Indego Africa is a nonprofit organization that partners with female artisans in Africa to distribute their handmade goods. Partnering with Indego Africa offers the female artisans the opportunity of selling their goods within a global market, which results in empowerment, independence and educational opportunities for the artisans. The brand offers ethnic style jewelry, home decor and a new whimsical nursery line. Deirdre King, Creative Director of the brand, chats with us about the organization’s origin and mission. She also shares some sound advice and lets us in on what inspires her.
Tell us about the origins of Indego Africa. What is the organization’s mission?
Indego Africa was officially started in late 2007 by Matt and Tom Mitro, a father and son duo. While living in Africa, they were inspired to start Indego after seeing the entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiastic resourcefulness of African women. Matt and Tom were especially moved by the way these women overcame poverty through entrepreneurship. Having developed a sense of commitment to helping these women, they founded Indego Africa years later. Both Tom and Matt remain intimately involved as members of Indego’s Board of Directors.
We believe that empowerment is the key to creating social change. Indego’s mission is to help women in Rwanda break cycles of poverty through economic empowerment and education. We partner with women artisans in Rwanda and sell their beautifully handcrafted products through our e-commerce site, boutiques worldwide, and collaborations with independent designers and brands. We pool profits from sales with grant support and donations to fund job skills training programs for our artisan partners in business management, design, technology, and English literacy, providing them with the knowledge and skills to engage independently with global markets.
Where are the female artisans that produce the items based? How does Indego Africa go about locating and establishing these connections?
We work with female artisans all throughout Rwanda – some close to Kigali and many in further, more rural regions of the country. Having an Indego team on the ground in Rwanda is our key to finding new partner artisans and cooperatives! We partner with women all across the country and many times hear about these small artisans groups through friends of Indego, volunteer recommendations, other nonprofits and design companies and general word of mouth. We think (and hope) that Indego has given our artisan partners a renewed confidence in their skills and in their futures. We are their business partners and take our professional relationship with them very seriously. In turn, we see that they are proud to be members of the cooperative and look forward to building their own businesses to be independent, strong and long-lasting.
As Creative Director of the brand, what fuels your creativity?
Like many creative entrepreneurs, I find inspiration daily – in both the expected (instagram, travel, design trends) and unexpected (my old baby clothes, knick-knacks I’ve collected throughout the years, my husband’s colorful vintage surfboards) ways. I crave inspiration and find that those days I feel inspired-to-create helps my productivity skyrocket! However, I would say my creativity is really fueled by the knowledge that success in my job – whether through designing a popular product, creating a beautiful campaign, landing a killer account – means there will be truly positive impact on the artisan communities that produce our products. There is nothing more empowering for me in my role than knowing that I am supporting the empowerment of our partner artisans.
We would love to know more about your journey as a creative in the world of nonprofit. What advice would you give other creatives that may want to follow a similar path?
I get asked this question a lot and the truth is: I was very lucky to join a small organization while it was at a growing moment and when it needed someone to take the reigns of the creative side of the business (ie I was in the right place at the right time). However, I also worked and created and hustled around-the-clock, learned on the job and from others and taught myself everything else I needed to know to help grow the position I stumbled upon into a successful career.
My advice – if you find something with the potential to become that career you’ve always dreamed of, do whatever it takes to get it there. Work your butt off until you see rewards and even when you don’t (they’ll come!). Also, remember that traditionally non-creative industries don’t have to stay that way forever. We take design and branding just as seriously as we take our organizational mission and social impact and make sure the one is always supporting the other.
Indego Africa just released a nursery collection. What prompted this venture?
Being pregnant! Last year, as I started to think about decorating my daughter’s nursery and plan for her arrival, I discovered so many beautiful companies and brands that took design for babies & kids to a level I never knew existed. I fell in love with the whole industry. I got so excited about the idea of surrounding my daughter with handcrafted pieces and of course immediately thought of the amazing women we work with in Rwanda. The prints in Rwanda are extremely unique and beautiful and everything is truly created with love and a gentle touch. The nursery collection story and product fits right into our brand and the women really enjoy making the pieces! Most of our artisan partners are mamas themselves – with motherhood being the drive behind their determination to work so hard to provide for their families – and it has been really fun to get their advice and thoughts on the line. It was a seamless venture and one we are really excited to show our customers. Our tagline is “By Mamas, For Mamas, For the Babes.” How fun is that?
More about Deirdre:
My go-to outfit consists of: jeans, sneakers and a henley.
In my make-up bag you’ll find: cherry chapstick and bobby pins.
Since becoming a mom: I have more patience.
I could eat: tacos everyday.
On my playlist you’ll find: Country music
My daydreams are: about saturday morning pancake making with my family.
The quirkiest thing I do: is take the cheese off my pizza.