I recently had a chance encounter with Tina Mbachu creator and curator of the lifestyle brand “A Few Good Things”. When I looked up her company and saw the vision and passion she has for conscious consumption and curating artisan luxury; I knew she should be our next interview for our Inspired By series. To find out what inspired Tina to create AFGT keep reading below.
What motivated you to create “A Few Good Things”?
I can’t pinpoint one thing specifically. Artisan products and women’s economic empowerment has always been at the center of my interests and passion, personally and professionally. From a personal perspective, I was born in Cameroon (Where I lived until age 11/12) and was quite close to my grandmother. I would spend most of my free time with her, following her around to all her cultural association meetings, women’s savings groups, women farmers groups/markets and was just surrounded by a lot of these beautiful items. Of course, I didn’t think of artisan craft/design at this young age as a vehicle for encouraging women’s economic empowerment – agriculture was it at the time for me. Over the years throughout my studies in international development, I became more and more interested in products, products that are made from start to finish, with the entire value chain easily traceable, to encourage the idea of ‘degrowth’ – this was the start for me; where I started reflecting on artisan craft/design as a key vehicle for development given its prevalence on the continent. I became passionate about products/designs that carry both cultural and economic values – this primarily also came from my reflection on the development sector; where we encourage mindless consumerism and the continuous dilemma of “low prices” has the invincible effect of keeping producers in poverty. Most recently, I had the opportunity to lead a project in Eswatini (previously Swaziland), a small Kingdom in the middle of South Africa. There I led a project on organizing produce/artisan clusters into producer associations to allow increased ownership of production; allowing them to work with multiple brands and ensure growth and sustainability. That direct linkage was the start of A Few Good Things – where our hope is to curate high quality designs produced by families/artisan cooperatives/designers/and social enterprises based on the continent.
What’s been your most important lesson in creating this business?
The most important lesson so far is being transparent with all stakeholders involved in your business. Clear and honest conversations help move things forward and concretize solid relationships
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of having started – that is usually the hardest step. I always hesitated, asking questions about whether or not I am ready to start a business, or will be able to have the resources to do so. I still don’t have answers to these questions but the act of having started encourages me to continue onward.
Who/What inspires you…(where does your inspiration come from)
My inspiration when it comes to AFGT really comes from diverse African cultures – the histories and stories that are buried in cultrual/material culture that we often neglect. Most of the products we carry are either inspired by (or/are) traditional designs/pieces that they carry. The process of how they are made -purely organic with natural materials – Africa has been at the front line of natural products before they became a trend in our consumerist world – these cultural products are my source of inspiration.
What is your favourite quote?
“Everything floats, even a solid man- a pillar unto itself”- Hafiz
What helped you keep going on days you want to quit?(roadblocks you encountered with the business)
The reason for doing what I do keeps me going – the opportunity to showcase incredible products made in Africa; highlighting the skills and talents of the people behind the product and linking them to a global market.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to create a similar business?
Understand why you are doing it – this is important to keep you going. The market is saturated with artisan brands because for most of them the narrative and products are on trend. Identify your main goal for doing what you are looking to do – this will help you in maintaining your unique/authentic voice.
What’s the one thing you want people to take away from a few good things?
I want people to understand that we are more that an ecommerce store. We are a platform that encourages conscious consumption all the while making the argument that Africa-made goods can be marketable outside of the “charitable narrative” (i.e. buy a basket and help a woman send her kids to school type marketing). It is to say African designs are worthy.
How do you balance a day job and a side hustle?
Aside from AFGT i have other projects that i engage with – and the goal is to run all of them full time. When you do things that you are very much passionate about- it doesn’t feel like work. The extra hours are just hours on working on things you love. I am lucky that I also work in the sector – international development – so shifting from one role to another is not so hard. More practically though, having clearly defined work plans; especially in the context that you report to no one but yourself. Set a clear work plan with weekly goals; 2-3 hours every day after work makes all the difference.
Most importantly, have a day off in the week where you do absolutely nothing – for me these are Sundays.
What do you know for sure? ( Business or life)
You never really know anything for sure – just keep pushing and communicating your visions to those who understand. ___
Thanks to Tina Mbachu for taking the time to share her inspiration and lessons in business.