Zohra Baraka started Mohazo over 20 years ago and has successfully grown her company from a small-scale handicrafts distributor to an “African lifestyle brand” exporting to retailers in the United States, Japan, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom. Her success exporting handmade baskets, soap stone sculptures and wooden masks to international retailers has demonstrated that an innovative perspective on African crafts combined with the benefits of an increasingly globalized economy can lead to lucrative partnerships.
Mohazo’s products first emerge as an idea from their full time designer in Nairobi, which is then communicated to suppliers employing female and male artisans in rural villages throughout Kenya. The expertly produced wares are then packed onto containers and shipped around the world until finally they arrive on the display tables of a TJ Max in your average American suburban town.
This chain of production and distribution is a great source of pride for Zohra. Mohazo has provided a market for many rural producers offering these craftspeople (mostly women) an opportunity to envision distribution beyond their villages and, according to Zohra, “realize their potential” for success.
It was in 1994 that Mohazo had its first big breakthrough when a Japanese company placed an order for 5000 hand-woven baskets—leading Zohra to start a woman’s cooperative and employ 250 women to fill the order. Zohra continues to support this original group of women, and sends them orders as often as possible. “In the long run my vision is to have at least 1000 women on board,” Zohra proclaims. “I am a female chauvinist…I give the women priority (in regards to selecting suppliers and craftspeople) because I say, with us Africans, if a woman gets money, the whole family will eat.”
In regards to the future of Mohazo, Zohra feels that “the sky’s the limit.” Undoubtedly she will continue to expand her market, diversify her products and employ more and more women. “We want to be the best company selling handicrafts in this region…that is our vision.”
Posted By Dara Lipton
Posted Jul 12th, 2010