(CNN) — Teta Isibo had always had a flair for design but she didn’t realize she could make a career out of it until the time she asked an artisan to craft a pair of earrings she’d drawn.
“My friends all loved them,” recalls the Rwandan designer. “So friends started placing orders, and then friends of friends — so it’s gradually evolved through the years from a hobby to an actual full time business.”
That business is Inzuki Designs, the startup Isibo launched in 2010 after deciding to quit her land management job to embark on her entrepreneurial journey. Fusing traditional craftsmanship with contemporary bold designs, the Africa-inspired fashion brand quickly had people buzzing.
Teta Isibo, Inzuki Designs founder
“Inzuki means bees,” says Isibo, explaining the inspiration behind the company’s name. “It’s an attitude, like a sweet but fierce attitude; the way bees give honey so they have that sweet aspect, but then you can’t really mess with them because they would sting you.”
What started with one pair of earrings has now become a growing business that specializes in handmade jewelry, accessories and interior décor. Its colorful and vibrant products are made with local raw materials by various cooperatives in and around the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
“Rwanda has so much potential in terms of the traditional craftsmanship skills, in terms of the raw materials you can find here,” says the young entrepreneur, “but I felt that we weren’t really living up to that potential.
“Everything you’d find on the market was …very touristy stuff and I wanted to create something that Rwandans as well would love to wear, [something they] would love to say ‘this was made in Rwanda.'”