Behind the scenes with Maridadi & Co founder, Sam Nkirote McKenzie

The Maridadi & Co. Pop Up Store

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, a website profiling some of Kenya’s best designers both established and upcoming. Since the 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 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! 🙂

Made in Kenya — A directory by Maridadi Co.

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.

Maridadi & Co.

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.

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