If you are new to our blog or aren’t not familiar with our non-profit, Lovin Soap Project…here is a bit of an overview. Benjamin and Amanda started teaching soapmaking to women in developing countries and helping them to start businesses. Check out our website for more info! We have soapmakers in Kenya, Uganda, India, China, Fiji, Haiti and Senegal. Since we are in the growing our family phase of life (aka making babies), we decided to bring on some other soapmakers to help, Peggy and Caitlin!
Benjamin and I stay close to home and consult with our groups through email/Facetime/Skype…assisting with business, marketing, selling, design work…etc.
Pendo Naturals in Kenya!
We are excited to let you know some news about our work in Kenya. As you might recall, Caitlin and Peggy went to Kenya in May of 2018 to teach a workshop. Over these two weeks, nine women were taught to make soap and other products as well as the important aspects of managing a small business. Our experience has shown that it is not unusual for some women to discontinue the business after training. Some find they do not have enough time or support from their families; others are concerned about the inherent risks of being an entrepreneur. We have found that this is preferable because those who do stay are very dedicated.
Of the women who were initially trained, four continued to work on soap making over the next year. The group of women worked under the umbrella of another organization. They obtained several retail accounts in Nairobi, sold their products at a weekly craft market and participated in a number of pop up shows at events. All their products were well received, and it was clear that the group was on a trajectory to even greater success. In March of this year Caitlin and Peggy returned to Nairobi to provide additional training and to seek out new wholesale accounts.
Unfortunately, the organization which was to assist the ladies with business training did not want them to form their own business (which had been their intent) but instead wanted them to stay with them as employees of the organization’s soap business. Furthermore, they refused to hand over the equipment which had been donated by the Lovin Soap Project. The women were forced to make a difficult decision: continue on as employees for someone else or start their own business from scratch with no equipment or supplies. They bravely chose the latter. We are proud of them for this and for making the decision to control their own destiny. That is what Lovin Soap Project is all about…empowerment!
However, now the real hard work must commence. The ladies have decided to call their new business Pendo Naturals, pendo being the Swahili word for love. We are fortunate that some wonderful Kenyans have stepped up to volunteer their time and talents to mentor them as they navigate this new terrain. They will need to register their new business, open a bank account, obtain new equipment, ingredients, packaging etc. They will need to create a business logo and start a social media presence. They also must locate and rent a space where they can work. Once this is done, they will begin to make their products again and seek out opportunities to sell their goods. All of us feel that they can and will be successful based on their dedication and the reception the Kenyan market had for their products previously. Here in the US, the Lovin Soap Project has been helping as much as possible from afar. We purchased new equipment and located someone to take it to Kenya. We are providing them with some seed funding so that they can purchase oils, butters, fragrances and packaging. We have also agreed to assist them temporarily with rent for a workshop. Several volunteers will teach them about marketing and accounting as well as help them obtain special certification from the Kenyan government that will allow them to sell many more places.
All of this has been very expensive and LSP has been forced to cover many unanticipated expenses. We chose to do this because we believe in the women; they have already shown themselves to be hard working and creative. For these reasons, we are asking for your assistance as we continue this work. Any donation you are able to provide will allow us to continue our mission to lift people out of poverty through the dignity of hard work and enterprise. Thank you for your time and consideration.
If you’d like to donate to Lovin Soap Project and Pendo Naturals, click the Paypal button below.
(Lovin’ Soap Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Tax ID #: 46-3523448.)
We would like to tell you a bit more about one of Pendo’s founders, Julie Pennsylvania Akoth (aka Penn). Penn is 29 and is originally from a rural area in Western Kenya. However, she has lived most of her life in the Kibera area of Nairobi.
Kibera is a massive informal settlement of some 700,000 people. It has been described as Africa’s largest slum, however that really is a misleading description. Kibera is lacking in many of the services and infrastructure you would expect a city to provide. Many of the residents are very poor. However, beyond all that, Kibera is a thriving community full of friendly and enterprising people.
There are many small businesses that provide all manner of goods and services from bicycle repair to fresh produce to a library, even a laundromat and places to watch soccer games. It is a place where people like Penn have been born and raised. Penn is one of seven children and the only girl in her family. When she finished eighth grade, her family did not have the money to send her to high school so she repeated eighth grade a second time. All secondary schools in Kenya are boarding and they can be very expensive for a family. However, this time her family was able to send her to high school in Narok, about three hours east of Nairobi. After completing secondary school, Penn’s family did not have the money to attend college so she took some technical training in computers. Penn is a natural entrepreneur and always has several business ideas in mind.
In addition to Pendo, Penn dreams of having a second business importing and selling specialty mosquito nets. Her parents are very supportive of her; in fact, her mother Mary is also a member of Pendo. Penn always has a smile on her face. She has the ability to achieve great things if given the opportunity.
Thank you for your support!