Soko is an ethical African fashion brand that works with artisans in Kenya. To create beautiful pieces Soko artisans use local eco-friendly raw materials such as recycled brass and reclaimed cow horn. Even so the brand leverages technology to connect online consumers to smart, fashion-forward jewellery crafted by artisans. How was that possible?! Soko designed a proprietary smartphone commerce app that transforms the mobile phone into a tool enabling global artisans in underserved communities access to international markets.
The masterminds of this are Gwendolyn Floyd, Catherine Mahugu, and Ella Peinovich – the founders of Soko.
Let’s get to know them a little bit better.
Gwen has been working whole her life in the intersection of design, technology, and international development she is an expert in mobile technology for development. She has been honored as an emerging global leader with awards by multiple organizations. Her work in human-centered design drove her into Africa and in several awards.
Catherine is a software engineer by profession but has always been a changemaker and has been involved in multiple ICT [information and communications technology] development projects mainly in Africa.
Ella is an architect and as part of her Master’s degree at MIT, she went to Kenya to develop a social enterprise that involved developing toilets in the informal settlements. She has been working within social enterprises in informal economies for almost ten years. Peinovich was the architectural designer for Sanergy’s pilot, serviceable toilet design; providing a solution for low-cost toilet infrastructure in Kenya’s slums.
he three met when they were all living and working in Nairobi. Soko was born out of their love of design, the desire to connect and empower entrepreneurs via the use of the commonly available technology and based on a belief that women can change the world. At the time, the trio recognized not only a global need, as well as global opportunity, to disrupt the systemic patterns of poverty found across Africa’s creative economy. And that’s how Soko was founded in 2012.
The result after almost 5 years is impressive, the goal to ‘transform the fashion industry for good, one accessory at a time’, has been outperformed. Back in 2012, when Soko started, 15 artisans were recruited, but by now the work of these three inspiring ladies allowed the brand to expand the artisan network to over 2100 artisans. Based on the figures provided, Soko’s artisans increase their income up to 5 times within two months of joining the platform. Within four months they have the capital and confidence to start their own small businesses and hire employees.
This way, the ideas that these three entrepreneurs managed to put together are not only supporting artisans to earn significant additional income. Soko is also helping them to grow as independent entrepreneurs by growing their businesses and becoming leaders in their communities. Social and human development is a direct benefit of better (or total new) access to health care, education and better nutrition. And this is absolutely exciting!
Slowly but steady, Soko is proving that a new model of international trade is possible and is real. In this model all stakeholders can benefit – from consumers, to artisans, to retailers, to social businesses as a whole – and are in balance.
For us there are three words to define Soko and these inspiring trio are: innovative, stylish and impactful. And we couldn’t be happier to have it in our family at DOME.
In March we declare ourselves to all the women we admire. This is our statement to all women who take part in the change and are the change.
Do you also want to be part of it? See here all SOKO products available at DOME.