News / Africa

Kapendeza Weaves Success with Kisumu Cotton, Kenya Designs

Co-founder Margaret Adhiambo works on Kapendeza's spinning wheel (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)
Co-founder Margaret Adhiambo works on Kapendeza's spinning wheel (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)
Ajanga Khayesi
Forty-five years ago, William Okello and Margaret Adhiambo had completed textile training but couldn’t find work. Someone gave them a sewing machine and, over time, they built a textile factory of their own with a global market and jobs for 24 other Kenyans.  But it took more than four decades of hard work.
 
William and Margaret trained in the textile spinning and hand weaving at the National Council of Churches of Kenya Textile College in Nairobi in 1977, then married and settled at the Nyalenda slums in Kisumu.

In Kisumu, Kenya’s third city, job seekers were willing to consider doing anything, even things they have not studied for. With no jobs available for any textile manufacturers, they took menial work to survive.
 
“Since the slogan of the day was ‘No Work, No Wages’, the daily payment depended on the amount of work one does in a day,” said Margeret. “ We worked in the bookshops or clothes shops. We worked as casual laborers doing jobs such as arranging goods in the stores and packing merchandise for retail and wholesale agents.
 
“Our employers were Asian business people living in Kisumu town," she continued. "The day’s [sales] were low, meaning little work, less payment.”
 
The duo used their savings to buy a second-hand sewing machine. Adhiambo began repairing worn-out clothes for slum dwellers, including women and children, while Okello continued working in town.
 
Old Wooden Loom Means Business

In 1980, the British government donated to the couple an old manual loom made out of wood. Despite financial constraints, Okello says they started developing plans for creating their own weaving business and began manufacturing new clothes with the loom.

“To begin the weaving venture, we saved US $12.50 which we used to buy the first 100 meters of yarn from Kisumu Cotton Mills,” said William.  “Without employees, the two of us started weaving in the rented house.  However, we were still doing some tailoring, which paid for the rented house.”
 
At the time, business agreements between farmers and large factories made it difficult for small-scale businesses to buy local cotton.  The crop, which relied on seasonal rains, was in short supply. There was also insufficient transport and storage to preserve it.

Okello's daughter, Linet Lydia Atieno, displays Kapendeza products (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)Okello's daughter, Linet Lydia Atieno, displays Kapendeza products (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)
x
Okello's daughter, Linet Lydia Atieno, displays Kapendeza products (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)
Okello's daughter, Linet Lydia Atieno, displays Kapendeza products (VOA/Ajanga Khayesi)
Adhiambo looked for alternatives.

“Cotton was expensive to buy,” she said. “We decided to purchase wool from the Wool Centre, at Nakuru town in Kenya’s Rift Valley province, a distance of 190 kilometers east of Kisumu town. Still, it was difficult and expensive buying 200 kilogram bales for $400.”
 
In 1987, the business found markets and flourished.  With their success, the couple bought some land for a factory at the Nyamasaria market located on the highway connecting Kisumu to the capital, Nairobi.
 
“We bought a three-acre piece of land and constructed a home for our home, workshop, tailoring room, and display shop,” William said.
 
Kapendeza Weaving Enterprise was now born, with Okello as its manager.
 
Business picked up with tourist sales

The plant trains staff who spin, dye, weave and tailor clothing and other products – including table placemats, dresses, shirts, trousers, tablecloths, napkins, shower curtains, scarves, purses, cushion covers.
 
Adhiambo says they in turn are displayed, packed, stored or taken to buyers in Canada, and in to California and Texas in the United States.
 
“Kapendeza has come up with products designed to meet local and international markets demands,’ she said. “The major buyers are expatriates and tourists from international countries like the United States, Canada and Britain.”

Despite the impressive progress made in developing the business, Okello, who is also the company technician, said various challenges, like access to machines and accessories, still hinder growth.
 
“Primary components and [integral parts of the loom] like benches, heddles, shuttles, and bobbin winders are not available in Kenya,” he said. “They have to be imported from Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. Importation of goods from developed countries to a developing like Kenya is very expensive.”
 
Kapendeza is an example of successful small firm providing employment and tax revenues to the government.
 
With a staff of 24 people each earning about $125 per month, the small-scale enterprise also helps ease local unemployment and provides income for purchasing goods including cotton from local farmers.
 
The two entrepreneurs say government policies could help others follow in their footsteps.  For example, they say small businesses need loans, and would benefit by an end to imports of second-hand clothes, which are cheaper than newly manufactured ones.  Young people would also benefit from government support for textile colleges.
 
They’re optimistic that with the right support, African designs using local cotton can find a global market.

Listen to interview with Kapendeza's owners
Listen to interview with Kapendeza's ownersi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Yemen Brings US, Iran Closer to Naval Face-off

US sending two more ships to waters off coast of Yemen to take part in 'maritime security operations' More

Minorities Become Majority Across US

From 2000 to 2013, minorities became the majority in 78 counties in the United States. Here's where those demographic shifts are happening More

Japan's Maglev Train Breaks Own Speed Record

Seven-car 'magnetic levitation' train traveled at more than 600 kilometers per hour during test run Tuesday More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs