Kasandy is a fair trade store where you can find products made by artisans in Kenya and East Africa. We had a great talk with Jackee Kasandy, Founder and CEO, to learn more about their story.
What is your business called and what does it do?
Our Business is called Kasandy. We are a fair trade store, where customers can buy handmade products made by artisans in Kenya and East Africa, as well as local artisans and other groups from around the world.
At Kasandy, we are aligning handmade talent from East Africa with global fashion consumers. We work closely with artisan entrepreneurs to improve, introduce or advance their product design and quality to meet the current market trends, build their businesses, and sustainably increase their income.
What made you want to do this work?
I am African Canadian, originally from Kenya, where my entire family lives. I miss the food and laughter, and I’m passionate about the creativity and artisanry found in Africa and in my city of Vancouver.
My background includes working in the corporate world for almost 18 years, a career that took me from wildlife and people conservation earlier in my career, to the big, wonderful, fast, and crazy world of advertising and branding. I learned so much about products, brands, and us as customers. As I advanced through the corporate ladder, becoming ever more knowledgeable of the business, I kept in the back of my mind a long-time dream of becoming an entrepreneur, following in my mother and grandma’s footsteps. In the process of creating a bigger and bigger network, I realized something; I loved fashion, dressing up for work and events, advising on looks, and was always the one everyone will comment on an outfit I’m wearing. What I never anticipated was that my idea of style – modern, trendy, infused with hints of Africa, largely on the handmade side of African accessories, would be interesting to people I encountered.
It started with friends and colleagues;
“hey, I love your earrings! Can I have them?”,
“I LOVED that purple purse, where did you get it? Can you get me one please?”
“OMG your shoes! I want them!”
“Is that African art on your scarf? I’d really love one!”
Pretty soon, whenever I’d visit family in Kenya, I’d come back with items for me, and a few weeks/months later, they’d be gone, hijacked or “borrowed” by friends. It became clear there was something special here, and so Kasandy was born as a business.
What problem did you want to solve with the business?
We provide a platform for underemployed artists to share their work: beautiful, high-quality, design-led, ethically produced, and environmentally friendly one-of-a-kind products to the global marketplace. We believe that buying small, supporting one another, and creating opportunities empower people, their art, and their communities.
My pride and joy are to introduce you, my online (and offline) friends and customers, to the wonderful products made by Kenyan and East African artisans, to connect their stories to yours, and your story with mine and together make a difference while looking good.
We are proud to provide our customers with one-of-a-kind handmade, ethical goods at accessible prices.
Our products are more than beautiful or unique – they give back.
At Kasandy and our physical store Locally Global, I tell our customers that we believe the best aid that can be given is that of opportunity.
How does your business make money? How does it work?
I travel to meet and cultivate artisan groups directly. Quality is the most important thing: inspecting working conditions and making sure I as a business and the artisans I work with adhere to fair trade standards. I collaborate with creators on design, keeping an eye on current market trends, and the artisans charge me a fair price for the products produced. Artists also introduce me to new ideas and materials, which is one of my favourite parts of my job. I then buy and ship the products here for the store.
In the shop, beyond LG/Kasandy products, I personally decide the items and brands that will be in the store from other vendors. They have to meet fair trade standards, be unique and interesting, with a measurable positive impact on the artisan groups or communities. We need to know the craftspeople and tell their stories while maintaining a focus on recycled, up-cycled, or ethically sourced materials. Most importantly, everything we stock has to be practical and cool. Things we’d want to get for our closest friends and family.
Where in the city can we find your profession?
Our retail store is located on Granville Island | 1660 Duranleau Street. Vancouver, BC
What is the best question a prospective customer could ask a member of your profession when comparing services? Give the answer as well.
Q: How does fair trade work?
A: This means we buy directly from the makers, at fair prices that they set themselves and we ensure our artisan groups and we as a business adhere to fair trade principles.
What is the best part about what you do? What is the worst part?
The best part, designing, curating, and introducing awesome products to our customers. The worst part is Covid and how much it set all of us back!
What is your favourite joke about your own profession?
What do all retailers look like during the holiday season?
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is another local business that you love?
Multiple: Batiqua.com, Vasterapp.com, South Central Greens.