- Meet Deirdre King -
There are many women who work with Ethical Collection London that have helped to create our amazing brand. In honour of these women, we are dedicating one day a week, Wednesday, to introduce them and celebrate their achievements. We sent each of the women seven questions to answer about their businesses, inspiration and life. This week, we would love to introduce you to the amazing Deirdre King of Indego Africa.
Indego Africa is a non-profit social enterprise and lifestyle brand partnered with a cooperative of over 1000 female artisans in Ghana and Rwanda. Selling beautiful handcrafted products, the company’s profits are reinvested into the artisans’ communities, through leadership, entrepreneurship, financial, business and vocational training courses. Indego Africa believe that educating women is the key to long-term empowerment and social change.
(Creative Director of Indego Africa, Deirdre King)
What is the story behind your brand's name?
Indego is a fun twist on the color indigo!
What inspired you to join/start your Ethical business?
Indego Africa was founded in 2007 with a simple idea: Empower women artisans in Africa by showcasing their beautiful craft and investing in the power of education. Since our founding, Indego's mission has always been to help artisans lift themselves and their families out of poverty and become empowered businesswomen. The artisan sector is the second largest informal employer in the developing world. Despite its potential, the industry remains untapped as a resource for income generation, job creation, and economic growth in under-resourced communities. Since 2007, Indego Africa has played a critical role in changing this by providing artisans, especially women and young people, with access to markets, vocational training, and education. We believe that women around the globe have the capacity, creativity, and determination to uplift themselves, their families, and their communities—all they need are the opportunities.
What did you do before joining/starting the business?
I joined Indego in the summer of 2010 – right after I graduated from law school! During law school I focused my studies, summers and work experiences on international human rights, with a specific dedication to women and refugee rights in Africa. After graduating, Indego’s mission spoke to my experience and interest both in women’s and human rights as well my personal life-long love of design. The transition from recent law school grad to creative director of this amazing company, while unexpected, was actually a fairly seamless one (note: don’t underestimate the power of learning on the job) and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now!
What are the 2 points (or more!) that makes your brand Sustainable/ethical?
At Indego Africa, we not only provide our partners with fair, consistent income for their artistry, but also invest all of our profits from product sales, with grants and donations, into education programs for the artisans who handcraft our products. Our courses range from leadership and entrepreneurship, to financial and business management, to skills-based vocational training & more. Through our education programs, our partners develop the knowledge and skills they need to grow their own enterprises, become entrepreneurs, and uplift entire communities—creating employment opportunities for others and setting new standards for what women can achieve.
We also seek to be as eco-friendly and environmentally-conscious as possible in the production of all of our products! Our partners use a range of natural raw materials sourced in Rwanda and Ghana including sweetgrass, banana leaf, bolga straw, recycled tin, upcycled cowhorn, and palm, raffia, and maize leaves (to name a few!). We also reduce waste in our production process by repurposing scrap fabrics and other leftover materials across our product lines.
What do you love the most about your job? How do you balance work/home life?
I love, love the process of inspiration to idea to design to sample to marketing planning to photoshoot to production to final campaign + product offering (and I’m probably forgetting some steps). Its sometimes a long process and sometimes a short process and often full of bumps and twists from where it started but it's so invigorating to work alongside my talented colleagues in NYC, Rwanda and Ghana and the (truly, truly) amazing artisans in Africa to bring my ideas to life.
Part two of my answer – what I love about my job – is its flexibility as I attempt to navigate the challenging world of being a working mom (which I struggle with daily!). My career is so intertwined with my life and so embedded in my heart and it can often be hard to “turn off” and figure out how to achieve balance. At the same time, with two little kids at home I cannot be available 24/7 the way many small companies expect employees to be. Our team understands that I might work odd hours or need to be remote certain days but that I remain 110% committed to my role. I think this shows that our company culture of supporting and empowering women transcends beyond our mission in Africa ☺
What achievements are you most proud of in business and or life?!
I am lucky enough (and ridiculously proud) to have two healthy and beautiful children, a loving and supportive husband and strong relationships with a great family and great friends. That would be enough for me but on top of it I have a job I love with a company that I feel proud to be a part of. Indego is definitely a third “baby” for me and the growth, impact and successes we’ve had as a team are extremely rewarding, both professionally and personally. I am really proud of my career and I hope my children see this example of how hard work and dedication to doing what you love can lead to great fulfillment.
Who do you admire and why?
The artisans we work with in Rwanda and Ghana are a huge source of both inspiration and admiration for me. These ladies are such hard-workers and so dedicated to their own success and that of their families and communities. The selfless-ness that they’ve shown throughout the past six years that I’ve been with Indego has really resonated with me. They’ve created businesses, taken advantage of education opportunities, honed and improved their technical skills, all while supporting their families and fostering a true sense of optimism and hope within their communities. I have learned so much from them and really treasure being able to be a part of their stories.
Shop Indego Africa here!