How Empowering Women Inspired a Global Brand
Indego Africa was founded in 2007 with a simple idea: Empower women artisans in Africa by showcasing their beautiful craft and investing in the power of education.
Since our founding, Indego’s mission has always been to help artisans lift themselves and their families out of poverty and become empowered businesswomen. We team up with groups of women in Rwanda and Ghana to sell products that are designed in New York City and handmade in Africa—using traditional techniques, local materials, and genuine artisanal skill. 100% of Indego’s profits, along with donations, are invested into business, entrepreneurship, and technology education programs for the artisans who handcraft our products.
The artisan sector is the second largest informal employer in the developing world. Despite its potential, the industry remains untapped as a resource for income generation, job creation, and economic growth in under-resourced communities. Since 2007, Indego Africa has played a critical role in changing this by providing artisans, especially women and young people, with access to markets, vocational training, and education. We believe that women around the globe have the capacity, creativity, and determination to uplift themselves, their families, and their communities—all they need are the opportunities!
Indego Africa is a global team that truly prides itself on maintaining a collaborative culture and a connected relationship with the artisans we work with. Our artisan partners share our passion for education, artistry, and the future of their country, and it’s a common bond that connects us as partners. Our wonderful local teams in Rwanda and Ghana oversee and implement Indego’s direct social impact programs and production logistics, so they are with the artisans, day-to-day, sitting down with these women and discussing their lives, their goals, and their insights into our work and our partnership. Many of our programs and educational initiatives were started because of direct feedback from our partners. We are deeply invested in these communities, and it is so important to us to make sure the opportunities and support we are providing is relevant to and helpful in their lives, and our local teams are the ones making sure this is happening on a daily basis.
On a personal note, I am forever in admiration of these hardworking women and visiting our artisan partners is an inspiring, invigorating, and motivating experience. I have learned so much about grace, strength and pure hard work from them, especially when I’ve had the opportunity to see in person the way they carry themselves, to sit down next to them and observe them at work, and to talk to them, woman-to-woman, about all the things that make them who they are.
Indego Africa is a creative lifestyle brand whose products are handcrafted by women in Rwanda and Ghana. Our colorful collections of home decor, jewelry, accessories, baby & kids, art, and apparel celebrate the beauty of traditional African artistry, while adding a playful and modern twist. I love how collaborative the process is behind our product lines. These groups of artisans look to us for market and business opportunities, and we look to them for production and a chance to show the world their exceptional artistry and craftsmanship. Seeing how much dedication to and passion for craft they have is so inspiring to me. It helps shape the vision of our brand in the best possible way. I also love how, as partners, we’ve being able to grow together.
I started at Indego Africa six years ago, when many of our partners were also just forming their businesses, and looking back, I feel like we were all babies in this journey! We’ve worked through cultural challenges, business-related bumps in the road, collaborative successes, (epic) failures and, most importantly, we’ve experienced moments of incredible joy, growth, empowerment and pride – all together as partners. I consider the commitment of these women to our shared mission to be the most essential element to the success of our company. I love, love, love building this brand together, hand-in-hand with them!
The Design Process
The design process looks different for every product but always has the same creative spin behind it. The first thing it always starts with is the artisan element itself. What can our partners make with the skills and materials they have? What will be a good fit for our brand aesthetically and will it showcase their artistry? Whenever I’m seeking – or seeing – inspiration these are the parameters front and center in my brain. From there, I focus on using color and pattern to tell a story but also showcasing the power of texture through neutrals.
I want our products to feel happy, well-made, and to evoke a sort of casual chic design element. We sell home goods, baby and kids décor and apparel, women’s accessories, art and objects, but we always make sure our product line feels cohesive and comprehensive. What are the designs that would be able to tick all these boxes while also following trends in the markets we serve? The design process can feel sort of like a puzzle sometimes – and that’s before we even start sampling! Once we have an idea that will work, I communicate with our production teams in Rwanda and Ghana, who then sit down and work with the artisans to see if the piece can come to life the way we want through a traditional sampling process. From there, we review, redesign, and resample. Then within a few weeks, months, or seasons, we have a new product. It is my favorite part of the job to be a part of this global design process!
I’m looking forward to exploring the unknown with Indego! Specifically, I’d love to expand our refugee program to help more women find stability and purpose in situations where so much has been taken away from them. There is so much potential for refugee groups around the world. It’s overwhelming and full of hope, and that is something I am passionate about pursuing.
I am so inspired by our current team and I truly think there is potential for us to create lasting impact through creativity, education, and design for thousands of more women, both within and beyond Rwanda and Ghana. Who knows what opportunities lie around the corner for Indego Africa? But we can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Contributed by Deirdre King, Creative Director