A brief history of Adupo (part 1)
I came across the concept of Fair Trade and ethical shopping back in 2007 when I was studying about international business as part of my MBA programme. So I decided to dip my toe in the water of both e-commerce and international trade by opening Adupo. Although I haven’t made it to Kenya yet, I’ve always had an affinity for the country thanks to my mum who spent several years there in the 1960s as a volunteer nurse with the VSO. This helped me narrow down my market for the type of goods that I’d import and I started to look around for potential suppliers, which is how I came across the Able Volunteers International Fund (or AViF for short) run by Alison Lowndes.
AViF is a small charity that Alison runs from her home that arranges for volunteers to spend time in Kenya, mostly working in schools. But she also had an interest in developing sustainable business models for some of her contacts in Kenya and she was able to put me in touch with Michael Njogu who was based in Nakuru.
Things started off really well with Michael. I sent an initial payment of £150 and he sent me a couple of big boxes of various Kenyan gift items including Maasai blankets, batiks, a wide range of jewellery and also household items. I set about setting up the original online shop and going through the laborious process of cataloguing all the items and uploading images and descriptions to the site.
Sales were sporadic but steady as I learnt about how the website worked, shipping and customer service but it was a fairly positive start. But the Maasai blankets were by far the most popular item on the site and eventually I had generated enough sales to purchase another batch from Michael as well as send him some of the profits.
Anyone who wants to read more about this stage of Adupo can check out the blog I started at http://birthofafairtradebusiness.blogspot.co.uk that still exists in the blogosphere.
But unfortunately the relationship with Michael began to break down towards the end of 2009. He told us he was going through a hard time so I agreed to send him over some of the profits in advance of another shipment of goods. Unfortunately that shipment never arrived and following a couple of difficult e-mails, we decided it was best to cut off the relationship with Michael completely. Sad to say, we haven’t heard from him since.
But every cloud has a silver lining as they say and because we had orders to fill, Alison put me in touch with Amanda Flanagan who runs Kuku Hut and Adupo has happily gone from strength to strength since, which I’ll go into in a later blog post.