The annual Christmas Global Gift Fair is happening this weekend at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church on Santa Cruz Avenue. Opening hours are 9:00 am to 8:00 pm on Saturday (11/12) and 9:00 am to 3:00 on Sunday. Textiles, ceramics, jewelry, baskets, and other handcrafted items from developing countries around the world are for sale in partnership with Heavenly Treasures, a fair trade micro enterprise network.
Our visit this morning focused on the products from Kenya. Kigen Teimuge, Director of Operations for Heavenly Treasures Kenya, told us about the numerous workshops located in various slums that employ dozens of people. One, run by a former gang member named John, recycles soda cans into fanciful metallic animals, work that positively impacts about 100 families in his area.
One Kenyan artisan, Abel Green (pictured top, at work near Kenya display), accompanied Kigen to the U.S. this year. “My workshop employs 40 people in a slum outside Nairobi,” he explained. “We use aluminum wire and recycled materials to make our products.”
Local venture capitalist Elton Sherwin was one of the many volunteers on hand to assist shoppers. “What’s great about the Heavenly Treasures organization is that it pays the workers up front,” he said. “That’s what’s allowed these businesses to take off. Over the years, I’ve watched the range of products grow.
“Everything is tagged and tracked, so they know exactly the quantity of supplies to order for each small enterprise. It’s very entrepreneurial. The start up businesses are equipped with the tools they need to be successful in creating their products, and Heavenly Treasure provides the avenue to bring the products to market. That’s the success formula.”
Footnote: When InMenlo interviewed Elton in April, 2010, he had just written Addicted to Energy. Today he told us that book’s release prompted renewed interest in his first book The Silicon Valley Way. Both are available on his website.