Zikomo Bags is a social entrepreneurship based in Lilongwe, Malawi. Eleven women sew over-the-shoulder bags from local chitenge material. These Zikomo Bags are sold both locally and in Canada, and all profits go directly to the women who make them. The goals of this project are skills sharing, empowerment, community building and income generation.
Kristy May, a graduate from the INDEV program at the University of Waterloo, co-founded Zikomo Bags with Katie Lezeu. When Kristy went on her 8-month placement to Vietnam, she needed volunteers to run the Canadian sales and operations. Heather Ramshaw, Madiha Vallani, and I (Kyla McKee) were selected to be Waterloo Ambassadors for Zikomo Bags.
We have learned so much through this opportunity and gained many applicable skills. We redesigned our website, set up online sales used social media to foster an online presence. We also networked and formed many partnerships with stores and other organizations within the community as well as basic accounting skills. Many of our INDEV courses helped guide us through this learning process.
Our efforts were not without its challenges! Maintaining communication between volunteers in Canada, Kristy in Vietnam, and producers in Malawi proved to be difficult, especially with language barriers. The high cost of shipping still remains a challenge for Zikomo Bags.
Moving forward, Zikomo Bags is excited to expand online sales and to grow its presence in the community. Zikomo Bags are also becoming very popular in the expat community in Lilongwe, and so we hope to increase sales in Malawi. To learn more about Zikomo Bags and to buy a bag, please visit www.zikomobags.com. You can also Like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/zikomobags) and Follow us on Twitter (@ZikomoBags).