Swahili Coast is a business. Like many small business owners, we want to harness the power of the market to improve the lives of people we love–although in our case, the people we love are not just our family and friends here at home, they are also our (very) extended family and friends in Tanzania. While profits are important, doing right by the people we work with is not up for compromise. We aren’t just calling in orders to a factory overseas–we work hand-in-hand with the artisans at our workshop, and we are serious about our responsibility to these artisans.
(I mean, look how awesome these people are. I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t want to be friends with all of them.)
We believe in inclusive business practices. Put simply, inclusive businesses engage low-income communities in the market chain. In our case, this means that we have employed people in Tanzania and added them to the market chain for fashion in America. By taking a traditional craft out of Tanzania and creating a market for it in the US, we have added value to the work being done in Tanzania and are now able to pay artisans much higher wages than they would be able to command on the local market. We help give people jobs, but not by training them for completely new and different opportunities, but by utilizing unique skills they already have.
(Proudly made in Tanzania!)
We do not rely on donors, fundraising, or grants–instead, we are a self-sustaining business. Non-profits and charities fill crucial gaps in Tanzanian society, but our mission is different. We want to empower our Tanzanian partners to choose their own destinies. We want to offer solid, middle-class jobs with a living wage, so that the artisans that work with us can make their own choices about where to send their kids to school and where to get medical care. They can help their brother make rent, and still have enough to get their hair done.
We don’t want to make decisions for the people we work with. We want to offer them the chance to make their own choices and live a life that will make them proud.