Who we are
Why dolls? The story behind the story.
Three months after my son was born, I realized that he did not have a teddy bear or a comfort toy. I took one of the teddy bears that my older daughter had received as a gift during her first birthday and placed it in his cot. Through me, Teddie would sing and speak to my son and have all manner of conversation. More than 12 years on, Teddie is a huge part of our family; grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends included. He provides comfort to my son in a way that I don’t understand and he has refused to let him go. He has been stitched and re-stitched, and is practically hanging on for dear life, but the love relationship between the two is still as strong as ever.
With crochet skills acquired from my stay in South Africa, I knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do; to create other ‘Teddies’ for children, but ‘Teddies’ that would mean more than just a Teddy. ‘Teddies’ that would speak into the lives of children, and that is how Rafiki Toys by Umba Creations was born.
I started off in South Africa, and once again just when I had found myself, partnered with another like-minded person and things were really looking up, guess what struck again? My husband’s job! We were relocating back home to Kenya. I was devastated and angry. Why now?
2.5 years into the business, I look back and I am super grateful that things happened the way they did. The relocation to South Africa took me on a discovery journey. I believe it was a move not for my husband’s job but for me to find me. The relocation back home has taken the journey onto a new level. I am doing things that I would never have envisioned had we still been in South Africa.
There are many times I want to throw in the towel and say I am done. When I go through such days, I allow myself some downtime, remember my WHY, and keep going.
To those out there going through a transition, embrace the season. Something better and more fulfilling awaits you. You may not see it that way now, but with time one looks back and is grateful that things happened the way they did.
Never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself doing what I am doing today. Had someone told me a few years ago that I would be making children’s toys and products, I’d have told them that they were out of their minds and mine as well.
My transition story began in 2012. I had worked in the corporate world for various multinationals for over 15 years, with my last role being at software company Oracle, where I headed up Marketing activities for East and West Africa. I had been at Oracle for 8.5 years. Towards the end of 2012, a lot of exciting things were happening in the Africa space and I was looking forward to rolling out various initiatives that we had planned.
My husband’s job however did not have ‘my exciting Africa marketing plans’ in mind when they told him that he needed to relocate to South Africa. At first, I was not happy (to put it mildly), but my mood changed for the better when my managers said they would look into how I could carry on with my role out of South Africa. A few months into the move, I was devastated because I was not able to secure the necessary approvals to carry on with my role whilst based out of South Africa. I had to resign. I was upset because my hard work over the years had just started to pay off and my career in the marketing space was finally taking off. I remember my VP of Marketing at the time telling me not to be in a rush to go back into the corporate world, but to use the time off to exhale and discover myself. I heeded his advice and did exactly that. I went on a creative explorational journey.
My background is in interior and product design – that’s what I studied in University. I started my design career in Nairobi at the Evelyn College of design after which I proceeded on to the UK for further studies. When I completed my design degree, I came back home, tried securing work in the interior design space but I was unsuccessful as I had no prior work experience. My father had given me a grace period of 6 months to get on my feet; he would support me financially during this period after which, in his own words “he would cut off all funds”. I was under pressure to get something before the grace period lapsed. (I look back and I am more than grateful for the ‘tough’ love.)
Since nothing in the design space was forthcoming, I took what I could find, and that is how I found myself in the marketing space. However, throughout my time in corporate, my creative side was always nudging at me. I was always trying to create or make something in my free time.
My resignation from Oracle set me off on a journey of finding me. I found me in crochet.