Image for Local Profile: Shiro’s African Boutique

Kenya native Mary Kuria (in center, above) has been a Minnesotan for almost 30 years. When she became an empty nester in 2017 after her son’s high school graduation, she was inspired to start a side hustle selling fashion jewelry and accessories to stay busy. “But I felt it was not unique enough, and I started wondering what my passion was,” Mary says. After a few months of reflection, Mary decided she wanted to provide the Twin Cities community with unique products while also making a social impact. The idea of selling handmade products from Kenya was born.

Over the next two years, she built relationships with the Kenyan artisans she works with today. “I am able to make a direct impact and I am very proud to know that I sustain peoples’ lives by purchasing their art fairly,” she says.

The name of Mary’s business comes from her tribal nickname, Shiro. She says she’s inspired by the whole African continent and its beautiful art, and hopes to connect with artists from all the African countries.

“This is my passion and what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I enjoy traveling and spending a lot of time in the markets learning new trends and nurturing my relationships with my artists. I hope to be certified someday as a social benefit corporation because I want to increase my social impact both here in the U.S. and in Africa.”

Shiro’s African Boutique offers jewelry; accessories such as belts, waist beads, scarves, clutches and bags; small household items such as candle holders, batik and canvas art; and placemats and greeting cards — all handmade.

We currently carry Shiro’s Jewelry at the co-op, which features recycled, traditional materials such as coconut shells, beadwork, various woods, bones, banana fiber and horn.