Africa on Etsy? It's closer than you think.

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation series, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” Last time, Abe Cajudo told us about the glory of being a unicorn. Today, Tim Berry  shares a beautiful story about empowerment through commerce.


Think of this as a before and after story. Before Sasa
Africa, a Kenyan woman villager makes necklaces to supplement her family’s income. She takes them to a local market. Sometimes she sells one.

After Sasa Africa, that same women takes a picture of a necklace with her phone, uploads that and information using her phone to the Sasa Africa site, which puts it on international markets. The system helps her with pricing and shipping, and helps the buyers with standardization and information. If the necklace sells, its maker-designer gets money through her cellphone money account. A life
has changed for the better.

I can’t tell that story nearly as well as Sasa Africa’s two-minute video here:

(If you don’t see it here, click this link
for the YouTube source)

As I write this, Sasa Africa isn’t fully launched yet, but it’s getting closer. A pilot program is working, linking people and goods in Kenyo to buyers in the U.S. The founders are linking up with eBay and Etsy and other craft sites in the U.S. and with a leading mobile phone company and the Central Bank of Kenya. It has offices in Kenya and connections in the U.S. It won cash prizes and investment in from sponsors of the Rice Business Plan Contest, the Women’s Travel Club (WTC) of Boston, and MIT Founder’s Skills Accelerator. It’s management team includes women from MIT and the University of Nairobi, working together.

Watch this one minute summary delivered at Rice by Ella Peinovich, co-founder:

(If you don’t see it here, click this link for the YouTube source.)

I watched her and one of her Kenyan co-founders pitch at the Rice Business Plan Contest last April. I call it courageous women squared because of the multiplication factor, akin to squaring a number, as women from MIT and Kenya team up to build a company that intends to make a life-changing difference to thousands of rural African women.

You can check out its Facebook page. And, better yet, if things go as planned, you’ll be buying goods from Sasa Africa craftswomen at world craft websites in just a few months.

Tim Berry is founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, founder of, and a co-founder of Borland International. He is author of books and software including Business Plan Pro, published by Palo Alto Software, and The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press. His website is at and his main blog is Planning Startups Stories; he also posts on several other blogs including Huffington Post, Amex OPEN Forum, and Industry Word at He is an active investor member of the Willamette Angel Conference.

Get access to our free resource library. It's chock full of planners, worksheets, ebooks, interviews, and more. Get started here.


  1. says

    Women in Africa produce 60-80% of the world’s goods but only earn 10%. It’s so tempting to go into a “It’s so typical rant”, but Sasa’s doing something awesome about it!!! 
    Thank you for sharing the post. Good work to you and Sasa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *