Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace features RoHo Goods
Another pop-up shop made its debut at the Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace, this time bringing a slice of Africa to Santa Barbara.
RoHo Goods partners with talented artisan groups all across Kenya who create intricate, colorful products such as beaded leather sandals, cowhide bags, African beaded jewelry, Binga baskets, reusable gift bags made out of African fabrics, keychains, coin purses and more.
While each product is unique and handmade, there’s more to RoHo than the material things.
RoHo staff is currently working with 400 Kenyan artisans, 95% of which are women, and they ensure fair pay for the work the artisans do and send their children to quality schools in the area.
The idea for RoHo was a result of Caleigh Hernandez falling in love with a pair of sandals.
She moved to East Africa after college and worked for several nonprofits in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
“I was ready to move back to the states, but I saw that there were really beautiful products coming out of this area that needed a little bit of tweaking quality control wise and color adjustments in order to make them more feasible for a Western market,” RoHo Founder and CEO Ms. Hernandez told the News-Press. “Then I realized these people weren’t getting paid particularly well for the work they were doing.
“So, it’s our commitment to support our artisans in that way and ensure they’re receiving what they deserve.”
Ms. Hernandez and her team provided the artisans a 50% increase in wages above industry standard, and continue to provide scholarships for their children.
This is RoHo’s fourth year at the Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace, and Ms. Hernandez said it’s their favorite event every year. However, COVID-19 threw a wrench into business.
“It’s been an incredibly tough year for small business, that’s for sure,” the founder said. “We had to get pretty creative because a number of our products were not able to get shipped from Kenya when Kenya initially closed its borders, which meant that a lot of our artisans were food insecure.”
Approximately 1,500 Kenyans were food insecure as a result of COVID-19, so RoHo had to brainstorm ways to help without any products to sell. Luckily, the demand for handmade, stylish face masks got higher and higher by the day.
Ms. Hernandez and her team hand sewed thousands of masks here in the U.S. and sold them for $15 a piece, with profits supporting the artisans. They successfully kept those same 1,500 Kenyans food secure for nearly four months in the worst of the pandemic.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History purchased well over 100 of the handmade masks as well and sold them to its customers.
“We’re just grateful to have this continued partnership,” Ms. Hernandez said. “It was amazing we were able to support each other.”
Now, RoHo can get things shipped again and business is picking back up for the holidays. The pop-up will be open through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the museum’s courtyard.
Customers can also browse the collection online and order from there, at rohogoods.com.
According to RoHo’s mission, customers who buy its products are making a social impact, empowering women and advancing education, rather than simply buying a beaded necklace or a pair of shoes.
“Our customers are people who understand all our products are handmade, they’re unique, and they see that as a benefit,” Ms. Hernandez said. “We have a book of all our different artisan groups, because we really want you to see and know the faces behind our products.
“It just makes Kenya seem a little closer.”