The Story of Akinyi
Akinyi first started in November 2020, on a trip with my son to stay with my Mum in Nairobi. It was absolutely beautiful, the views, the people, the food, I really fell in love with the city. Exploring the city’s markets, I was completely blown away by their baskets, bags, plates, and bowls. The stalls were bursting with colours and pattern, you found new treasures everywhere you looked. At first I couldn’t really believe they were all hand woven, as the quality and intricacy of the design was so incredible.
Nairobi in November 2020
During my trip I met two makers, Carol and John, and we instantly formed a connection. They invited us into their home where they wove their baskets and bags in a shelter they built in the garden, along with 2-3 other makers. My mum then put me in contact with a lady called Phiona from a women's heritage centre in Uganda who made the wall plates / bowls I’d loved in the markets. They delivered me a few samples of their work which was amazing, so I immediately requested a big order! I also suggested the ladies where possible to add their names to the pieces to make the products even more special. It was very special to be able to meet these talented makers, and together to form a sustainable income for their families.
With 6 suitcases full of stock, my son and I flew back over to the UK to set up the business selling these products in our home city of Birmingham. At this point I didn’t even have a name for the business, but a family WhatsApp chat soon came up with the name ‘Akinyi’ meaning ‘girl born in the morning’ in Swahili. I started applying to markets which were quite sparse due to the pandemic. But I soon got a stall at a local market in Kingsheath, only 5 minutes away from home.
Our makers at the women's heritage
Over the next few months I was working at the Kings Heath market on the weekends, balancing my job at Birmingham City University. I continued to get Akinyi’s name out there, applying and being accepted to sell at markets across the UK. A big highlight for Akinyi was having a week pop up at Boxpark Shoreditch which was a really proud moment.
I loved doing the markets, but I also wanted Akinyi to have a permanent presence somewhere. Soon enough, I was contacted by Red Brick Market Birmginham and was offered a stall in their indoor market in Digbeth, which holds lots of amazing independent businesses. This is where Akinyi is currently, but i still do markets on a weekly basis.
In November Akinyi will turn 1! I can’t believe the amount of growth we’ve had already, and I’m so excited to see where we go next. So keep your eyes peeled, and welcome to the world of Akinyi. Liv x