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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid