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Mattye Crowley | Sankofic Gems

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Sankofic Gems aims to educate while enhancing your attire with high-quality, handmade, African products. Our mission is to educate about the contribution, cultures, history, and significance of Africa. In addition, we work to provide permanent employment for communities living in rural Nairobi, Kenya. All of our products are fashion-forward, sophisticated, and made with the highest quality materials.

Sankofic Gems is a local African fashion and accessories outlet. Our goal is to educate about Africa’s contribution, cultures, history, and significance while enhancing attire with high-quality, handmade, African products.   In addition, we work to provide permanent employment for communities living in rural Nairobi, Kenya.

Since its beginning, women have been the face of the fashion and accessories industry and the producers and consumers of products. Yet despite this, the fashion industry has been and remains male-dominated. Sankofic Gems creates a special space for women of African ancestry to produce an income using their talents and build a lasting economic base and not have a seat at the table but to build our own. “This is Women’s Work” is our promise to remain 100% black-women-owned.

How did you start, and how long have you been doing it?

In 2017, I had $350 in my bank account. I spent almost all of it on my first set of inventory – jewelry to sell at Brothers Jeff’s Black Dollar Saturday event and local festivals. A year and a half later, my car – containing all my stock – was stolen. But with a $500 donation, I was able to start again. In less than two years, I built my own store. Now I’ve expanded to a new showroom, and the product types and quality have expanded even beyond my own vision.

Tell us about the impact you are making in the community and around the world?

In Africa, I connected with two beautiful rising entrepreneurs, Khadija and Jackie, who created their companies as platforms to give others in their communities a way to earn an income. They’re artisans that make jewelry, skilled seamstresses, and leaders among women in their communities. They hire and train each of their workers personally, in addition to investing in the talents of each person working with them. Each purchase goes directly to support these people.

Our goal is to create flexjobs, jobs that are flexible. These are jobs designed for mothers or those with disabilities. I realized the need for this when my son began having seizures, and with every seizure came a job loss. That’s just unfair. So rather than get rid of my best workers due to reasons beyond their own control, I give them the space and time to take care of pressing issues without their job being in jeopardy.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned when running a beauty business?

Every day I am motivated by my sons to be all I can be, in order to show them it is possible. It’s no different with a beauty business.  The biggest takeaway that I can give is, if you can see a vision for a better future, then do everything in your power to make it real.

As a black woman, how do you define beauty?  How does our view of ourselves and how we define our beauty affect how we carry ourselves, and how we interact with the world around us?

As a beauty business specializing in African accessories, the goal is to make people more beautiful with our products and educate them about the origins and cultural significance of these products, enabling them to shine from within. Beauty comes from confidence and love of yourself, and that comes from understanding your history and the power and wisdom of your ancestors. This is why it is so important to root our view of beauty in our understanding of our own past and in our ancestor’s ability to triumph over challenges.

Is there anything thing else that you what to share with our audience?

We have recently started our own designer clothing line. Our first fashion show, which will be a mixture of history and fashion and based on the Kikuyu people of Kenya, will be on August 7th, 2021, at the Afrik Impact event at the Levitt Pavilion in Denver. That day, my second black history children’s book, “All Things African: A to Z,” will also be released with a stage reading.

 

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