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Rising star of Samburu bead work

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Ntushukwa Lekerpees, an IT graduate, turns traditional Samburu style into a thriving business

Ms Ntushukwa Lekerpees, 21, sits under a shed beside a small storehouse in Maralal town. She chats and laughs with her customers, as she sews beads onto leather bracelets and wire ornaments. Donned in beaded jewellery and dressed in colourful Samburu regalia, young Ntushukwa says she started this business after clearing college last year.

“I joined Laikipia University in 2014 to study Information Technology,” she says, “but after completing my studies it was difficult for me to get a job, so I decided to try my hands in beads business, the skill I obtained from my mum.”

In Samburu County the creativity of making beads is a big business. People just love the beauty of beads. Most men and women buy pounds of beads and ring them gracefully around their necks. They also love carefully bent tin bracelets and anklets with flashes of silver, and a wrap of cloth tied at the shoulder.

There are many variations in colour and patterns of beadwork that have made her Namnyak Fashion House the go-to place for locals and tourists. But she says the business is good when foreign tourists visit Samburu.  “Whenever tourists visit Maralal I sell more since they purchase the beads and other traditional ornaments in large quantities. They also love and admire our culture,” she says.

When she noticed that her bead work business is expanding, she enrolled for a short Creative and Design course at a local college. Here she acquired important skills that have helped her to make more creative stuff like African design bags, beaded shirts, shoes and dresses.

Ntushukwa Lekerpess, 21, at work at her workshop.
Ntushukwa Lekerpess, 21, at work at her workshop.

“Other than bead work I am also doing branding and advertising. I started branding t-shirts, caps, mugs, plates, umbrellas large format printing for banners and with my IT background I also ventured into web design and hosting,” she says.

Ntushukwa started off her business with Ksh2,000 but with immense sacrifice, discipline and determination she says she has managed to go places and now planning to export her beads to foreign markets.  She sells her beads for between Ksh400 and Ksh3,500 depending on the size and what her customers like.

“A beaded bangle goes for Ksh400 but I noticed many customers like when you put their names on the bangles. They also like bangles in Kenyan flag colours. Women love dresses designed with beads and men love beaded shirts and rungus,” she says.

However, there are a few challenges. During times of drought, tourists keep off Samburu. Her local customers who are mostly pastoralists take their livestock to distance places to search for water and pasture, thus cutting down on sales.

“I urge, the Samburu County Government to help us market our beads outside Samburu and also outside Kenya,” says Ntushukwa. “If we get support for our work, poverty will reduce and the future of Samburu children will be bright.”


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BT Reporter
BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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