Dsenyo's line of hand-crafted, fair trade jewelry from Zambia is made in partnership with Mulberry Mongoose, a budding new social enterprise in the South Luangwa Valley. Mulberry Mongoose was founded by Kate Wilson, a French Masters graduate from the UK. Before 2006, Kate had never lived in Africa and never designed a piece of jewelry! But then she found herself engaged to Zimbabwean born David and before she knew it they were heading off to Mfuwe in the South Luangwa valley, to get married and live in the African bush. This change of path became a bigger adventure then Kate could have imagined.
Through a great friend, Kate discovered her love of jewelry making and in 2012, after taking numerous jewelry courses, Mulberry Mongoose was formed. Mulberry Mongoose’s mission is to create beautiful, contemporary accessories while promoting social and economic development and the protection of the pristine wildlife area where the company is based.
The name Mulberry Mongoose is partly inspired by the bandit mongoose, an animal often seen in large family groups ‘talking’ incessantly to one another! The social cohesiveness of these mongooses reflects the level of social care the business is striving towards. Mulberry is a distinctive English fruit as well as a color, and a reminder to Kate of her roots and her love of fashion. Mulberry Mongoose will always aspire to create designer accessories that people love to wear...but each piece will also embody positive change.
From working with local carpenters who create hand carved wooden beads and seeds, to supplementing local farmers’ income by buying guinea fowl feathers and ordering countless chitenge gift bags from local tailor Esnut Phiri, Mulberry Mongoose aims to give back through generating local business. We also pride ourselves on hiring local ladies, selected on merit from assessment centers, and investing in staff training and development; the aim is for the artisans to grow with the business. Success stories range from Rosie Phiri’s accountancy sponsorship to Nkandu Mwale training in retail.
The impact of Mulberry Mongoose’s ambitions can already be felt; our much-celebrated Snare Wire Jewelry Collection has so far raised $20,000, in just over two years, to help fund critical anti-snare patrols in the South Luangwa valley. Mulberry Mongoose is a small company striving to make a big difference.
Meet the Mulberry Mongoose Team:
After graduating with a Masters in French from Edinburgh University, Kate worked in Central London for three years. She tried her hand at project management before finding success headhunting graduates for top FTSE 100 companies. On getting engaged to Zimbabwean born David, in 2006, she knew his passion for Safari meant a life in the African bush. Kate left behind the fast pace of London and immersed herself in a very different existence in the South Luangwa Valley, Zambia. This change of path turned out to be a bigger adventure than she could have imagined and through a great friend Kate discovered her love of jewelry making. After taking numerous jewelry courses, she founded Kate Wilson Jewelry in 2008 enabling her to combine her untapped passion for creativity with her desire to have a positive impact in the world. In 2012 Kate Wilson Jewelry evolved into Mulberry Mongoose whose mission is to create beautiful, contemporary accessories whilst promoting social and economic development and the protection of the pristine wildlife area where the company is based.
Mary was Mulberry Mongoose’s first employee and is an integral part of the business. Her work ethic, passion and drive not to mention her wonderful smile have helped us go from strength to strength and her skills are continually developed through the business’ success. Mary travels 2 km’s by bike and then 20 km’s by staff bus to get to work for a 7am start. She is married to Luke, a pastor, with whom she has three children Elmuna, Esther and Chiyanzo. Mary uses her salary to support her mother, help Luke with the kid’s school fees and is also saving to build a family home. When asked what Mulberry Mongoose has taught her Mary replied ‘how to be a harder worker, how to use money well and how to focus to better my life. I have vision now.. you are supposed to have vision’.
Nkandu started working for Mulberry Mongoose in January 2014. She was selected from 15 applicants because of her positive attitude, attention to detail and ability to learn quickly. She has come on leaps and bounds in her short time here and is now being trained in retail management to compliment her jewelry making skills and further develop her career. Nkandu is married to Masuzyo Zimba with two daughters Suzy and Lucy. Nkandu uses her wages to run the family home and support her mother who has a small business selling second hand clothes. Nkandu also sponsors her 18 year old brother’s education. In addition to needing the money Nkandu tells us ‘I really enjoy making jewelry; I particularly like the creativity I use. I am also excited to learn about retail and to meet international clients’.
Esnart, mother of six children, was given a sewing machine almost ten years ago. She taught herself to use it by watching a local tailor work, and now runs her own small tailoring business alongside her job as a housekeeper. Esnart makes our stunning gift bags helping to ensure every element of our unique products are individually crafted by local Zambians whilst further promoting employment in this area. Esnart explains …‘I bought a new sewing machine with the money from Mulberry Mongoose, it also helps me fund my small business and pay for my kids’ school fees….it helps so much’.
Stanley is 21 years old and started working for us in 2014; he was recruited and trained to turn collected snare wire into attractive coils for our Snare Wire Jewelry Collection. He graduated in 2012 after completing grade 12. Since leaving school he was unable to find any work despite looking everywhere. Stanley explained ‘after finishing school I was very unhappy, but right now I can earn my living through working at Mulberry Mongoose; I am happy’. Stanley uses his money to buy clothes and to save for accounting school.
Rosie is our youngest recruit at just 19 years old. Employed in 2013 as a part time helper we quickly identified her gift for jewelry making, her talent for retail and her abilities as a young professional. One of the largest challenges for intelligent young school leavers in this area is the lack of funds to pursue higher education. Despite Rosie getting distinction across all her subjects she was unable to continue with her accountancy exams. Mulberry Mongoose now sponsors Rosie to do the internationally recognized ACCA. In return Rosie will work off her loan over a four-year period. In this time she will be trained in management, dispatch and retail gaining essential commercial experience for her future. When asked how Mulberry Mongoose has impacted her life she replied ‘ever since working with Mulberry Mongoose I have learnt so much personally; to be hard working and focused, to work in a team, and that communication is the key to success. I have learnt how to make beautiful jewelry, how to interact with customers and make sales. Mulberry Mongoose has helped my dream of a career to come true. I am thankful for that.’
Thanks to sponsorship from his brother, Elias trained to be a carpenter at Chipata Skills from 2000-2006. Apart from his love for working with his hands, his father was also a carpenter and Elias felt moved to continue his family legacy. In 2010 Elias left his first job and moved to Norman Carr Safaris in Mfuwe. This change in employer gave him a chance to better his skills and earn a higher wage to support his family. He has two children, Titus and Eric, with wife Elizabeth. Mulberry Mongoose hired Elias in 2014 to do piece work making our hand crafted wooden beads. Elias uses the supplementary income to look after his retired father. When asked why he works with Mulberry Mongoose he replied ‘I like using my skills differently and the extra money benefits many people in my family.’
Peggy is 27 years old, married with two children Musonda and Michelle. In 2014, due to a doubling demand for our jewelry, Mulberry Mongoose was delighted to expanded the team and create more employment through our success. Selected from an assessment centre because of her honesty, hard-working attitude and warm smile, we are enjoying training Peggy in jewelry making. Peggy has lead a tough life, her Mum passed away when she was just ten years old, her father remarried and his new wife didn’t want Peggy to stay in the family home. She was sent to an orphanage in Lusaka run by ‘Sisters of Hope’. Deeply religious and innately positive, Peggy explained that whilst it hurt, she learnt so much from the Sisters and got a valuable education. She loved the idea of working for Mulberry Mongoose as it reminded her of her Sunday’s at the Sisterhood where they were given art classes. When asked what getting a job with Mulberry Mongoose means to her Peggy replied ‘it has helped me sustain my life, support my young sisters to go to school and my family. I also have that feeling of work.. of enjoying what I am doing’.