Glena De Guzman, 37, is the owner of the Made in Kenya Store at The Alchemist Bar in Westlands, as well as the co-founder of Pink Savannah, a Jewelry brand
The Kenyan-Filipina got into the art business after dropping out of University where she was studying International Relations and Human Resources.
Glena narrates her journey below:
“I presently run the Made in Kenya store, where we showcase and sell over 40 local artisanal brands ranging from jewelry and leatherwork to fashion and homeware. For homeware, we have Kangarui who does quirky animal prints on plates, canvas, and pouches. Kapoeta does feather and brass jewelry while Boguk does fun hats embezzled in Maasai beads. Concrete roses do very cute painted denim jackets and onesies for children. We also have a men’s range such as NC Nairobi who make cool new-age fashion for men, such as kimonos. About 80 percent of the brands are women-owned, such as Washindi Naturals who use natural dyes in their soaps and provide economic empowerment to communities around Nairobi.
We provide a retail store for smaller brands who have small workshops or work from home and SMEs who can’t afford a big space in the malls. My favourite part is working with different artisans and learning their brand story because it’s reminiscent of how my sister Glaiza Guzman and I started our own jewelry brand, Pink Savannah.
I’m a Kenyan-Filipina and have lived in Kenya for about 29 years. My parents moved here with my four siblings when I was eight. After primary and high school, I enrolled at USIU University and studied International Relations and Human Resources. I didn’t graduate as my passion for the course waned. As a child, I had a passion for making friendship bracelets. When we got to university, my sister suggested we start making jewelry. My dad gave us suppliers and urged us to go for it. We discovered that the best place to go is River Road in town. It is magical with the hustle and bustle of everyone trying to get to a place.
We got our first load of beads and worked on our living room floor to make a collection. We then started looking up bazaars and discovered that a lot was happening in Kenya at the time, from Christmas craft fairs at Ngong Racecourse to Biz Baz events. We applied and when we got in, we needed to make a bigger production line. It’s been about eight years now and we have kept on doing exhibitions and craft fairs. We both had full-time jobs so we would do this on the side, and tried to finish on orders at 4 am.
My husband and I run an advertising agency called Yellow Agency, and our clients were both corporate and SMEs. I decided to quit about three years ago to focus on the retail part of Pink Savannah. Sometimes I regret leaving because of the stable monthly income I had, but I have more flexibility and time to be more creative and meet people, especially since my children need to be picked up and dropped off at school.
That’s when the Made in Kenya store idea came in. It was already operational, but the lady who was handling it decided to leave and since I was already a stockist at the store, I took over the business in 2017. I have been growing the business since. I love being at The Alchemist Bar. A survey found out that, any new tourist who comes to Nairobi would visit The Alchemist in a week of being in town. It’s the place to be.
I met a group of tourists from Germany recently, and when I enquired how they got to know the place, they told me that they had Googled it. The Alchemist attracts tourists, expats, and even locals with its good music, drinks, ambiance, and various food vendors. There’s Mama Rocks, Wings Kenya, and a pizza place called Fabio’s.
At the store, there’s a bit of something for everyone. You can find bamboo straws for Sh100, magnets for Sh300, jewelry, and clothing at Sh2,000, with some ranging between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000.
During the pandemic, people didn’t have the spending power that they used to have. We had to close down for three months because our location is at a bar, and we still had staff on salary and couldn’t let them go. We learnt to adapt to selling online as well while offering discounts to draw people. We are currently building our website where we will post up to 1,000 products for people to buy.”
Courtesy: Saturday Magazine