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The First Chapter: A Journey from Coffee Chats to Sustainable Homewares


Chapter 1: The Birth of an Idea

In the bustling heart of Kampala, Uganda, lies a vibrant food market where the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the sights and sounds of local artisans. It was amidst the lively atmosphere of this market that Lesley Magnay, the founder of Ankole, embarked on a journey that would transform a chance conversation into a thriving business venture.

The year was 2011, and Lesley, accompanied by her husband, engaged in their customary Friday coffee ritual. Little did they know that this particular day would plant the seeds of a sustainable business. A casual conversation with a local artisan intrigued by working with sustainable materials sparked Lesley's curiosity.

The vast Ankole cows, grazing and herded along the roadsides, had long been a familiar sight for Lesley. However, what about the often-overlooked byproduct of these majestic animals? The horns, usually discarded and burnt as waste, caught Lesley's attention. Could these horns, she wondered, be a valuable and sustainable resource waiting to be repurposed? 

In 2012, fuelled by a vision of sustainability and a commitment to local craftsmanship, Lesley Magnay founded East African Trading, later rebranded as Ankole. What began as a modest collection of bowls and jewellery made from recycled Ankole cow horns soon blossomed into a diverse range of exquisite homewares.

Over the past decade, Ankole has evolved into more than just a business; it has become a symbol of responsible entrepreneurship and community collaboration. Lesley's commitment to sustainability extends beyond the products themselves – it encompasses a network of local, family-run businesses, all situated within a mile of her family home in Kampala.

Today, Ankole stands as a testament to the power of an idea sparked during a casual coffee chat. Lesley's journey from envisioning the potential of discarded materials to establishing a flourishing enterprise showcases the transformative impact of sustainable business practices and community engagement. As we delve deeper into the chapters that follow, we'll uncover the milestones, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped Ankole into the thriving venture it is today.