The Nakuru Annual Agricultural Society of Kenya attracted not only innovators in Agriculture but also entrepreneurs promoting trade initiatives for sustainable growth.
29-year-old Sharon Cherotich was among the exhibitors, showcasing her handmade crafted bags under Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE) tent which has been created as a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to market and establish their products and services.
Ms Cherotich, who hails from Kericho County, exhibits unique crochet hand-crafted bags in both small and big sizes which are elegant and classic.
She told Enterprise that KIE has supported her work by creating a platform for her to exhibit Shariez Handmade crochet bags with the unique material and design that has made them stand out.
Her inspiration, she said, came from her grandmothers who were passionate about art, and would crochet sweaters for the family, ropes and earn from it.
In 2017, while supervising construction work where she was employed as a safety officer, Cherotich would stitch a scarf, beanies, and crochet socks to avoid boredom.
She says to have started with only one yarn which cost her Sh80 and crocheted at Sh30, then she would sell the scarfs and socks during the cold season which were hotcakes due to the climatic condition of the area.
When starting she sold four scarfs a week each at Sh400 for school-going children and would earn a profit of about Sh5,000.
“Then the profit was fair, but something was missing, I had to research more on materials availability to enable me to expand my business, then I decided to venture into crochet bags, after getting information, which gave birth to the Shariez Handmade bags,” she said.
In June 2020 during covid-19 lockdown she assembled all the accessories she needed valued at Sh500 and started crocheting the bag, which she completed in September.
“The business is doing well now, I recall when I was starting in 2020, I was able to sell my first bag after two months, which at some point discouraged me because it was taking a long to sell,” she added.
At the end of 2020, he had made about six bags, the business was picking slowly at some point she almost gave up.
In 2021, things changed, and Cherotich’s business skyrocketed after attending the national business expo in Kericho.
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The company is an art and craft company that specialises in making beautifully handcrafted crochet bags using polyester macramé yarn and polyester canvas, The raw materials used, she says, produce quality, strong and durable bags.
She explained that her company was formed to inspire innovation in the art industry and production of trendy and super classy bags, which creates employment. Shariez bags are customised with specific details in terms of size, dimensions, interior, accessories, and colour according to customer preference.
It has been designed for various occasions like Maxi Summer, Princess, Oreo, Zigzag, Tiffany, BBG, Susie, Summer, African, Popcorn, and Diana which enable customers to decide.
“At the Expo, I met KIE, who spotted my talent and has since helped and supported my business by providing opportunities, for now, I have attended 12 exhibitions,” she added.
The exhibition, she explained, has allowed her to sell the bags to high-end clients, interested in her bags which are classic and unique.
Her business has since grown with her shops in Kericho and Nairobi selling crochet accessories which have employed six employees.
In December 2022, she went to exhibit her bags at East Africa Expo and emerged to be the first from Kenya out of 300 participants.
The reception she received from the exhibition encouraged her to explore and update herself with the market needs.
She balances working as an environment officer and venturing into the business with the support of her employees who work full-time.
When it comes to advertising her products, she uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, open markets, and exhibitions.
Being in the market for only three years, the bags have picked up momentum, she sells about 20-30 bags a month with prices ranging from Sh1,500 to 4,500.
The profit she estimates to be around Sh40,000.
Her lowest moments in business were when she was starting and the business was stagnant, at some point, she contemplated quitting the business.
In the future, she plans to open a crochet school, where learners would be trained about crocheting and also export her products internationally.
Some of the challenges she faces in the business are the high cost of materials as some of the materials are produced locally while some are imported.