Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Shagley.
SAWA Life started in 2017 when founders Rafi Nourafchan, Stephen Amstutz, and Emily Shagley were traveling to Kenya on a philanthropic mission with The Nourafchan Foundation to install a well at a school. They were so moved by the energy and culture of the country, particularly a group of artisan women whose positive energy and beading techniques inspired them to create and market new, innovative and unique hand-beaded products to the world. The idea was to create better lives for women, the center of families and households in Kenya, by providing them with a livelihood. By the end of that trip, the hand-beaded earbud prototypes had been developed and the company launched the following year in 2018 under the name SAWA Life, a Swahili phrase that translates to “the good life,” perfectly capturing the mission of the company. While the women have endured hardships such as extreme poverty, homelessness and HIV, they never lost sight of the good life.
Since then, SAWA Life has expanded its product range, partnered with international companies, trained a rotating roster of women, and provided proper salaries in a safe and friendly working environment in the heart of Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. SAWA Life’s design team works with brands, celebrities, companies, and personal clients to create custom items and events to raise awareness. Partnerships include Kenya Airways, who donated unused in-flight magazines and old uniforms as raw materials to create hand-beaded jewelry and pouches. Healing hair care company, L’ANZA, also donated marketing materials and product that was then shipped to Kenya to treat SAWA Life’s women artisans to a spa day, complete with hair treatments and having their makeup done. To date, SAWA Life has trained over 40 women and provided proper salaries in a safe and friendly working environment that doubles as a support group. They have an operations team in Kibera to ensure quality products and working conditions and have hired Kenyan native Maasai Irene Lempaka as their Los Angeles-based CEO.
The women artisans are the inspiration for SAWA Life and its mission extends to each woman’s family, sending 142 children and seven grandchildren to school. They provided water filters for each of their households, making clean reliable water available to them. SAWA Life makes monthly contributions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), a government fund that offers medical coverage to all citizens. On average, each woman supports 15 dependents, and all this ensures that each family member has medical coverage and is guaranteed affordable hospital services whenever needed. Future plans include expanding into a pet division and continuing to uplift the lives of the artisans and provide opportunities for women throughout Kenya and beyond. All SAWA Life products are available for purchase at sawalife.org. Please visit them at sawalife.org and follow them on Instagram: @mysawalife.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
SAWA Life has been challenging yet incredibly rewarding. It was difficult to manage operations from the United States, we then put a good management team in place. In the first year, quality control was inconsistent but with training, we improved year after year. Also, struggles included sourcing tech and complex logistics to ensure the product got to market. During COVID, keeping artisans safe was most important so production was low. Events and retail were a major source of income and brand awareness and that came to a pause.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
SAWA Life produces colorful, meticulously crafted jewelry and tech accessories, from earbuds and charging cables to lightning bracelets and Airpod neckstraps. We are proud that our products are made from environmentally friendly, upcycled materials like donated magazines, and with lots of love, a true reflection of the soul of the country and artisans themselves. SAWA Life is innovative because we custom makes holiday gifts, event gift bags, and corporate signature items. A notable custom item is extra-glam beaded fringe by SAWA Life for designer Daniel Diamonds’ jackets, which serve a dual mission of empowering people for onstage confidence without having to hold a microphone. Also, SAWA Life partnered with jewelry designer Jesse Ray with Nickho Rey to create luxurious chic lightning cable bracelets sold in boutiques across the USA. SAWA Life is unique in that it inspires brands and organizations to empower and impact communities using sustainable practices that are eco-friendly ensuring a positive impact in the world.
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Throughout my life, I have been passionately curious about humans and the world which has provided me with a lucky blessed life. “Luck” introduced me to Rafi Nourafchan at the Los Angeles Airport. We randomly met waiting to board the same flight to Brazil for New Year’s Eve celebration. We became fast friends and he introduced me to his non-profit organization, The Nourafchan Foundation. Rafi’s passion to improve the lives of others through socio and economic development programs is contagious. I was so inspired I joined his movement and accompanied Rafi on a philanthropic trip to Kenya. I fell in love with the people, culture and saw firsthand the magic of Kenya. On that trip, Rafi gave me my business card with the title, Director of Spreading Sunshine.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.sawalife.org
- Instagram: mysawalife
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mysawalife
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6nAtoh_p1vmCy04BuzAMzQ
Photographers: https://www.instagram.com/amit_ramrakha/ Amit Ramrakha https://www.instagram.com/staybrightmedia/?igshid=1fb85wjuzjvy2 Stay Bright Media
What to check out next:
Aleasha Bahr is a sales & marketing strategist known for showing introverts and ambiverts the Secret Art of Subtle Selling. She personally sold millions in revenue while discovering introverts are usually top sales people – as soon as they stop trying to act like extroverts. We’ve partnered with her to produce Introverted Entrepreneur Success Stories. Check out episode 1 below: