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Soko Jewelry, Fast Fashion, and Building a Virtual Factory

MIT Sloan > LearningEdge > Strategy > Soko Jewelry, Fast Fashion, and Building a Virtual Factory
Authors
Anna Waldman-Brown and Georgina Campbell Flatter
Abstract
Soko’s “virtual factory” of 2,300 artisanal workshops distributed around Nairobi, Kenya produced brass, horn, and bone jewelry for a discerning global market. The firm combined a mobile platform with state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to match the most qualified artisans with the right production jobs and perform remote quality checks on completed products. The company had grown quickly, increasing the annual income of its artisans by up to five times and helping dozens of people move out of slums. Yet Soko struggled with the variability of its retail market, and cofounder Ella Peinovich wanted to scale up year-round operations to provide sustainable work for all Soko’s artisans. Could Peinovich increase Soko’s sales while maintaining her commitment to quality goods for Soko’s customers and decent jobs for its artisans?
Learning Objective
To generate class discussion on the challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs and startups face when scaling an early-stage success in an emerging market; consider the costs and benefits of saturating current market versus expanding to new markets, and of researching and diversifying a product line vs. pushing it out more widely.
Could be taught in the following course(s)
strategy; leadership; entrepreneurship; emerging markets; international development; manufacturing

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