Sam Nkirote Mckenzie started off studying law before working in media for several years, the need for more creative room and her love for writing saw her start Mardiadi.co, a website profiling some of Kenya’s best designers both established and upcoming. Since the Maridadi.co has morphed into Maridadi & Co an online retail store featuring curated listing of designers, Made in Kenya brands and pop up events, and she recently curated a Maridadi &Co five day pop up at Ikigai co-working space in Nairobi
You ran Maridadi .co as a blog, what made you transition to create a listing?
I took a break from Maridadi& Co. this year. I love Kenyan design and I love writing about it, but to be honest, I wasn’t making enough money to pay my bills. I needed to take a step back; do some other work; and most importantly, get some perspective and re-work my business model and plan.
At the same time, over the last few years as I was writing about Kenyan design, I was slowly learning about, and buying other Made in Kenya brands. Everything from nut butters, preserves, skincare and hair care products, sweets and chocolate. I really wanted a way to feature them, but it didn’t fall within what I was doing on Maridadi & Co.
I actually bought the madein.co.ke domain in February and I started working on the listing in June but I only officially launched the listing on 1 October at Pop Up & Chill at 910 James Gichuru.
I have also started writing about design again. Whoop! Whoop! I am working on a few stories this weekend. I will share them, exclusively, through my newsletter at the end of the month. So everyone should sign up now! 🙂
What are some of the key things you learned from blogging about the Kenyan artisan and design scene?
I learnt that challenges like finding affordable, high quality packaging; getting financing; logistics are the same for most Made in Kenya brands.
I have so much respect for makers and I love meeting and hanging out with creatives. Mostly, I just feel really proud to be part of the industry.
I actually hadn’t realised how much I missed it until Pop Up & Chill. It is always really hard work selling and pop-ups are intense, but it was so great to see old friends.
And all the chocolate from Absolute Chocolate and body butters I was selling on behalf of Mugzie’s Naturals sold out. That was a relief. That sounds weird, but I have been toying with the idea of representing other Made in Kenya brands for over a year, and so it felt so great to launch the listing; tell people about it; and be able to show brands value by selling their products (well!). Does that make sense?
Who are your favourite designers/craftspeople/artisans currently, what do you love about them?
Literally everyone on Made in Kenya — a directory by Maridadi & Co. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. Every time I scroll through the site, I get weirdly emotional about how diverse, but equally cool all the brands are.
What’s your typical day like curating Maridadi & Co.
There isn’t really a typical day. Over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time meeting new people and signing them up for the listing. Every weekend I have been going to fairs; to check out, and discover Made in Kenya brands. This weekend is slightly different because I am writing.
And for the next two weeks I am working quite intensely on a training curriculum. Essentially, it is for small businesses like mine where the founders do a bit of everything from building and managing your own website to sales and marketing.
What do you do to unwind?
I work weird days and hours. These last two months, as I have been working weekends, I have been trying to take Monday’s off. I try to get away from my screens—I spend waaay to much time online—go for walks and listen to podcasts.
I also really like DIY projects. At the moment, I am obsessed with making things out of concrete. I am working on these concrete ring cones based on a tutorial I found on Pinterest. They aren’t looking great…yet!
Oh, and I am obsessed with comic books, so quite a bit of time and mental energy is spent on that.
Check out: https://www.maridadi.co/ for more