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Interview with Anselm  

Anselm on his Artistry, Community and Continued Partnership with One Bead
Interview moderated by One Bead Founder Sara Wroblewski, June 23, 2016

*this interview has been edited and condensed

SW: How did you become interested in glassblowing? 

AC: By accident, really. My family came from an artistic background. My mom worked in stained glass and I had a basic business degree so I started helping her. When I took a one-week glass blowing course, I was captivated by the material. It was magic and alluring but also challenging and irritating. I fell into it and there was no looking back. I did not have a plan, but knew in my heart that something could come of it. After the one-week course, I went to Holland for 3 months to visit a glassblowing studio. I started out making coffee and sweeping the floor, while watching and absorbing the entire environment. When I came back, I decided this was what I was going to do. 

SW: How did Kitengela Hot Glass come to be? 

AC: I was 22 when I started building up my company. It was complicated, but I had great connections with people who had already started glassblowing studios of their own. Together, we built my first furnace. We began by making basic items and sold them to friends and people who believed in the concept of a new craft. Incrementally, we started building up our skill base – the more practice we had, the better we became, and our company grew.

SW: Why recycled and organic glass? Why is everything you create unique?

AC: Recycled was a no brainer for a number of reasons. All glass can be melted and melted over again. Once it is glass, it is relatively indestructible – it can sit in a landfill for decades, then be 'mined' and melted down again. Recycling is a way to preserve our planet and was the sensible thing to do. It's also much less expensive in fuel and cheaper than buying the raw material to make glass.  

The uniqueness of our glass comes from the way we make it. There were so many different steps and molds; glass factories make millions of items a day. But we do everything by hand, which is difficult and time consuming. We rarely use molds, so everything we make is unique. We allow the material itself to dictate the shapes and sizes of what we create. Our glass is designed to be very strong. We can’t work as fast as a machine, but we make a thicker, stronger product which shows the hand of the artisan in every piece. 

SW: What are you doing to impact your local community?

AC: We support many noble causes, including the Mount Kenya Trust, the orphans at Teule Childrens Home Loitokitok, Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, Elima Junior Academy, Oloosirkon Secondary School, where we supported tree planting and the Oloosirkon Football Club, for which we purchased new uniforms. On a regular basis, we supply milk and pay for music and martial arts lessons for the Homeless of Nairobi organization.

Recently, I have been reaching out to people from the Don Bosco Community, a theological based school that takes in orphans and trains them to specialize in different fields. I also hire local men who need extra work, which is beneficial for both of us.

We were just awarded Fair Trade status from the World Fair Trade Organization, which is really powerful. It means we pay close attention to our employee’s satisfaction and ability to provide for their families. Each of our 35 employees supports between three and seven people, so around 300 people are benefiting from their employment. 

SW: As you know, One Bead shares your business model of pursuing a passion and giving back to your community. Why is this business model so important to you?

AC:  It is all about the whole community. Looking at how we grew, it was in a slow way, through a network of clients in our community. It all began with friends, family members and neighbors. Through them, I made more connections and was able to spread our business to the larger community of Nairobi and then Kenya-wide. I believe it’s very important to sell locally. As a marketing tool, world of mouth was the most powerful way of building strong relationships. I have built a lot of loyalty with my customers, and love hearing of their positive experiences. 

Then the giving back comes. I realized I can help my own employees and use that success to help the community. It’s the people around us who matter most.


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