By Allison Mitchell By Allison Mitchell | March 31, 2022 | Lifestyle Style & Beauty
San Diego entrepreneur Alicia Wallace made her passion for helping others her full-time job. Meet Kazi ([kazigoods.com](http://kazigoods.com)), Africa’s largest artisan employer that’s fueled by Wallace’s desire to provide consistent income to the more than 6,000 creatives who craft the brand’s stunning wares.
Through Kazi co-founder Alicia Wallace’s business model, her team of artisans have been able to support more than 34,000 dependents. Here, Wallace (middle) works with Jacqueline Uwimanimpaye and Placidia Niyoyita to create handwoven pieces. PHOTO COURTESY OF KAZI
What inspired you to create Kazi? Growing up, I was taught to understand the devastation that poverty brings to many parts of the world. As a young woman, I participated in volunteer work in underdeveloped countries and after college turned down a high-paying job to work on the ground in Rwanda. There, through education and other outreach work, I met many African women who told me that consistent income could offer a life-changing impact for their families.
When I got back to the U.S., I was determined to find sustainable ways to help them economically. Together with Greg Stone, a kindred spirit who became my business partner, we launched parent company All Across Africa and its consumer arm, Kazi, in 2013 with the overriding mission to create jobs at an everyday living wage. The name Kazi means ‘employment, jobs, source of income’ in Swahili.
Wall and tabletop pieces from Kazi’s Restorative and Modern Minimalist collections PHOTO COURTESY OF KAZI
How has the brand evolved since you first started? Since launching in 2013, we’ve gone from being a supplier to major retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom to launching our own website and product, Kazi Wall Statements. We still work with top retailers across the country but are also excited to get to tell the story of the origin, the makers and the design of our products directly with the world. Geographically speaking, we’ve expanded from starting in Rwanda in 2013 to Uganda in 2015, Ghana in 2018, and, in 2022, we expanded into Tanzania. Some would say we make baskets, but I would say that’s too limiting. We use natural fibers to make wall decor, tabletop items, holiday decor, lighting, pet beds and even children’s decor.
Why was it important to you to create jobs for women in need? At Kazi, we believe that everyone deserves to make a fair wage to support themselves and those around them, no matter where they are in the world. For those living in rural Africa, it can be nearly impossible to find safe and consistent jobs that pay a fair living wage. Lack of education, food and clean water are issues for artisans when we start to work with them, but are no longer problems after we have a consistent working relationship; they are able to start generating sustainable income. By enhancing sales opportunities for these talented weavers, Kazi helps them become and remain self-sufficient businesspeople while shining a light on the bold and soulful pieces they create. Through the process, the artists improve their economic situation and gain the dignity and sense of accomplishment that come with it.
Your spring/summer collection launched in April. Tell us about your newest pieces. Kazi’s spring/summer 2022 collection features three new capsules designed to reflect consumers’ shifting priorities post-pandemic—whether they’re feeling a renewed lust for life or inspired by time-honored traditions, or are searching for added tranquility in their living spaces. I am most excited about the launch of Kazi Wall Statements, a new service that is now available to help customers create stunning statement wall displays by combining Kazi’s bold collection of easy-to-hang wall plates and baskets. Customers can choose from sets of three-, five-, seven- and nine-piece options, and they will also receive directions for layout, tools for hanging, and ongoing communication to highlight new pieces that can be incorporated into their displays, rearrangement ideas and more. Our new collection is curated to match our customers’ moods; we’ve learned that what matters most now is the soul of our homes and spaces.
Each handwoven piece comes with a hangtag that tells the story of the artisan who created it. PHOTO COURTESY OF KAZI