Baylor Students Create Handbag Company to Help Women in AfricaDec. 11, 2013
By Giselle Villalpando
Three Baylor students have launched a handbag company to empower women in Africa trapped by poverty and prostitution.
Jeffrey Sholden, Meredith Noles and Christen Batson created Kith + Kin, a company that produces high-quality, luxury, leather handbags to provide African women with a skill set and a job to improve their quality of life.
Poverty is overwhelming in Africa, causing many women to turn to prostitution to care for themselves and their families.
The seven African women working with the company are locally trained to work with leather to create the bags.
The three students are enrolled in the Accelerated Ventures class offered at Hankamer School of Business. The class requires the creation of a functioning business model.
Kith + Kin's desire to affect change among African women and the fashion industry could be incorporated into their business and the classroom.
"We met through Accelerated Ventures," Noles said. "We noticed that Jeffrey is really passionate about Africa, I'm passionate about design and Christen is passionate about relationships," Noles said. "We combined all of those strengths."
Sholden has experience working in Africa and visited Rwanda with Baylor professors for the Social Entrepreneurship in Africa program.
Sholden said the Hankamer School of Business provided Kith + Kin with the necessary resources to pursue this endeavor.
"I think the Entrepreneurship Program, specifically the Accelerated Ventures program, has provided us with a lot of valuable and key resources that have helped us along the way," Sholden said.
The name Kith + Kin derives from the word kinfolk and describes the mission of the company. Kinfolk means relative or kindred.
"Kith and kin are two words that come from the root word kinfolk, which means 'body of people or community'," Batson said. "We see our company as combining two bodies of people together toward one vision and forming a community."
The group chose handbags because they are a useful product that can be worn everyday.
"Handbags are a practical item, and they can also be luxurious," Noles said. "Not only is it a great product, but the women (who craft the bags) are taught many different skill sets that really impact them."
Noles shared some of the company's goals.
"We're interested in affecting two communities; the fashion industry that's really cutthroat and these developing nations," Noles said.
Kith + Kin plans to meet its goals by proving that a fashionable, high-quality product can be produced in a developing nation.
Kith + Kin is offering a friends and family discount to the Baylor community until Christmas day. If interested in purchasing a bag, please visit kithkinandco.com and enter code "friends" at checkout for a $175 discount.