In 2008, sisters Kate and Sara Holby were working with an NGO in western Kenya providing food and medicine to people suffering from HIV/AIDS. After the global recession in 2008, funds from international sponsors dried up. This moved Sara and Kate to look for sustainable sources of income to support the local population, including many orphaned children. They teamed up with their mother, Ann Funkhouser, and started a tea company, ‘Ajiri’. The word Ajiri means ‘to employ’ in Swahili.
As part of their goal to employ as many women in the community as possible, they pay women to make their hand cut box labels and the twines found inside. Their black teas are hand-picked on small-scale farms in western Kenya, an ideal region for growing tea. They also offer South African Rooibos and Egyptian Chamomile tea.
In 2013, they added Kenyan AA coffee to the product line while continuing to support employment and education. Their Kenyan AA coffee is also grown on small farms in the area stretching from Mt. Kenya south toward Nairobi.
The first orphans to have their education funded by Ajiri have since gone to college and now mentor their younger peers.