After blogging very little in the past few months, I actually miss it quite a lot. I reviewed my posts from my last few months in Kenya, and I barely posted anything! So much to say, and yet, so very little time (or energy!). I thought I would catch up on the here and now before going back and revisiting some things abroad that were important to me.
Yesterday, my site for Amsha launched! It has been a labor of love (okay and maybe a little bit of hate on the technology side of things). Emily (my best friend and business colleague) and I did most of the site ourselves. We used a programmer in India to tweak a plugin or two the final week and fix things when I crashed the site three times in one day. True story. Super frustrating. But it was usually hours and hours of me attempting to do things I was not put on this Earth to do. We are pretty proud of it since we put so much effort into it, but of course have plans to improve it in the near future. We would love any feedback you may have in order to improve user experience or overall aesthetic. If you are a new subscriber to this blog, I should back up just a touch. I lived in Kenya & Rwanda for five months to start a social enterprise. Amsha is an accessories brand made by artisans in Kenya & Rwanda. You can read more about it on our business site, but our goal is to improve educational opportunities for artisans and their children, in the hopes of creating more economic activity.
I am currently sitting in Starbucks. I have just written a two page, single-spaced to do list for our manager in Kenya. Always work to be done! I also wrote up a ‘company-wide’ email (ahem that means to Emily and to Fred) about articulating our mission more effectively so that people can truly understand our work. To be honest, it is really difficult for me to explain in a sentence, or even five, what our day-to-day work involves. It is complicated, and some days I can’t even tell you which way is up. But we know we are tackling poverty in a sustainable manner using the marketplace, so now it’s just a matter of communicating our ideas better on a micro-level. I have also confirmed a meeting this week with our first intern (yay!) which will have a significant impact on our programs for our artisans. And of course I have a meeting with the accountant on Wednesday and lost two months worth of work on my stolen laptop. I have six months worth of receipts sitting in a folder that I can’t bring myself to look at. Time to get a kick in the tail from the accountant and get on top of administrative tasks.
This might come as a surprise to you but I actually plan on settling down a bit in the US. I have plans to go back to East Africa twice a year for business, but I’d like to build a home base and grow my business. So, here’s my plan!
I am finishing out June in Columbia. I have family here and it is a great base for me to get some major work done. I have done a lot of organizational tasks, built displays with the help of friends and family, and caught up with people here that I love so much. It’s been great, and with my sickening affection for heat and humidity, it’s pretty wonderful.
I never thought I would move to a cold or rainy climate, but I am packing up and headed west! In July, I will be moving to Portland. I know! It’s shocking! It’s a smart business move and a great personal move as well. My best friend & business colleague Emily & her husband (also my best friend) live there. Instead of four emails and a Skype chat over a small task, we can resolve tasks in minutes by being in the same place. It will be amazing. There is also a great weekend market in Portland that we can sell at. I am not quite ready to jump into wholesale yet, as we need to work with our artisans on deadlines and I need to improve on our shipping methods. We need a few months to settle into job roles but still keep money coming into the business so we can funnel it back to our artisans and provide them with work. The Portland market will allow us to do this. And like I said, Emily is my best friend and we have lived on opposite coasts for five years! We were neighbors and classmates in college and now we are going to be roommates. Fabulous :) We have already made plans for a concert in September and a fall trip to Seattle. Plenty to look forward to, both personally and professionally.
I should also mention that I desperately need a job ASAP. When my dad found out about this, he said, “But wait I thought you are working on Amsha now.” While true, we don’t exactly have a broad customer base yet :) I need to pay rent and bills and all of those other grown-up expenses. I need to channel 100% of profits back to Kenya & Rwanda for now and create jobs. Ideally, I would like to find something for 30 hours per week. I will be in the market Saturday and Sunday, so if I can get just one day off during the week, I can have some time to actually work on Amsha to move forward and have some time to take care of myself. I am actually really nervous about the job hunt. I have no idea what I am going to be doing, but am keeping my eyes open for NGO work, since design work for less than full-time is not likely to come around. I welcome any and all input though, so if you have a job idea for me, please share!
Will I still travel? Of course! Here are my fall travel plans:
Trip to Seattle. Emily & I will either take the train up to Seattle (which I am dying to do) or take Bolt Bus, which recently started up there. I have taken them roundtrip from DC to NYC and it’s awesome- cheap, clean, on time, & free wifi. Emily took this bus last time she went and liked it as well. Aside from a weekend in this city doing all of the things I love (like visiting the market!), we now have another excuse to go. One of Emily’s family members is moving there in the summer. It is bound to be a good time. If you’ve been to Seattle and have something off the tourist route that we should do or see, let me know.
October: Las Vegas
Photo courtesy of Virgin Holidays
My cousin is getting married in Las Vegas in October. I could not be more excited because this means that when the weather is starting to get really depressing in Portland, I will be headed to warm and sunny Vegas! You may remember my last trip to Vegas with Stella and recall that we had a ridiculously good time! From dancing at the Palms to making new (and interesting) friends, it can be pretty exhausting! However, just when you think you can’t go out another night, you can laze by the pool at a beautiful hotel and recover. Since my parents will most likely be there, I will behave myself a bit better this time, but it is Vegas. I plan on eating well, lazing by the pool to soak up the sun, and catching up with family that I haven’t seen in a while. I’m sure it will be a really fun wedding and I haven’t seen my cousin in ten years.
November: Experience Oregon
I predict I will be too broke to go home for Thanksgiving. No problem though, as I spent last Thanksgiving in Portland and it was really fun. We will probably be really busy gearing Amsha up for holiday sales so I will be a busy little bee this month. Perhaps a weekend at the wineries again or another trip to the coast will happen.
December: Trade Show Destination
We are aiming to attend a trade show in December or early January. There are a few to choose from but the key is figuring out logistics to haul our stuff there and being in a position to fork over a sizeable chunk of change for the entry fee. We shall see. I will probably not be home for Christmas, if we get the opportunity to have a permanent spot in the market. The market runs through Christmas Eve, so unless I go home on Christmas Day, I might try to go just after the holidays.
My plan is to head back to Kenya in January to work on our next line for Amsha. Of course, it all depends on money and where we are at in our business. And if you know me, you know that plans change :) But I plan on sticking it out in Portland for a year and seeing where life and business take me. Either way, I have learned that long-term living in Africa is no longer on my radar. I’m very grateful that my business allows me to find balance between having a life in the US and keeping my ties to Africa.