Ke'lib Workshop - Authentic & Beautiful Hand-made Products


Loline Mag sat down with the founder of Ke'lib Workshop, Fikir Mesfin. This young entrepreneur has shared her journey of modeling a business from passion. Keep tight and be inspired.

Ke’lib is an Amharic word meaning ‘from the heart’. You can see that authenticity in the beautiful hand-made products, crochet shoes, and artworks made by Ke’lib, which signifies that they are indeed from the heart. Even though they are just looming into the market, people are loving the passion they put into their work.

Just a hobby

Fikir was always into crafting, making, and fixing different items. The journey began while looking for a present for a neighborhood friend who had recently become a mother. After considering all the basic options, she decided to crochet a shoe for the newborn. She succeeded in delighting her neighbor with her present. News traveled fast through the community, and people began asking her to make the shoe for them. In her second year, 2016, she began making a name for her craft. She pursued it further when she saw that she was actually making money out of her hobby.

The young designer picked up her crocheting skills from her mom and developed them through formal education. She studied Industrial design at Addis Ababa University, which she says helped sharpen her skills. She explained that the excitement of her job keeps her going. Had it been only for making a living, it would have been tenuous.

The making of Ke’lib

“I want to show how something that is done with all one’s heart makes sense and is beautiful.”

When Fikir graduated, she had made up her mind to be self-employed. Together with a friend, they went around doing wall painting for coffee shops and other places. They later joined to start making the crocheted shoe. After a while, Fikir took over the project and built it into the business it is today. Fikir has labored to make her workshop a place where Ethiopian traditional craft is made to suit the times.

Ke’lib is, of course, making money out of passion. Fikir admits to believing that she was not made for business. That all has changed now that she considers her business as raising a child to be independent. Ke’lib is thriving as a feasible creative venture.

The tough road

Generally, we all know good things are not easy to come by. Launching Ke’lib and sustaining it was just as cumbersome. Fikir explained that people usually fail to take her seriously and consider her work a hobby. Finding the materials needed became another hardship to get things going at Ke’lib. As a thriving business with expenses and salaries to pay, finances were Ke’lib’s additional challenge. She described that to be a struggle to continue till defined financial bars are passed.

Ke’lib now

There are over seven types of women's and men's shoes made and sold by Ke’lib. The workshop also offers custom designs. They also make art pieces of various kinds. With up to eighty shoes made monthly, the creative hub is growing. Their price range swings between 1300 ETB and 1700 ETB, with custom-made costing 2000 and more. The plan is to scale up current productions and diversify into rugs and other hand-made goods.

Ke’lib under pressure   

Ke’lib is one of a kind. Some people tend to compare it with local shoe brands, but the founder is absolutely against this. She believes in the uniqueness of her craft and the authenticity of the process. She feels under pressure to fill the demand in the market. Ke’lib can only accommodate those who do it with love and great anticipation to see the end product.

Word of mouth and leads from Instagram bring in most of Ke’lib’s customers. Opportunities to participate in trade fairs and bazaars have also brought forth exposure for the business. Recently, she has devised a way of putting her products in different spots without having to open her own shop. Fikir added that she has learned the export market is a huge potential for her products. She is committed to climbing up to the heights.

Ke’lib in the coming times

“Ke’lib is a concept I want people to make dear to themselves.”

Ke’lib is an open space for enthusiasts eager to learn. Fikir told us the plan is to make Ke’lib a center for people to engage in creativity. She aspires to guide and support those enthusiasts in the process. An experience as an occupational therapist at a rehabilitation center has taught Fikir that crocheting can also be therapeutic. She is confident the craft teaches a different lifestyle and is immense in its potential.

Lessons in running a business

Ke’lib, Ke’lib has taught Fikir so much from utilizing a simple skill to being an entrepreneur. The young entrepreneur spoke against overthinking things as it blocks progress. She explains that the secret is in starting, and things will tend to unfold as it goes. Being present despite her moods was another huge lesson in running a business. She proclaims that building communication and learning to sell oneself is the key to success.

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