“My dream is to empower our artisans, to train them on marketable skills and support them in owning their own sustainable businesses someday. I would like to expand to have business classes and structured training programs where our own artisans train others, eventually working their way out of their own jobs and starting their own grassroots companies.” -Mary Holden Jones, Maasai Chic Founder and CEO
Maasai Chic’s Beginnings
Mary and her husband Jeff, both physicians, were inspired with the idea for this fashion forward ethical company after one of there many annual mission trips to Africa
While serving in her capacity as a physician implementing both medical mission work and church planting, she and her husband were motivated to do something. They saw so much untapped potential for economic growth in these areas of deep poverty. Many of the women they met were trained in intricate bead working from a very young age as part of their cultural heritage and are also great seamstresses out of necessity
Mary wondered if she could find a way to turn the talents these women already had into economic growth for them and their communities. Mary fell in love with the vibrant colors of Maasai beaded jewelry and African wax print fabrics from her very first visit. She knew that women in the U.S. would too.
Through a partnership with AIM (Africa Integrated Medicine), Maasai Chic now leases a space where our artisans find community. Each is trained in a supportive environment, provided with a daily meal, fair compensation, and work hard to create our beautiful collections. Each of our valued team members have learned skills, the pride of a work contract, vastly improving their standard of living and entering a circle of community for entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.
Enter Tanzania Project Manager: Stacey Scott
Mary was so blessed to meet Stacey, also a native of Birmingham, AL, and the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Africa Integrative Medicine. She is now our strategist, pattern maker and project supervisor in Tanzania. She travels to market, purchases wax dye fabrics, creates prototypes, trains and manages our sewing team.
Our team in Tanzania is growing and Mary’s dream is coming true!
With the 2nd collection now complete and available to customers, Stacey and Mary recently brainstormed ways to build skills and encourage self-starters on our team while also reaching out to inspire other women in the community to become entrepreneurs through mentorship. Although all of our team members have good skills and great enthusiasm for the project, we needed someone who is a great instructor.
“We have a special jewel in our crown with Mama Patrick because not only does she have a heart of gold, I also saw early on that she willingly shares what she knows about sewing with her teammates. She had already been chosen as the team lead. After creating the last collection and discussing methods of improvement, Mama Patrick was given the task of finding other skilled seamstresses who have good temperament, good work ethic, a thirst for knowledge and a "skills sharing" mindset.
Our method for increasing team members is "pole pole" pronounced Po-Lay Po-Lay (which means in Swahili - to move slowly - take your time to make the best choice possible).
Mama Patrick eventually brought Happy with her, a 22 year old with sewing skills on the manual machine. Happy is also a member of the Chaga tribe from the Mt Kilimanjaro area. As the primary trainer, I've always placed a stipulation that all teammates must speak English because I haven't learned to speak Swahili yet. Happy doesn't speak English. Instead of turning her away, I just told them both, "let’s do our best and have a good time with the workshop." I had this feeling that some part of either Mama Patrick or Happy's journey in life is somehow tied to this project.
Within the first couple of days, both ladies blossomed. Mama Patrick took to the new skills of cutting and design like a pro. And Happy surprised us both with how quickly she was able to pick up on these skills as well (under Mama Patrick's instruction). Hopefully the photos depict their feelings; Encouraged, Empowered and Proud.
We have added entrepreneurship and business management sessions to our workshop. Through Maasai Chic, we're not just building skills to make quality garments, we're helping to uplift communities of people through empowering women to be creative and successful entrepreneurs.”
And that, friends, in a dream in action.
Back in the United States, The Maasai Chic team works to market products and connect with world-changers interested in spreading the Maasai Chic mission through trunk shows. When you purchase our products or host a pop-up shop you are truly impacting the world through your purchases. Thank you!