Rooted in Strength and Sustainability
Mulenga Udie Soko is the founder of My Saucy Spoon and Saucy Mukosa, the latter is an ethical and sustainable interior and furniture design company.
She speaks animatedly about the birth of her business, sharing, “The saucy brands began the second year of my architectural work at this firm. We had a client come in and they were specifically looking for interior design services. I was not an interior designer at the time, I was an architectural associate, but this project opened my mind to so many possibilities. I fell in love with everything natural and working with natural textures being woven. I fell in love with exposed beams with raw metals. That experience led me to create the Saucy brands. I wanted to throw in a sustainable element and what better way to do that than creating usable pieces of art which are my board, my bowls, cutlery, anything that you could use to cook with, cut your food on, store in or serve on.”
The name Saucy Mukosa refers to “a person who exhibits great strength, is bold and spirited. So my customer is fun-loving, they love to entertain, they love to travel, but they’re also people who when faced with adversity, come out as a champion. This is why I am so passionate about working with women who are artisans and creative themselves. They have these amazing stories where they’re either coming out from a long, abusive marriage, for instance. Creatives who themselves may not have had a platform to share their product or to share their own story. That’s been my drive with Saucy Mukosa and to that understanding, I needed to represent these women and I do work with men too who have similar stories. However, the intention was to create a space for women that represented their stories, their brand, and their product in the best possible way.”
Mulenga has been deeply influenced by her mother who has always been involved in community work. After becoming a mother herself, Mulenga committed to making sure her work could positively impact marginalised children, especially survivors of child marriage and children with disabilities. In fact, a percentage of the proceeds from Saucy Mukosa’s sales are donated to the fight against child marriage.
Mulenga was set to open up her shop when COVID-19 hit. Reflecting on her journey she says, “The one thing I value most about opening my retail space is the inclusivity in having women and men who look like me. Fellow creatives with exceptional designs who produce work of great quality.”
Creating a platform for people like that to have a space where they could be seen and could call their own was important. The store carries Saucy Mukosa products but also some other brands, in that way supporting other creatives.
“It was important to me that my core values align with my goals and objectives as a person, as a creator and as a founder of this brand. I’m working with women who are producing sustainable materials or working with artists and larger communities. In that respect, money is going back into the communities where we are preserving generational skills that are passed on. We are creating opportunities for these men and women to actually plan for their future.”
The Saucy Mukosa product range has timeless pieces for everyday living, from picnic baskets, pillows, spoons made from salvaged wood, chopping boards, clay pots, Christmas ornaments, mirrors and all sort of home and kitchenware. The brand is built on sustainability and Mulenga explains that, “ We set it upon ourselves to acquire new plants, new indigenous plants, and then we plant them to give back to the environment, to continue on our promise of sustainability.”
Another way sustainability is achieved is by working closely with the forestry department to source wood within sites that have been deemed fit to find logs in. Saucy Mukosa also collects wood from people’s homes where they have felled trees. They also collect pieces of discarded wood from various furniture makers including those in Lusaka’s Kalingalinga area.
Toward the end of 2021 Saucy Mukosa launched the rooted inongo earthenware cooking pot, perfect for stews, bakes, crockpot meals, traditional cooking and storing and serving of hot meals. Mulenga details, “My mum always enjoyed cooking on a brazier and as a kid I could never understand why it had to take five hours for a particular meal to be ready when I was hungry three hours ago. But now that I’ve become a mum, I have a lot of respect and understanding for the quality of the food we eat. Cooking on a brazier is very nostalgic to me. Cooking in a clay pot is also very nostalgic to me because my mother always did that growing up. The food just tastes better, I wanted to bring that same type of feeling to foodies, chefs and anybody that really enjoys a good home cooked meal.”
Saucy Mukosa has recorded a number of highlights but she shares her proudest moment so far. “It was a week before Christmas, I received a call that asked me to prepare some gifts and I was told part of this packaging is going to the first family of Zambia. I figured that what the first lady would be most interested in, or rather, be most appreciative of would be the rooted inongo pot, because I don’t think she’s received a gift like this. I packaged one of our pots for her and a couple of our cooking sticks to go with the pot.”
As for what’s next for Saucy Mukosa, Mulenga exclaims, “We have officially launched our e-commerce store! Initially, I was going to set up my online store before opening the retail space, but I reverse engineered things because I knew my local market needed a physical space to come and find us. Now that we have a space and have grown our following and built a loyal customer base, we want to provide them with an easy to reach platform, which is the new e-commerce platform.”
Mulenga’s favourite pieces
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13 Chindo Road