Ubuntu Made X Zazzle
Jeff Beaver Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer “Zane and I met eight years ago — his heartfelt charisma and unbridled belief in his organization’s mission were contagious. He told me about these moms in Kenya who all had children with various mental and physical disabilities. It was heartbreaking to hear that they were outcast from their communities due to spiritual tribal beliefs, and were struggling to survive and provide for their children. But perhaps more significantly, Zane affirmed that charity was not the answer. What these moms needed wasn’t money, handouts, or even pity. What they really needed was opportunity. A chance to lift themselves and become independent on their own. He and his small team at the time were teaching them how to sew, and creating simple but beautiful products that they could then sell to the Western world. That was the moment I knew Zazzle could help! Our partnership was then forged to leverage Zazzle as a platform for the moms’ creations. We are so incredibly grateful for this partnership with Ubuntu, and the opportunity to collaborate with these courageous moms, and their wonderful children.”
After Jeff’s first visit to Kenya in 2014, he returned to Zazzle with powerful transformation stories he had seen firsthand. By teaching these women to sew and sell simple, beautiful products, the Ubuntu team had empowered them to become entrepreneurs, transforming their lives from social outcasts to revered members of the community. These skills change the womens’ ability to provide for themselves and their families; some were even able to purchase their own home. Most importantly, all were providing the required care and schooling for their kids with special needs. “That trip was the adventure of a lifetime, but also a huge surprise. Probably due to typical African imagery portrayed in the media, I was prepared to exclusively experience sadness and despair, but was instead met with the most joyous, empowered and ambitious group of people I have ever met. The relentless positivity of the moms, the growth of their kids due to proper care, and the love pervading the Ubuntu organization is totally beyond words.” This life affirming experience was the catalyst for the first Zazzle Heart collection — created in partnership with Ubuntu to provide a platform for change.
In early 2016, to further the partnership, a larger Zazzle Heart team traveled to Kenya to create an entirely new collection. This time around, the goal was to take the products to a new level of quality with leathers and more sophisticated sewing techniques, all centered around the theme of “Adventure” and reflecting the vast landscape of the Rift Valley in Kenya. The Zazzle Heart team trekked hundreds of miles across Africa, from meeting with suppliers of raw materials to collaborating with the leather workers to connecting with everyone involved in the Ubuntu organization. Especially in Maai Mahiu, the team was inspired by the dramatic impact that Ubuntu was creating in the community. In addition to experiencing the many vibrant cultures on the journey, the team had lots to accomplish — from iterating and detailing the specifications of every cut of leather, to innovating a branded mark containing Maasai beadwork, which hails from an incredibly remote part of Kenya where the Maasai women bead under acacia trees as a small community. This journey fundamentally altered the course of the collection and resulted in a level of quality and uniqueness that the world has never seen.
The Adventure Collection is inspired by the vast expanse of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Every product detail reflects the land in which it was made and the people who made it. The light tan leathers reflect the scorched earth, the green canvas evokes the adventure of safari, and the angular stitches emulate the “rifts” of the intra-continental ridge system that spans Kenya from north to south. Finally, the beaded mark signifies the Maasai who are sprinkled across the region, and whose colorful adornments highlight the landscape. The beauty of the region is beyond words, and we went to great lengths to ensure the products do it justice.
From handmade products in Africa + the latest customization technologies in Silicon Valley + all fully customizable by designers and customers, this collaboration is a first in the history of commerce. Ultimately, Zazzle is a technology company. We pride ourselves on engineering unique solutions to make customizing anything possible. For this collection, we invented a laser etching decorating process that is currently only available for these products. It enables you, the customer, to customize and therefore also be a part of the product collaboration — from Africa to Silicon Valley to You! Not only are these products produced at the highest quality, they are creating opportunity for makers on the other side of the world, enabling stateside artists and designers to emblazon them with unique artworks and content, and inviting customers to make their personal mark through customization. This is truly a revolution in the making