Warwick Africa Summit’s official Blog, a space to explore all things Africa, ranging from current affairs, business to culture.
This week the spotlight is on Kaleidoscope Beauty - a jewellery brand, making a difference by empowering members of the Kenyan communities who produce their handcrafted, statement jewellery.
Their original pieces are hand-made by young Kenyan artisans from disadvantaged backgrounds who are keen to improve their circumstances. The skills they develop allow them to provide for their families and avoid the prospects of a life of crime which many disenfranchised youth fall into. This ethos of empowering African communities was precisely why I was so drawn to Kaleidoscope Beauty; by purchasing their products, I was not only acquiring a fine piece of Afrocentric jewellery but I was also supporting the artisans who were making a positive change for themselves and their families.
Kaleidoscope Beauty’s unique approach to business has certainly made a noteworthy impact and has rightfully earned plaudits, being covered by the likes of BBC and Forbes; so we got in touch with their founder, Umutoni Thuku-Benzinge, to find out more about why she started the brand and her vision for it going forward.
What was the motivation for starting the brand? And how did you get things off and running?
My biggest driving force is my goal to alleviate multi-generational poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Seeing the impact Kaleidoscope Beauty is having is very fulfilling and heart-warming. Job creation for our artisans in Kibera (the largest urban slum on the African continent and fourth biggest in the world) Kenya and collaborating with local talents (e.g. models, make-up artists, photographers). Allowing additional help within these communities which are often overlooked. Sharing real stories, influencing real lives, building relationships, making an impact, that’s what keeps me going.
Getting Kaleidoscope Beauty up and running has been a journey. It started as a side hustle I ran alongside my 9-5 for the first year and a half. Packing orders, sending emails, having calls whenever I could find time, mornings, evenings, weekends and even on my work breaks. After featuring in a few credible publications including Forbes and BBC, it was fulfilling to see that an idea I had in my head was making sense to others. This then gave me the confidence to take things to the next level, which earlier this year I did and left the corporate world to pursue the business full-time.
What are the most significant challenges you’ve faced?
The first hurdle I had to overcome and was essential when sourcing my suppliers was quality control. It’s important to me that, as we change the narrative around Africa, our products are held to a high standard in terms of their finish, the neat intricate beading and the consistent designs. In addition to this, communication can be a challenge but has improved significantly since I moved away from my corporate career to focus on my brand.
As a pioneer within my field, the journey thus far has been exciting in the sense that when I think of the analogy of the route to success being a flight of stairs, I am at a stage where the stairs are appearing as I go. Not having a strict template to follow has been challenging at times yet refreshing in the sense that I literally carve out the Kaleidoscope Beauty route with the support of my team. Taking inspirations from books has been key to further understanding the journey.
What is your vision for the brand?
My vision for the brand is to create real social impact on the African continent. At the moment, that looks like working with more artisans, creating more job opportunities that extend to models, photographers, creative etc. with our existing product line which is jewellery. Moving forward, I’m sure this will expand into other products and services.
In addition, I want myself and my brand to play a part in changing the narrative. How we perceive ourselves and how the world perceives us too. For a long time, a lot of people have used African culture as a form of inspiration without giving the credit where it is due. Kaleidoscope Beauty we will be giving credit but also expand and tell the stories of the people behind our brand.
Check out the amazing pieces for yourself at https://kaleidoscopebeauty.co.uk/