Bags That Give Back
Love is the clear driving force behind one Namibian business that demonstrates the power and reach of social entrepreneurship. With handmade leather bags that easily rival top international designer bags, this women-lead company, is using their business as a platform to empower.
Comprising three arms that interlink, two of which provide the fuel for the third arm, Myeisha and iNami are the brands that power Especially Namibian. Through the parent company Myeisha, that creates high-end leather bags, and it’s younger creative iNami, that includes accessories, art and handbags in its collection, their charitable trust, Especially Namibian is funded. The collection that creates the empowerment for the trust is breath taking in its attention to detail and beauty.
“Our big goal is to build an orphanage for children. We want to give back something because we feel that we are very privileged. Currently we feed a kindergarten in Katutura, Villa Colourful, so that every child in that kindergarten will have hot meal.”
At present, Especially Namibian, provides a daily meal to children of the Villa Colourful, in Katutura and the dream is to establish an orphanage in Windhoek, Home Today, through Especially Namibian. With boundless love and passion, the two women behind the brands are showcasing the game changing abilities of building a business based on love and appreciation for others.
“Love and appreciation are some of the most important things in life. We all search and want appreciation.” Says Sandra Baumeister, a Shareholder and Director at Myeisha Leather Products who explains that love and appreciation is what goes into each leather product they produce, as each is handmade with the knowledge that the majority of the profits from each product goes to fund the Especially Namibian Trust. “Our big goal is to build an orphanage for children. We want to give back something because we feel that we are very privileged. Currently we feed a kindergarten in Katutura, Villa Colourful, so that every child in that kindergarten will have hot meal.”
Sandra explains that she at first wanted to start a charity, “I was working in charities for a long time, I was building kindergartens in townships and drilling water fountains, but then I thought I have to do my own thing.” It was this drive to start something charitable of her own that saw her join forces with her business partner Kym Kibble. Sandra explains that at first they came up with the name and had the intention of feeding children, but when she was given sewing machines the strategy changed. “So I said ‘Kym we now have to change the strategy a bit, we need to produce something to sell.” This was when the two women decided the project would start as a place of employment, “giving work and appreciation and a role in life.” Explains Sandra.
Its hard not to fall in love with the exquisite and uniquely African bags, and a tour behind the scenes to meet the women with broad smiles and meticulous attention to detail in their hand stitched bags that they are evidently proud of, only fuels this love.
“We don’t want to leave footprints, but it’s in our heart that we want to give back and we want to give other people a chance in life.”
Now employing twelve people, mostly women and most who came to Myeisha Leather Products without leather or sewing skills. “Some bring some skills, sewing skills, and some we found out that they have a talent.” Says Sandra who explains that for example the woman who stitches their coin emblem on each bag and who does fine detailed stitching, had no stitching skills in the beginning, but they trained her like many of the other women in the team. “And she’s also helping to teach others. We have also sent two of the women on a leather course.” Says Sandra as she explains how their business is built through giving back to others. “We don’t want to leave footprints, but it’s in our heart that we want to give back and we want to give other people a chance in life.”
Kim explains that they source the locally produced elements of the bags, “The beads are also quite unique in that they designed by Elke Le Roux. She’s a local designer and we sent two of our ladies to her for a two-day beading course. So she’s now taught them how to mould the beads and design them. The stones as well on the bags are precious stones from Namibia.”
“We call ourselves social entrepreneurs, because our focus is obviously on making a profit and business but we also would like to show the world what Namibia is able to do, and how you can work with people and make an impression. I don’t know if we will change the world, but at least we are making a difference.”
Sandra explains that while they don’t only employ women, the majority of their team is made up of women. “They are responsible for the home, I’m not against men but empowering women is very important in this society, and I just believe in them. We are very lucky to have this amazing team.” Notes Sandra who adds, “We call ourselves social entrepreneurs, because our focus is obviously on making a profit and business but we also would like to show the world what Namibia is able to do, and how you can work with people and make an impression. I don’t know if we will change the world, but at least we are making a difference.”
When talking the management of this brand that is making inroads not only locally, but also in the international market, Sandra reiterates that part of the secret to her success is appreciation of people. “We see ourselves as a team and each single person has an important part in it.”
For more information about the Especially Namibian Trust, click here
By Kirsty Watermeyer