‘Shark Tank‘ season 14 episode 4 witnessed entrepreneur Sofi Seck present her company, Expedition SubSahara, hoping for a life-changing investment from a Shark. Expedition SubSahara explores the Senegalese culture of weaving baskets as a community and sells authentic handmade products made from completely natural materials. The colorful and handmade products, some of which take over 40 hours to manufacture, garnered enough attention, so we found more about the company. Here’s everything you need to know about Expedition SubSahara and how it’s doing at present!
Expedition SubSahara: Who Are They and What Do They Do?
A native of Senegal in West Africa, Sofi Seck belongs to the Wolof Tribe, which has a custom where the women get together and weave baskets. The tradition serves the purpose of communal activity and also gives them a way to earn money. Sofi loved such get-togethers in her childhood and watched people she knew weave colorful and incredible baskets that were extremely helpful in everyday life. However, at the age of 14, Sofi moved to the United States for further education.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Sofi became a professional photographer. Although she still works as one and is quite sought after in her field of expertise, back then, Sofi missed her home and wished to bring a part of her culture to the States. Thus, after a lot of brainstorming and planning, Sofi, along with a business partner, decided to introduce handwoven baskets in the States. Thus, Expedition Subsahara came into existence, and after serving as its Creative Director for a few months, Sofi took on the role of Head of Operations.
At its core, Expedition SubSahara is a company that produces and sells handmade baskets. Sofi mentioned that there are no machines involved in the entire manufacturing process. While each basket is handwoven using sweetgrass and colorful fibers, the makers use an authentic weaving pattern that mirrors the style of the Wolof Tribe. Moreover, while larger baskets can take over 40 hours to manufacture, Sofi said that she and her team gather together at an artist collective in St. Louis, known as The Foundry, in order to work on the baskets.
Where Are Expedition SubSahara Now?
Unfortunately, the product Sofi wanted to market was quite niched, to begin with, and she wondered how effective the American market would be for handmade woven baskets, which could be considered a luxury. Subsequently, her fears came true when the first Kickstarter campaign she and her then-business partner launched in 2017 failed to hit its goal. Moreover, at that very moment, Sofi’s partner decided to walk away from the company, leaving the Senegalese native to fend for herself.
Nevertheless, Sofi was determined to make Expedition SubSahara a success and refused to give up. She worked relentlessly for months, got together a team of artists, and eventually fulfilled her dream of bringing handwoven baskets to the United States. Besides, once she made a name for herself, her customer base increased, and she began making a profit in her business. At present, apart from handwoven baskets, Expedition SubSahara sells other handmade products, including coasters and necklaces, shoppers, and placemats.
Moreover, the prices are quite varied and range between $29 for smaller objects to about $200 for large baskets. While Expedition SubSahara products can be purchased exclusively on their website, Sofi even sets aside 20% of her yearly proceeds or $50,000 (whichever is higher) as funds to build a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths (STEAM) School for girls in Senegal, which will take around $300,000. Witnessing Sofi’s rise to success is quite inspiring, and we wish her all the best in her endeavors and goals.
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