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2019 Accelerator Participant Khokho Gets a Production Hand from Stephanie Shen, VP of Sourcing at BCI Brands/Vince Camuto

Stephanie Shen, VP of Sourcing at Global Brands Group, recently returned from a fellowship in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), working alongside 2019 Artisan Accelerator participant, Khokho, to improve production planning, scheduling, and record keeping. Immediately upon arriving in Eswatini, Stephanie was struck by the warmth and hospitality of Khokho’s all-female weaving workforce who often split their time between hand weaving the brand’s covetable luxury handbags and caring for the many children in the community who have lost parents from AIDs or HIV.

Stephanie began by learning about the carefully approached craft. Having a background in mass factory-based production, she was impressed by the amount of time it took to create just one body of a bag. But far from finding the experience laborious, Stephanie called it “refreshing.”

“We outlined the entire process from receipt of orders to delivery,” recounts Stephanie. “We reviewed each step of production and analyzed whether it could be more efficient, where improvements could be made, and how to go about implementing these changes.”

Stephanie helped Khokho to document all orders on a whiteboard that already hung in the workshop. On yet another board, she set up a weekly production schedule visible to all artisans as they worked. While each technician was tasked with individual weekly goals, Stephanie emphasized a teamwork mentality focused on meeting collective group goals, as well.

Stephanie and Khokho’s team, led by Philippa Thorne, were excited to see some of the changes prove immediately useful. Together, Stephanie and Philippa made easy reference documents for a global time and action calendar and a chart to capture the product and shipping requirements for all customers.

Stephanie and Philippa worked together to analyze past shipping behaviors so as to arrive at an average monthly capacity for weaving activities and other production (like leatherwork) happening within the workshop. They then layered in current orders to determine at what point Khokho would need to secure new orders, filling potential production gaps to keep everyone working consistently.

Stephanie reflects that her experience was an immersion in real transparency and sustainability. She says: “these were not just buzz words being thrown around in a meeting.  Sustainability is a real practice for the KhoKho group – the brand is fundamentally built on it.”