promise's school builds in Ghana while 30% goes back to their artisans in Kenya.
"We see this as the next generation of fundraising, where both the creation and the sale of the product supports under-served communities around the world.
 For us, it's been meaningful to make the connection between access to dignified and safe work for parents in the developing world as a key to being able to invest in the next generation's future.

check out this short video clip to get a picture of what this collection is supporting. It's a pretty wonderful thing to see for yourself and super heart warming.

Now that you've gotten a little taste of what the products look like and the mission behind this beautiful company, lets meet one of the founders!...

The lovely, Gwen, co-founder of Soko.


Where did the name, Soko come from?

Soko means 'marketplace' in Swahili. Our company mission is to bridge the gap and create equitable trade of beautiful goods between artisans in Africa and consumers worldwide.


What/who was the biggest 
inspiration to start this shop? 

 
For years working in tech and international development I had witnessed the mobile phone becoming a huge driver of development, due to its pervasive and accessible nature. The mobile phone is the most ubiquitous technology in the world, with over 90% of the population in places like Kenya owning a mobile phone and being mobile literate. About 3 years ago, I was working in Kenya and was serendipitously sharing a house with and met my co-founders Ella Griffith, who also had a background in design, as an architect, and Catherine Mahugu, a Kenyan technologist. They are amazing women and had both worked extensively in technology innovation and community development. We realized a convergence that was happening between pervasive mobile ownership and literacy, mobile money penetration (branchless, creditless banking for the poor), and a global appetite for products with backstory that supported an emerging cool of ethical behavior that could provide an opportunity to completely change the face of global commerce.


What's something you've learned from doing this? 
 
If I were to give advice to my younger self, I wish I had understood how fun and how hard it would be, and to begin asking for help and support from my extended network as soon as possible. People want to help and champion good ideas, organizations, and individuals. Remember this and always extend the opportunity for people to get personally involved in your mission or business.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?
 
Between Soko’s headquarters in Nairobi and our Sales and Marketing team in San Francisco, my days are anything but typical. When Im at home in the Bay Area, I often take early morning calls with Kenya from home, then head into our office in downtown San Francisco. I travel about 50% of the year, so when I’m in San Francisco, it’s great to take advantage of the opportunity to spend time in person with our team here. While in Nairobi, where I spend about 2 months of every year, you can find me prototyping new designs with our artisans, developing our tech systems, or dreaming up new ideas with my two co-founders (who live full time in Kenya). 


What is a goal that you hope to attain in the near future?
 
 To normalize a new category of consumption,"Ethical Fast 
Fashion ​,” where international consumers can easily and affordably purchase high quality goods that are handmade in emerging markets. 


What is your personal style?  

Well, amongst the amazingly stylish ladies of Soko, I would describe myself stylistically as the little boy of the group :) I studied design, amongst other things, and my love of simple designs that celebrate material or construction comes out in my style. I love androgynous fashion with a feminine edge.


IF you could have any super power what would it be?

Never having jet lag! Catnapping and teleportation would be great as well!


Thank you SO much, Gwen, for sharing a bit more about yourself and your company! So grateful that you took the time to let us in on what you're doing and that you're reaching women in other nations and giving them opportunities! Love, love it! I'm a supporter for life and cannot wait to see what other amazing things you ladies will accomplish through Soko in the future!

For all of you that want to support these lovely women (founders and makers), consider shopping small this holiday season. When you give a gift from Soko, you are giving to more than just the receiver. You're giving to men, women, and children who do not have the comforts and opportunities that we have here in the US. It's a small thing, but it can make a world of a difference. Hop over to www.shopsoko.com to check out all their stunning jewelry options for you are a loved one! Thanks for reading and happy shopping!

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