Village Enterprise COVID-19 Tales: Dressmakers become Mask Makers

Village Enterprise business owner Eunice Nabwile sews a mask in her studio in western Kenya.

When Village Enterprise Business Mentor, Dan Kezengwa, logged onto Facebook and saw a post by a Village Enterprise partner, Days for Girl International, talking about their #Masks4Millions campaign, he got an idea. What if he advised his tailoring business owners to switch their operation to producing masks and selling them within their community? It would ensure that people in western Kenya could protect themselves from COVID-19 and keep the business owners employed. He visited his business owners from a safe distance and proposed the idea. They liked it.

“I told them to venture into that and use the materials they have and start selling at a lower price than the price other masks are sold at,” Dan explained.

Three days later, after discussing the idea with the three business owners, Karakacha Eunice Nabwile, Mwima Gladys Nafula, and Okumu Centrine Nabwile, Dan found a studio that once made school uniforms and dresses for events transformed into a business that makes masks for community members. The three business owners conducted a market survey within their village and learned that most people prefer white masks because they resemble the ones found on doctors and television, though some motorbike drivers found the colorful option appealing too.

The business owners started their mask business in the first week of April. By the end of the first week, they completed an order of fifty masks for our Kenyan Village Enterprise staff, as well as many other orders they’ve received from community members. They are selling the masks at .50 cents apiece and find themselves energized by the number of orders they’re receiving.

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