• Sargam Marwah

Yala - Jewellery with Purpose

Updated: Aug 15

Yala creates ethical jewellery that is meant to last. With fair pay and eco-friendly materials, Yala's collections showcase the beautiful designs and craftsmanship of Africa.

  1. Introduction to Yala

  2. Sustainability

  3. Charity Partners

  4. Q and A with Audrey

  5. How can you contribute?


Introduction to Yala


The founder of the brand, Audrey Migot-Adholla, named her company after the town in Kenya where her grandmother lived. Yala is a sustainable, African jewellery brand designed for women, where every purchase directly empowers women of the Maasai tribe.


Audrey's aim with Yala is to showcase the culture and entrepreneurial spirit of Africa, while highlighting the skilled artisans of Kenya.


Yala is working directly with over 150 artisans in Kenya. Each one receives fair wages, a healthy work environment, and recognition for their craft.


On top of being the first jewellery brand to be a Certified B-Corporation in the UK.

Yala was also named the "Jewellery Brand of the Year" due to its conscious and considerate initiatives.



Sustainability with Yala


Yala's brand is based on the incorporation and the promotion of sustainable practices setting a higher bar for the jewellery industry. This means, increased operational transparency, recycled materials, eco-friendly packaging, and efforts to reduce their carbon emissions.


Here are some of their sustainable practices:

  • Using brass instead of gold. Brass is a more feasible and ethical alternative to gold. While gold requires mining, Brass can be recycled from many places (including waste yards) then purified to make jewellery.

  • All of their packaging material is FSC-certified and can be recycled. They use vegetable-based ink for printing their packaging materials.

  • Yala not only denounces child and forced labour, but promotes a fair wage system with the craftsman. In addition, they also provide proper training to the workers for improving education and skills.

  • They are also using services to track shipping emissions and offset their carbon footprint.




Charity Partners


Yala's sustainability-driven mindset and initiatives don't end here. They have also partnered with us to contribute to charitable causes and make an impact.


Marys Meals


Providing school meals to children all across Africa, Asia, and South America promoting education while reducing hunger and poverty for all.


To support this initiative, visit us here





The One Foundation


Working towards providing safe drinking water to everyone across the globe. They reach the rural areas where fresh water scarcity is a major issue.


To support this initiative, visit us here





Q and A with Audrey


How did Yala start?

I started Yala partly as a creative outlet but also as a way to create the type of business I would want to purchase from. As I've gotten older and more informed, I see so many things wrong with the way fashion, retail and business in general operate. Shareholder primacy has contributed to inequality, overproduction, overconsumption, waste and terrible working practices.

Starting "properly" from scratch meant I could put good systems and practices in place and grow into them rather than scrambling to retrofit them later and take time to identify and outsource everything I wasn't good at. I reconnected with friends from school and uni to build a team of freelancers with the skills I needed to launch a business, and where there were gaps in my knowledge, I spent many weekends at LCF doing short courses on things like overseas production and the basics of launching a fashion brand. I even went back to uni to do an MBA to arm myself with the vital business knowledge to increase my chances of success.

Any business is a cycle of surviving from one crisis to the next, particularly when it's self-funded, but I'm very proud of what I've created and the team that helped me to do it. I've made plenty of expensive mistakes along the way, but they were the ones I learned from the most.


As the first B Corp certified jewellery brand in the UK, why is

sustainability so important to you?

With Yala, I wanted to start as I meant to go on, so I applied for certifications like B Corp very early, to give me a blueprint and strong guidelines for the most ethical and sustainable way to do business.


It was a steep learning curve because being a one-person brand, I didn't have any of the documentation or policies required, but it was the perfect opportunity to create them.


Finding production partners was a huge challenge and I encountered many unscrupulous middlemen along the way. Upon realising that most of these business arrangements didn't benefit the artisans at all, I decided to find them on my own and establish a direct working relationship.

