Peggy Owiti-Ollonde is the owner and founder of Drawstring Bags Kenya:
I started making drawstring bags in 2016 though initially it wasn’t a business idea until when I went for a maternity leave. I had a lot of free time in my hands being away from work; I had just given birth to my second child.
It was around the time the ban on polythene bags was effected. My son had come home with wet books. I couldn’t use polythene bags to solve the problem so I sew him a drawstring bag from polyester fabric, just as his swimming attires. I then imprinted his name on it.
Later, while still on my maternity leave, I decided to approach the school he attends, and made them a proposal to make for them drawstring bags in their school colours and have their logo imprinted on them. That was the birth of Drawstring Bags Kenya as soon I was seeking audience with different schools in Nairobi. I never went back to work after my maternity leave.
While researching designs for the bag, now that more and more schools were warming up to the idea, I realized most schools outside Africa actually have incorporated the drawstring bag – the name drawstring is because the bag is drawn to open and to close – as part of their schools’ sports uniforms. I was psyched to own the product and the name and run with the idea.
When I started, my target was schools but not so long into the gig, I found myself dealing with a number of corporate clients. My first cooperate clients came from parents who had gotten the bags for their children from the schools that had bought into my proposals. That’s how I found myself deep in the corporate world; branding drawstring bags for companies to use for their hampers, sports events, sponsored activities, seminars among other needs that required such packaging.
I now had two avenues – working for schools and corporates. In 2018, I decided to add another aspect to my drawstring bags business. I introduced the Dignity Kit Project, a project that has since become our trademark.
A dignity kit is a package comprising the basic necessities that women and girls require to maintain their feminine hygiene, dignity and respect in their daily lives. These kits come in handy mostly for women who have been affected by the pandemic or displaced and as thus no longer have a ready access to the products they need.
A typical dignity kit has items such as soap, sanitary pads, panties, wrapper, slippers, body oil, tooth brush and tooth paste, comb, torch among other items, all parked in a drawstring bag. Due to the pandemic, organizations sponsoring the project have now been including masks and sanitisers in the dignity packages.
This one time I was contacted by an organization from abroad that they needed drawstring bags delivered to their Western Kenya offices to use in the distribution of dignity kits. Out of curiosity to learn more about this novel [to me] use of drawstring bags, I checked their site and other related sites and that’s when I found out that drawstring bags are greatly affiliated with dignity kits. I took it up and now it is our most established deliverable as Drawstring Bags Kenya.
After my discovery, I hit the ground running. I approached organizations based here in Kenya that were distributing dignity kits and offered to partner with them. As the orders came, I also got to interact with and rope in more organizations into the program.
We started off as offering drawstring bags mostly for packaging purposes. Clients would order them branded and the content they put in them and how they distributed them was mostly up to them. However, as our business grew, we started getting orders to ‘fill in the bag’ as well. Clients choose what items they want to be distributed, we source for the items, add them in the bag and deliver a fully packaged Drawstring Dignity Kit, ready for distribution.
The pandemic has seen the growth of the dignity kit project with more and more organizations joining to help women affected by the pandemic and are in need of the dignity kit. Most organizations choose the Drawstring Bag because the product we offer (the bag) is re-usable and they also come in a variety of colours that can match any organizations theme colour. For women, the drawstring bags offers them a ‘lockable’ storage for their essentials.