Mountain Kingdom Bowties founder, Edward was sent to Lesotho as a Peace Corp Volunteer. Edward was supposed to be planning community oriented activities with local organizations, but due to some conflict in the community this was a challenge. While he was there he observed a need for jobs and witnessed the toll AIDS was taking on the community. He saw an opportunity for change and wanted to teach these individuals a skill that would allow them to create an income. Reflecting back on his journey Edward stated, “My whole inspiration was because somewhere between 30-40% of the rural population is HIV positive. I’ve been trying to put together an idea of social enterprise to bring awareness to this."
Edward began by teaching his host brother, Katleho how to sew bowties from the local textile, Shoeshoe. Shoeshoe has historic value to Lesotho making Edward's products incredibly unique. "In the 1840s, French missionaries ventured into the Mountain Kingdom. They brought with them an indigo cotton textile and presented it to King Moshoeshoe. He loved the fabric so much that he popularized it throughout the kingdom and throughout Sotho cultures across Sub Saharan Africa. The fabric is named in his honor" (Mountain Kingdom Bowties).
Since teaching his host brother, Edward has expanded Mountain Kingdom Bowties into six countries, training over 150 individuals. Some of the communities have sewing centers where they are able to come and work together. However, others take the skills they have learned and work from home. Employees are paid a fair wage and bowties are exported to be sold in America.
I had the pleasure of meeting this inspiring entrepreneur at one of his vendor fairs in Seattle. I'm impressed by his drive. You can tell he loves what he is doing. The journey hasn't exactly been a walk in the park for Edward with conflict between villages and leaders, he has experienced some bumps in the road. Reflecting on the challenges Edward has faced he stated, “When you live in a culture of extreme poverty you can never anticipate what someone will be upset about.” These conflicts have pushed Edward to grow his business and be able to provide opportunities for more people living in South Africa. Edwards passion drives him to succeed.
Since first beginning, Mountain Kingdom Bowties has expanded their product line to include bowties, ties, and pocket tees. They also do custom orders for weddings and special events which is AWESOME!
My absolute favorite product from Mountain Kingdom Bowties is the Reversible Bowtie. First of all, it is so fun! The perfect accessory for anyone AND this product has an incredible story behind it. One of the first groups Edward trained was a group of elderly women. The elderly women couldn't see all that well. One of the ladies accidentally sewed two different pieces of fabric together, but they found out this mistake could be an incredible opportunity. They continue to make the double sided bowties which became one of their best sellers.
Use the code HONEST15 to receive 15% off of your order from Mountain Kingdom Bowties!