Hi my name is James Crawford, founder of Venture Leather, for the past two years I have been working with a leather manufacturer in Kenya with the hopes of making leather goods for the US market where 100% of the profit returns to Africa and gets invested in local businesses.
Recently I have started releasing videos based on my most recent trip to Kenya. The vlog documents the ups and downs of trying to do business in Africa and offers people in the US a unique perspective on life in Africa. It is very hard for Americans to really understand what is life in Africa and how to relate to the people there.
I have partnered with Causeartist to release each episode and blog post here, so the community can follow along on my journey to create a sustainable social impact brand.
Last month I got on a plane to Kenya to meet with a leather manufacturer that I have been working with for almost two years. Roy, the factory owner, and I first met in Uganda when I was working for a social enterprise. Our visions were aligned and we have been trying to realize those visions ever since.
In short, that vision is to make quality leather goods at competitive prices where 100% of the profit gets reinvested back in the community where the products are made. That is where the name, Venture Leather Company, comes from. We don’t do charity. We invest. Investing means we expect the profit to come back eventually. This way we can put far more money into Africa and we are far more accountable to the results. There is no cost to pass on to you the customer. If we invest wisely.
Currently we do not have any product to sell. Making a quality product at a good price in Africa is not easy. Today, if you want to buy something from Africa you have to pay more because it is from Africa. That is a deal breaker at Venture. My response isn’t to get people to care more but to build a better business which allows you to express the fact that you already care.
If the customer has to pay more for our products because they “do good” then we are relegating our company into a niche and will never create the jobs and belief needed to inspire the change we want to see. We want products that are globally competitive regardless of the mission or the message.
The videos of this vlog are to detail the process, the struggle, and the hope in doing business in Africa. There is no way to fully express what this experience is like through words. A blog allows the reader to put the words into their own context while video allows the viewer to better understand the context of another.
This first video is me returning to Mombasa, Kenya for the first time in 9 months. We made a number of samples 9 months ago but the materials and people were not there to start production. Our container of supplies had just arrived into Mombasa which is what prompted this trip. In that time Roy has had to move the factory, scramble to fulfill shoe orders, and turn a profit in his factory which was losing money less than a year ago.
During this two week visit, there is hope, there are struggles, there is joy, and there is frustration. But most importantly there are relationships being forged from people of different backgrounds, languages, and religions united in the belief of each other and what we can accomplish together. It is in that belief that I want to share this experience with you.
Born and raised in San Diego, CA James received his BA in Business Economics from Azusa Pacific University where he was also an All-American in soccer and won a National Championship. He attended the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UCSD he he got his MA in International Development. After school, James worked for a management consulting firm as a data analyst before taking a position with a social enterprise in Northern Uganda as the Business Director of 31 Bits. Recently, James has launched his own company working with a leather manufacturer in Mombasa, Kenya where 100% of the profits get invested back into local businesses in Kenya.