We make high-end bow ties by hand in Rwanda. Angelo Igitego and I founded the business in 2014. Angelo lives in Kigali, Rwanda and manages the manufacturing side of the business, I live in Boston and run the front end of the business. We met when I was traveling to Rwanda working in the public hospitals, and developed a friendship over the years that turned into a business partnership.
Angelo is one of the most amazing people I've ever met he was born in Rwanda during the height of the genocide, and grew up in a country that was too busy repairing the damage to be able to provide for the needs of the younger generation and invest in their future. The resulting gaps in education, financial literacy, and jobs are major barriers preventing many of his generation from climbing out of poverty. As a result, he's really passionate about finding ways to create jobs for his cohort. Together we want to show the world the beauty and richness of Rwanda - the side the media never shows you - and do our part to close the gaps in living standards around the world.
This is what motivated us to go into business. We are working to create a business that can provide jobs, community, and a sense of purpose for this so-called "lost generation." We decided to start by focusing on with women who have been displaced as refugees or are otherwise disenfranchised. Our goal is to create 20 jobs by 2020. We have a team of 3 tailors right now, one is Angelo's wife Mariam (our master tailor), one is a refugee from Burundi who is related to Angelo's family named Carine, and the third is a local woman from Kigali named Sada. Together we're building a safe community, making ties and sharing meals and learning new skills. We're very keen to promote financial literacy and help the team learn how to budget and save and prepare for longer-term needs, which is why we're also providing their health insurance and paying them using a bank account, which is unheard of for local artisans and tailors but is something that's very important to us. We are seeing a growing market of young consumers who share our values and are willing to pay a premium for products that are responsibly sourced and contributing to social good. We've seen slow and steady growth in our first few months in business and are really excited about the future.
More about kitenge fabric.
Kitenge is complex and gorgeous textile. To create these bold, stunning patterns, a design made of wax is stamped or brushed onto the fabric, then dipped into a variety of dyes to produce intricate, multicolor patterns. It can take months to complete a single piece.
The designs, symbols, shapes and colors are influenced by the many diverse regions of East Africa and beyond. Some patterns are made to signify cultural background or social position, while others are designed simply to elicit an attitude or convey a mood.