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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.