Mtindo Designs History
Mtindo Design was born out of the desire to engage in an entrepreneurial effort to promote trade instead of aid in Africa. Alex is a native of Kenya, who is particularly fond of a high fashion item well known globally as the Kikoy, and which originates in East Africa. He came about with the
idea of introducing this product to the US market.
The Kikoy is a reflection of joy, it evokes rhythm, moods, and appreciation of color, and functionality the different seasons demand. Kikoys can be used as a sarong, scarf, shawl, baby carrier, dress, and head dress just to mention but a few. The Kikoy is a beautiful and functional garment that enables one to be versatile, fashionable, and unique.
Through our mutual interest to promote African culture, in a performing Arts Group well known in Utah Valley As Voice of Africa
(VOACA -www.thevoaca.com), we became close trusted friends and decided to form a partnership to accomplish the goal of promoting trade instead of aid.
We began by having numerous brainstorming sessions at Utah Valley University, where all three of us are pursuing different degrees, we met frequently in the library, where we reserved study group rooms often late into the closing times of the library hours. Our meetings, like many
partnerships consisted of angry cross talk, friendly banter, and serious disagreements, out of which was born a strong foundation. At the end of the discussions we threw together some arbitrary figures (which we later discovered were far too conservative and learned a valuable lesson) and decided to put our money where our mouths were. We spent several days scouring the internet and local stores for the best deals on tables and tents to weather the storm on the Provo Farmer’s Market. Although all of us are starving students and are very tight for money, we chipped in a combined risk of $1,500 as the initial startup cost. At this point there was no turning back. We met with bankers to set up a joint account that would help create visibility of all transactions.
One of the greatest challenges we faced and still face has been finding an affordable and convenient way of shipping our product directly from Kenya to Utah in a timely and secure manner. Our first shipment was needless to say a disaster. We relied on the local post office to handle our shipment in a fast and efficient way. Soon after sending the money to complete all
necessary transactions we were disappointed to discover that after a significant loss of time, our shipment had been delayed. Due to a misunderstanding in the international transit, our shipment was sent back to the original shipper. Shipments originating from Kenya to the US
commonly are routed through Europe, most often Netherlands or Great Britain, on transit to the US. Our very first shipment was due around late March, early April of 2010, which was within the time span of the catastrophic Greenland Volcanic ash eruption, which caused all European
bound flights to be grounded for safety issues. This lasted for a long period of time which took toll all over the world. The event impacted our shipment which was placed on additional backlog due to the delay in flights, like many travelers, our shipment was just as stranded.
We missed our first week of sales at the Provo Farmer’s Market, but finally the long awaited beautiful Kikoy Cargo arrived.
In the excitement of it all we all abandoned our various posts for a ritualistic opening of the package, some leaving work, while others ditched class or friends to gather and be a witness to the opening of the very first Kikoy order.
After a week of preparations we had designed the layout of our booth, nitpicking about every minute detail, from the placement of our signs and videos screens so as to yield maximum visibility, and avoid solar glares for the monitor while capturing sun rays to reflect the silver background of our Kikoy signs, down to the color of the cloth we used on the table and angle of garment racks in relation to the each other. We strived to make the booth experience as unique and as welcoming as possible; the idea was that individuals would wander into our booth and simply get lost in the experience with overwhelming colors drawing attention to every corner of the booth. We made carefully decided stipulations about expected dress code, regardless of weather conditions; the goal was to appear professional, so out of that notion, a business casual uniform was born.
After months of preparations the days were getting shorter and the long-awaited Saturday morning was drawing nearer; however, that particular Friday night before, seemed to be the longest yet. We slept a deep slumber, yet simultaneously, we were all ever conscious of the time because of fear of waking up too late. Outside there was heavy downpour, what would aptly be described as raining cats and dog, but with our hopes held high we chose to describe the weather as showers of blessings.
“Kikoy Saturday”, there was a constant patter of raindrops as we drove towards Provo. The clouds appeared stormy and they dropped the rain gently. The air was grey, the ambience was gloomy, and it felt like we were taking a shower under a misty waterfall. This is not what we had
hoped for, far from it.
We decided to weather the storm and forged ahead with plans to attend, although cold and miserable we were determined not to let our spirits dampen. We collected all of the necessary equipment and headed for the Provo Farmer’s Market. Upon arriving, we were met by Kathryn the Market Manager, who was wrapped tight for the weather, after conversing with her for a while, we came to the conclusion that due to the weather, more than likely there would be little turn out to this particular weekend’s market. Disappointed and discouraged, we did not even bother to unpack, we simply drove back home.
On the way back we decided to reconvene and analyze our options at this point. We spent two and a half hours debating what we should do, and kept going back on forth on how to deal with such circumstances in the future. By approximately 9:45am, Alex had an urge to look outside the window.
It was yellow outside, the powerful yellow of early summer. The cold weather had passed, skies were blue and birds were chirping. The sun had washed away our hypothetical tears and simultaneously swept away the darkness that was in us two hours before. Horrah! To the changing Utah weather, we were determined to make amends of the time we had lost.
With this new revelation, our desire to attend was rekindled, the rays of sun beating through the window rejuvenated our once beaten down hopes. We set out for a second time to the farmers market with a renewed fire and passion. Kathryn welcomed us back and told us she was happy we had returned. Grateful at the opportunity to still be accepted into the market so late, we set out to unpack and showcase our tent as quickly as possible. People had begun arriving, we guessed they were here to discover Kikoy’s -beautiful, soft to touch garments.
The first day was quite an experience. We cowered sheepishly behind our racks almost fearful of the people passing by, one of us rearranging Kikoy’s, that didn’t really need any more arranging, whilst another drummed to avoid having to talk, and the other re-adjusting the tent arrangement, all in efforts to shy away from the crowd. We quickly began to point out each other’s flaws and corrected our attitudes and pushed our fears (mostly of rejection) to the corners of our minds, wherer the were left isolated and undisturbed. At that point Fabrice jumped out to the crowd and began greeting people, and asking them for 30seconds of their
time, the rest of us followed suit. Before we knew it, our booth was bustling with interested customers eager to learn more about who we are, where we are from and most importantly-the Kikoy.
We have not looked back since and continue to seek shops we can consistently supply Kikoys, “Aluta continua” to promote trade instead of aid in Africa.