We are Nancy and Susie Kinyanjui of Provisions Kenya, a small business that offers artisan products sourced locally in Kenya. We work with a network of talented craftspeople, farmers and artisans all over the country. Most of our products are handmade using natural ingredients from the country. We love discovering new sources for healthy and eco-friendly products. With a focus on family and building community, we believe that the best products are home grown.
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Happiness Is Handmade.
As children, we developed a healthy curiosity for how things are made. Likewise, we have always held an affinity for making things with our own hands. We have creative parents; our father an agroforester and mother a conservationist and librarian. They encouraged us to ask questions, be inquisitive and most of all learn from the natural world. When we would see a cucu (“grandmother” in our Kikuyu language) making a basket in a market, we would stop and ask questions and try to mimic what she was making. Our dad had a pottery where he made energy efficient cookstoves as a family business. We would enthusiastically participate in cleaning the clay, making small pots and vases. These experiences, among many others, afforded a chance to connect to the world of local makers and craft.
Learning to knit was a big deal. We did this together, taught by our ayah (aunt) and our mum. I remember having very limited choice of yarn from Biashara street, and some old knitting needles; possibly passed down from one of our grandmothers. How remarkable it felt to make a whole scarf out of simple loops and thread!
…the more open we are to inspiration from all angles, the more stimulated our creative brain becomes.~Provisions Kenya.
We draw inspiration from everything! The list is too long. We feel like the more open we are to inspiration from all angles, the more stimulated our creative brain becomes. A favorite source of ours is learning from people with specialized knowledge. For instance, you know when you meet someone at a party? And they tell you they have a very specific, detailed line of work? Say perhaps they are physicists studying dark matter. Well, my sister and I pull up a chair, scoot up close, and get our questions ready! Due to our tendency to get animated and engaging, we have often been asked if we’re being sarcastic or overreacting. We just can’t help it!
The more you talk to people and connect with stories and experiences, the more interesting it gets. We are often stunned by the intricate connections that the universe puts in front of us. That same physicist from the party could have an Auntie who is an expert at making candles from beeswax. That ties into our interests and could contribute to one of the products in our line for Provisions Kenya.
Our business is pretty much a culmination of all our favorite hobbies. We find new hobbies almost daily! But amongst the top favorites are reading, painting, knitting, embroidery, creating fermented foods, travel and exploring nature.
We are in awe of how easy and natural it felt to come home to Kenya after 10+ years overseas. It has been truly inspiring to reintegrate into a modern and fast moving, digital Nairobi life. However, it still has touches of “the old days” and nostalgia. We were lucky to return to live on the property our parents purchased when we were younger, complete with a large forest planted by all of us.
Our culture of inclusivity, natural living and connectedness to nature thrives here more than ever. There’s a lot to be said about the feeling of being back on your ‘home soil’ and putting down new roots. Growing up, we carefully observed how our extended family (made up of several Kenyan tribes) connected to the natural world, and to traditions. Much of what we learned from them has shown us that cultural traditions in Kenya often line up with our ethos: handmade, eco-friendly, healthy.
As mixed race women, it would be impossible to say we have never encountered discrimination. We were privileged to grow up in a very international and diverse way, surrounded by other kids from all walks of life and all shades of skin. However, it was perhaps when we left Kenya that we truly realized the discrimination against minorities. Both of us attended schools composed of mostly white students and teachers. We remember being Kenyan first, then brown second – but not in their eyes.
Similarly, upon returning to Kenya, there is this newly confronted challenge with being “Kenyan Enough”. We honestly do not recall this being such a feature in our earlier days here, but in the past 3 years, my sister and I face implicit demands for proof that we are “real Kenyans”. For instance, when our Kikuyu names show up on Mpesa transaction alerts, shop vendors reel with shock and awe. “You don’t LOOK like a Kenyan!” Our standard answer is: “What does a Kenyan look like?”. The “New Kenya” is full of all races, cultures and backgrounds, all adding to the unique fabric that makes one of the most unique and beautiful countries in the world.
We started Provisions Kenya 3 years ago, inspired by the need to create a business sourcing the best local and artisan products. The name was reminiscent to us of old supply shops – a one stop shop where you can get all the “Provisions” needed for your day to day life. Our priority is to stock essential and useful provisions that are good for your health and home.
We have many products for example, yarn, pure locally grown essential oils, super food powders, DIY kits, artisan sheepskin accessories, plants, to name a few. Kenya has a wealth of natural and healing ingredients, and it is a joy to create awareness and connect with more artisans. We are most proud of being able to say that almost all our products are 100% Kenyan made, and we are always working to increase local inputs. We believe in Kenya, and know that supporting the local artisan and green economy, we can work with our customers to make this country even better.
As a small business, we have had our fair share of growing pains and difficult financial decisions to make along the way. First, balancing our current business flow with big picture ideas for the future has been a big part of our challenge. Second, we constantly go back and forth on whether to have a brick and mortar store, as so many customers request, versus an online only presence. Equally important is our high level commitment to environmentally friendly process in every angle of our business. We would love to further our efforts in making eco-friendly packaging for all our products. However, it requires a lot of research and trials.
First off, we are so grateful to have made it this far during the challenges of the pandemic. This is all thanks to our customers and supporters who continue to shop local and support Kenyan made products. Secondly, we also owe a big thanks to the talent and creativity of the artisans we work with. They match our enthusiasm for Made in Kenya products and have been flexible with our ongoing product development. With this in mind, we look forward to innovating new and exciting ways to interact with our customers during these challenging times. With a goal of staying healthy and creative throughout. We have a few big projects on the horizon, and it would be great to launch those in 2021!
In conclusion, sharing your love for our products is our fuel. Hearing stories of how they have helped your life and home become a better place sparks the same joy as when we create these goods. We love to hear from you about everything from your new product ideas to your passion for local, handmade and healthy goods. You can find us on our Website, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest & Twitter.
Disclaimer: All photos provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article, are from Nancy & Susie Kinyanjui of Provisions Kenya