Startup Story – Anne Drane, founder of The Sawa Sawa Collection (Kenya/USA)
One of the biggest challenges for women artisans in Kenya is getting their handcrafted products into global markets. The Sawa Sawa Collection, founded by Anne Drane and her co-founders looks to help change that narrative, empowering women to make a sustainable living from their work and contribute to local economic empowerment.
LoA found out more about this impact-driven slow fashion business from co-founder Anne Drane.
What does your company do?
Sawa Sawa Collection is a 501c3 non-profit, ethical, slow fashion brand handmade by artisan women in Kenya. Our mission is to empower artisan women to make a sustainable, dignified income through skills handed down through generations.
They use skills in beading, weaving, basketry, art, and more to create accessories, sandals, bags, art etc. for the fashion line. Revenue from the sales is used to empower women in rural areas and provide their daughters with menstrual hygiene kits.
“Our business gives the artisan women in Kenya a platform to share their skills with the world and international fashion scene.”
What inspired you to start your company?
The beauty of the African culture. The exceptional, intricately beaded accessories made by the Maasai. The resiliency, bravery, and hard-working women that raise healthy, happy families. Helping them make a living from the skills that they are so good at inspires our work. Making their lives easier and more sustainable helps us keep ongoing.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our business gives artisan women in Kenya a platform to share their skills with the world and the international fashion scene. We preserve a technique that has stood the test of time. Our work aids in women empowerment, female entrepreneurship, menstrual hygiene, cultural preservation, and appreciation. It is made by hand with love from Africa and embodies the soul of the generations that came before us.
Tell us a little about your team
We have a brilliant, dedicated team. They work hard and drive in the deep villages of the Maasai Mara to spend time with the women. The team in Kenya headed by our COO – Catherine Mung’ara and her deputy – Phyllis among many other passionate women. The team in the USA headed by Anne and a diverse Board of Directors.
“Our aspiration is to get into national department stores in the USA. We also plan to have more programs in the rural Kenyan villages that are sustainable and empower women.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My journey grew organically. I initially took interest in the beautiful accessories made in Kenya. I bought some for myself and my friends. Before long, the women sought out my mother needing to sell me more accessories to make money for basic needs. I started selling on Etsy, eBay, and on vending events and sent the money back. I reconnected with our co-founder on Facebook, we had the same passions and we’re on the same path. We joined forces and created Sawa Sawa Collection.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We are currently an e-commerce store. We have an Amazon presence on Amazon handmade and Amazon prime. We are currently selling wholesale to boutiques. Our aspiration is to get into national department stores in the USA. We also plan to have more programs in the rural Kenyan villages that are sustainable and empower women. We hope to expand our menstrual hygiene program to reusable pads and increase our impact. Through empathetic listening, we hope to learn more about how we can serve them and make an impact.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The feeling of having a purpose and making a difference in people who are wonderful and hard working.
“Our mission is to empower artisan women to make a sustainable, dignified income through skills handed down through generations.”
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
It will not be easy. You will want to quit at times. Keep moving forward. Do something every single day, no matter how small. Success is resiliency and consistency. Ask for help along the way. Find like-minded people and share ideas. We rise by lifting others.
About the co-founder
Anne Drane is the co-founder and CEO of Sawa Sawa Collection. She was born and raised in Kenya, but today lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and daughter. She has a bachelor’s degree in finance and post-graduate courses in contract law, social impact strategy, creativity-innovation and change, strategic social media marketing, international human rights law. Before her startup, she worked in finance and accounting. She volunteers on the board of directors of an immigration law firm in Austin, Texas.
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