Soko Reaches More than 500 Artisans, Improves Incomes by More than 50%

According to The Aspen Institute, the artisan and crafts industry is the second largest employer in the developing world. When Ella Peinovich-Griffith, Gwendolyn Floyd and Catherine Mahugu completed the application for the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project in 2014, they believed in the potential of their mobile-based enterprise tool to endow rural artisans with equitable, sustainable livelihoods. And soon after, Soko upped their efforts to reach the next phase: a “women-run and operated e-commerce marketplace for the developing world.”

Since winning the Wireless Innovation Project a year ago, Soko has hired a technical staff member—a back-end architect and security specialist—to support the Enterprise Solutions platform. With the strengthening of this platform, the Soko team began compiling financial histories for each artisan, and sharing respective sales figures with them so they can plan for materials and labor accordingly. This has been enabling artisans to compare their performance with others in the larger crafts community, and inspiring self-led learning on best practices.

In addition, Soko has focused on creating jewelry collections that aim to exclusively employ women.

One successful (and continuing) collaboration is with the United Nations Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women (UNTF) to raise awareness and funds through handcrafted bracelets by Soko artisans in Kenya. To support this campaign, Soko has employed women to produce over 3,000 bracelets, and will extend efforts to meet peak production by March 15 for International Women’s Day. The campaign has reached more than five continents with bracelets shipped as far as the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and of course, Kenya.

In 2014, Soko received some celebrity recognition like this Facebook post by Nicole Kidman and in “gifts with a purpose” in Oprah magazine’s December issue.

But there are many more technical, production and design plans in place for 2015, as Soko continues to move to scale with even larger volume orders while keeping pace with global standards for quality products. Winning the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project was one of the foundational steps to realizing their vision of economic freedom for female artisans in the developing world. Track Soko’s progress and check out their line of jewelry at: