Entrepreneurial Africa: Shop Soko

Soko gold bangle

First Car Rental is showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit coming out of Africa. These are individuals, communities and small businesses in Africa that through earth-friendly, community-orientated initiatives are making the world a better place.

Welcome to Soko, a company that was founded on the belief that innovation can empower African women, connect them to international markets, and foster opportunities that change their lives.

About Soko

The co-founder of Soko is Kenyan, Catherine Mahugu (27). Mahungu recognised that in Kenya, the majority of people didn't own a computer, but 80.9% owned a mobile phone.

With this knowledge, Mahugu developed a simple, mobile-to-web e-commerce platform that allows artisans across Africa to create their own virtual storefronts using only their phones to sell their crafts.

What's really innovative about Soko is the technology powering it. Soko's innovative supply chain connects mobile-enabled African artisans from developing countries directly to brands, retailers, and online customers around the world. Essentially, this enables rural artisans to engage the international marketplace, even if they lack access to the internet, a computer, or a bank account.

Credit card payments are also credited to the artisan's mobile money account, which cuts out the middleman and increases profits for the artisan.

Soko sustainable fashion

The Soko team

Catherine Mahugu

Soko's co-founder, Catherine Mahugu.

On the consumer side, Shop Soko is the online shopping website where consumers from all over the world can discover these magnificent and unique handcrafted accessories made in Africa and purchase them directly from their African creators.

Shop Soko uses design to empower communities and promote conscious style, redefining the aesthetics of ethical fashion. They work with artisans in Kenya to create modern, ethical jewellery that is handmade from sustainable materials. Soko is transforming the fashion industry for good, one accessory at a time.

Supported by technology, Soko also offers market access and training to expand economic opportunity for artisans, the majority of whom are women (74%) in underserved communities. With these tools, any talented artisan can participate in the global marketplace, becoming a driver of social and economic development in their community.

Soko sustainable fashion

Says Mahugu, "The creativity, ingenuity and resilience of crafts women inspired me to create Soko as a trading platform to connect offline vendors to online consumers. I envisioned that providing a culturally appropriate technology would help reduce the systemic economic discrimination that women in the developing world face.

Soko transforms the ubiquitous mobile phone into a tool for trade that expands access to economic opportunity for developing world producers of handmade goods, giving them a greater share of the profits of the global creative goods industry.

With Soko, you can discover incredible quality and creative ingenuity made in communities that lie outside of the digital economy."

Soko's impact

The artisan craft industry is the second largest employer in the developing world. It is also one of the most disenfranchised. Soko provides a way for artisans to improve their livelihoods by disrupting the supply chain and connecting artisans directly to market demand around the world.

On average, within two months of joining Soko, artisans increase their incomes by a factor of 4x.

Soko sustainable fashion

To find out more, visit Soko's website here.

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