During a recent trip to Kenya, I had just enough time to visit Jennifer Mulli, Managing Director of Katchy Kollections, and a 2010 EinH Direct Training participant. This marked the first time that I was able to visit an alumna’s business after their participation in one of our EinH trainings; I was very excited. I was most looking forward to seeing and hearing about how she had applied the skills and knowledge gained through the training to further develop and grow her business.
Unfortunately, Jennifer was unable to show me around her workshop but her 22-year old son, Anthony, another genius designer behind the products, took the time to show me around. My first stop was their workshop. They had recently moved into a larger building in a new location to accommodate the growth of their business. When I entered the workshop I was greeted by a group of about 10 women seated in groups of 3-4 working on the beaded pieces. As I walked around the room watching them work, I occasionally interrupted them to ask a question or two, and was able to detect their deep focus and sense of pride in their work.
Anthony then introduced me to Ruth Mwikali, a soft-spoken and sweet woman with a cool professional path. I started up a conversation with her and learned that she had been with the business for 6 years, started as a beader and within a couple of years was the first beader to graduate into a managerial position within the company. She currently supervises the beaders and sources raw materials. As she described her career path at Katchy Kollections you could tell from the tone of her voice how appreciative she was for the opportunity and investment that the business had made in her. Ruth also informed me that she is a student at a local university and since she wants to focus on her education she is currently in the process of training another beader, Grace, to take up her position.
After speaking to Ruth and hearing about her professional and personal goals I was pleased to see that Katchy Kollections is not only growing as a business, but also investing in the development of their employees.
Then I was introduced to Ann, a recently hired operational manager. She was brought onto the team to assist with daily operations, but more importantly, to help create a positive growth orientated environment for all employees. After just 2 weeks on the job, she had implemented a new strategy that groups the beaders into small working units with individuals with varying skill sets and strengths to monitor quality control and promote mentoring amongst the group. She is also in the process of developing additional strategies that will benefit the employees and help to efficiently and effectively grow the business.
After speaking with and observing the work of a variety of employees at Katchy Kollections, I was thrilled to see an alumna-run organization incorporating the concepts and tools taught at the EinH training into her business. During the delivery of the EinH Direct trainings I witness many “light bulb” moments but often wonder if upon returning to their home countries, the participants will truly take on the difficult task of making real changes that will, in both the short and long-term, positively impact their business. This visit confirmed my expectations that in fact they do, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to visit more EinH alumna businesses in the future.