It Started as a Hobby to Keep Her Daughter Busy, Now this Kenyan Entrepreneur Has a Thriving Jewellery Business
Jecinta Njoki Kimani graduated with a biochemistry degree, but you wouldn’t guess that when you walked into her office. Located in Nairobi, the first thing one notices is the massive display of big, bright “statement” earrings with unique hues and distinctive aesthetics. Some lie on the table, packed and ready to go, while others are being photographed for marketing purposes.
And it is all thanks to the material she came across when looking to keep her daughter occupied during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“When COVID hit the country in 2020, I needed to find ways to entertain my two-year-old toddler. So I went online and looked for polymer clay, as I saw many parents buying it. I knew she would use it to make horses, pigs, and even cars, but that’s when the idea was conceived. I began to wonder if I could sell polymer clay items,” said Kimani.
Polymer clay is different from modelling clay; it’s a synthetic material made from polyvinyl chloride. It is lighter than regular clay, also hardens with heat, is water-resistant, and can be re-moulded repeatedly until baked in a standard oven.
“I did a lot of research on how to make money from home using polymer clay. After purchasing my first batch locally, I worked on a few pieces and realised it wasn’t just it. It failed to give me the quality I wanted and did not look like what I saw online. I decided to buy polymer from Amazon, and my life was never the same after that,” Kimani explained.
Kimani is now the proud founder of Clay Koki, a startup specialising in creating statement earrings made entirely from polymer clay. The collection boasts an extensive range of shapes, sizes, and colours that cater to diverse preferences. These earrings make an exquisite fashion statement and are lightweight, making them comfortable to wear for extended periods.
“Once I receive the polymer clay, I condition it to soften, which makes it easier to work with. After the clay is prepared, I make the sculptures and patterns for the earrings. When finished, I simply bake the clay. I place everything inside a large oven-baking bag and secure it with metal clips. This removes all fumes and prevents any odours inside the oven. I allow it to cool in the bag or outside to obtain a fully hardened earring,” Kimani elaborated.
Clay Koki earrings have been available for more than a year now. Seeing people wear her pieces is one of her proudest achievements. Cahaya, one of her clients who has been a customer since the company’s inception, had a lot to say about her work.
“I adore Clay Koki earrings, especially their lightweight. I have an entire collection for my daughters, too, because the colours are so warm and kid-friendly. They are so cool,” said Cahaya.
Similarly, Samia, another customer, also values the distinctiveness of the earrings.
“They are just perfect. I do not understand how she does it. I wore the set almost immediately after buying them because of how unique they are,” she said.
Every business has its challenges, and Kimani has had her fair share. Since the use of polymer clay is still relatively new in Kenya, Pricing, sourcing raw materials, and marketing have all been difficult.
“Because very few people work with polymer clay, I have to order my items from places like Amazon. This is quite costly. I also have to be very careful with the price because very few people are aware of polymer clay earrings. I do not want it to look like I am overpricing,” said Kimani.
The earrings are priced between KSH 400 and KSH 1000 (US $2–8), with the cost varying based on the size and the time required to produce each piece.
“This is nothing compared to the pricing in other countries, but since it is new in Kenya, I have to be very flexible with pricing,” said Kimani.
Her work has been recognised by several international artists, including Cookies and Charms, a famous Malaysian clay cutter and beat roller.
In her quest to expand her online presence and gain wider visibility, Kimani is embarking on launching new online platforms that will enable her to showcase her products to a larger audience. Additionally, she will use these platforms to share her extensive knowledge and expertise in creating polymer clay earrings and other exquisite items.
“The polymer clay market is expanding, and I’d like to be an inspiration to young people about how they can use their free time productively and even make money from such creative activities. I see my daughter’s interest in it and can’t help but imagine seeing someone else’s daughter or son concentrating on such wonderful art. You never know until you try,” Kimani concluded.