It was the summer of 2008 and I was a junior at the University of West Florida. My coach at the time had informed us that we were going to have an international student-athlete from Kenya joining the team. I was beyond elated for a multitude of reasons but far more excited because of Eastern African’s talent and depth in running. With that said, I picked up Titus Cheruiyot from the airport and instantly remember seeing a beaded bracelet customized with a Kenyan flag on his wrist and how cool it looked. Unfortunately, my dream of owning one never materialized since Titus never went back home to visit.
Fast forward 6 years and I now reside in Beaverton, Oregon; home to some of America’s fastest distance runners. It didn’t take long until I was friend’s with some individuals with Kenyan heritage. Just like Titus, a few of them also wore the same bracelet that I desired long ago, only this time I was certain one of them were going back to Kenya in the near future. Little did I know, I would have to wait just shy of 2 years.
It was January of 2016 when Paul Chelimo returned from Iten, Kenya with multiple bracelets for me. Kenya flag on one half and my last name on the other. It didn’t take long until I started receiving compliments from colleagues and requests from others. About 3 to 4 months went by and I heard from 2 different professional athletes mention to me they had wanted them but their contact, unfortunately, failed to bring one back to the States. Only then did I notice there was a hole in the marketplace where even professional athletes had a hard time getting this specific product.
May of 2016, I committed to starting a new business venture, ArtiKen. Derived from ‘Kenyan Artisan’, I would import handmade, beautiful product from Kenya and give a 10% of proceeds back to Kenya via different charities. Every product purchased helps provide a full-time job to a local artisan in Kenya and clean water to projects throughout their country.
Catch a segment of one of the artisans making your product!