Handcrafted products have a long tradition in Kenya with many people working in this sector. In rural regions, it is hardly possible to earn a living for the entire family simply selling in the local market. This is where SOKO’s business model comes into play. SOKO is a manufacturing platform built using mobile technology to connect independent artisans directly to the global marketplace.
SOKO's digital supply chain organizes over 2,300 independent, distributed artisans. They receive orders via an app developed by SOKO and can use their phones for invoicing and inventory control.
The “virtual factory” helps to implement ethical and sustainable business practices and to boost earnings
As soon as orders are received, the artisans produce jewellery from locally and sustainably sourced brass, wood, bone, and African Ankole horn in accordance with product designs specified by SOKO. Following this, the jewellery is refined at SOKO’s headquarters in Nairobi and sent to customers all over the world. The “virtual factory” allows the artisans to run and expand their businesses sustainably and gives them access to international markets in spite of their remote production locations. Thanks to this mobile technology and supply chain innovation, the artisans are able to earn up to five times more than an average artisan workshop.
SOKO is investing around three million Euro to further develop its business model, of which 749,000 Euro are made available by DEG from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)’s funds as part of the Up-scaling programme. SOKO will use these funds to further develop its business model and finance an automated gold-plating facility for coating jewellery with precious metal, thereby rendering it more desirable and durable.
“Not just aesthetically pleasing”: jewellery with sustainability effects
As Joanne Calabrese, CEO of SOKO explains, “unlike centralized factory production, we are using technology and systems design to empower human capital, not displace it. We are proud of our partnership with DEG's Up-scaling program since it allows us to further strengthen our business model and have a more significant and positive social impact with our artisans and the communities in which they live.”