My ultimate goal is to grow the business (of course) and generate enough income for the artisans so that they can graduate out of the informal sector and set up registered businesses of their own, who I would continue to work with. In addition, it's an over-used phrase but I really am trying to be the change that I wish to see in the world. We want to make it easier for consumers to make sustainable buying decisions.


Transparency should be the default for every brand, not a special feature. So as small as we are, we hope we can be a living example of a different way to do business; where profit is not the only goal and business success can be shared with all the people in the supply chain who made it possible, not just a small group of shareholders.


There is a clear focus on highlighting the craftsmanship and talent out of Kenya, why is this important to you?

Our brand is built on social values, to improve the lives of others by creating financial opportunities for the skilled artisans who make our products.

We use traditional materials and production techniques with a low carbon footprint. The majority of our pieces are made using recycled brass, glass beads and deadstock leather. Pieces are designed in a modular way so any unsold stock can be un-made and recycled to reduce waste.


These artisans operate from very low-tech workshops in the informal sector in Kenya so it's important to continuously provide context about where and how their products will be displayed in the market and how our production practices feed back into other initiatives like B Corp.

You take the transparency of your supply chain very seriously. How do you ensure that all of your artisans in Kenya are paid a fair wage and have healthy working environments?

I make a huge effort to have direct 1:1 contact with all the artisans we work with, visiting as often as I can. We also have team members in Kenya who visit the workshops regularly. They all have my phone number and direct access to me any time they need me.

The way we pay our artisans is unorthodox - Kenya doesn't have free banking like the UK - the majority of the population is unbanked. Only two of the artisans we work with have a computer or email, but they all have a mobile phone. Kenya has a mobile money payment software called mPesa (pesa means money in Swahili) which works on the most basic of mobiles. Artisans are paid directly by Yala to their mPesa account with no fees, no middlemen and the payment is instant.

Moreover, for every purchase order we issue, we pay 50% deposit and 50% on delivery. This ensures the artisans are never out of pocket during the process of fulfilling purchase orders. The Maasai women we work with keep 75% of the sale price of every item they make (6 x more than the average minimum wage) and previous impact studies have revealed that their earnings have a positive effect on an additional 300 households in the area due to family dependencies.

- Why support Mary's Meals?


Education is a route out of poverty for so many and doing your best at school means having the right energy and nutrition to do so. This project really resonated with me because they are giving children in school the best chance to do well and potentially change the trajectory of their lives. Kids should never go hungry.

- Why support the One Foundation?

Most of us in the "developed" world take clean water for granted. Some are even fussy enough to buy their water because they prefer the taste to that which comes out of the tap. Access to clean drinking water should not be a privilege, it should be a basic human right. Having known people in communities in Kenya where clean drinking water is scarce, this project meant a lot to me too.

- Any recommendations for jewellers looking to be more sustainable?

I appreciate that I am very privileged to have the ability to know all the people in my supply chain and travel to Kenya to meet with them. However, I don't think that Yala's business model is unique and I hope that what I'm doing and the way I'm doing it would inspire others to make positive, impactful changes in their own businesses as well.


I would advise other jewellery businesses to consider their packaging to eliminate plastic, their raw materials and also the end-of-life planning for their products so that nothing ends up in landfill. There's really no excuse anymore for companies that don't put in the extra effort to change everything they can to limit the impact their products have on the planet



 


How can you contribute?


For Shoppers


If you would like to support Yala and the artisan's creators in Kenya you can do so directly through the Yala online store.


Or if you would like to reach out you can do so through their Instagram page or directly at hello@yalajewellery.com.


For Brands


If you are a retailer and wish to make a positive impact and give to the environment and society, write to us at support@virtueimpact.com or integrate Virtue App with your store on Shopify.


This is a truly amazing and authentic way to learn about giving and make it a part of your business or brand.


For Charities

If you are a charity and would like to fundraise through retail businesses and brands, then write to us at support@virtueimpact.com.


Keep giving, keep growing!