Ken Karangi was a website designer. But his passion lied in a different kind of design. He had always been an art lover, and he was just waiting for the day he could merge his computer skills with his passion.
That day came in 2011, when he received an email from a friend who wanted to show him some artworks he was interested in. They were great, but expensive.
The thought was planted: couldn’t art be made available to people who didn’t have a lot of money, too?
The idea took a while to develop, but in 2013 it was fully matured: Karangi quit his job and teamed up with six local artists from Nairobi. Capitalizing from the growing number of Internet users in Kenya, he started selling their works through a Facebook page.
Since then, business has been steadily on the rise and in his second year Karangi almost doubled his revenue to $20,000, a threshold he has already surpassed in 2015.
“We create custom-made items,” he told CNN. “Items that you don’t pick from the shelf, but you create them to suit your needs.”
The idea is strong enough to have survived a tragedy — last September, Karangi lost his brother, who was running the business alongside him.
“What made me keep going was I asked myself if he was around, what would’ve been his greatest joy. He’d have wanted to see a project going on and bearing fruits and becoming a big business. It really helped me see that now I need to give it a push, and make it what he’d have wanted it to be,” he said.
The business, called “ByHand Products”, now has its own website and sells six items per day on average. Karangi also opened a showroom in Nairobi for customers who’d like to see the items before buying.
And the future looks bright: with an increasing interest in art from Kenya’s rising middle class, Karangi’s idea seems to have blossomed at just the right time.
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