Bisila Bokoko: A global brand ambassador with strong social commitment

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Pikolinos has a foundation that works supporting several different projects all over the world. Her Global brand Ambassador, Bisila Bokoko spoke to Afrimpact Magazine. INTERVIEW

-What is Pikolinos and what do you mean by “Another world is possible”?

Pikolinos is a Spanish shoe brand founded in 1984. The company has always focused on unique design and leather to make their shoes, but also has a strong social commitment. Since 2007, Pikolinos has a foundation that works supporting several different projects all over the world. At Pikolinos, we like to show that there are other ways to do things. For example, the Pikolinos Maasai Project has been internationally heralded as an initiative that integrates sustainability with the world of fashion. So, indeed, another world is possible.

-Tell us more about “1 project, 1600 women”…

The Pikolinos Maasai Project is a line of shoes and bags designed in Kenya by over 1600 women from the Maasai tribe, one of the most threatened on the planet according to the UN. These women handcraft the leather used on the shoes and bags with typical Maasai beadwork embroidery, which is then sent to Pikolinos factories in Spain to the finishing chain process, creating an exclusively designed and high quality product. What began as a pilot program with 150 women has become a project that employs more than 1.600 women spread over the entire Kenyan and Tanzanian territories, during 6 months a year, from August to January. The results in quality, professionalism, self-management and expansion have obtained amazing results.

-How the Maasai community benefits from this project?

In Masaai society, as in most societies of the world, women have a key role in contributing to the welfare of the family members and the community. Through the payment of fair wages, the result of this project is that over 1,600 Maasai families now have a steady source of income that allows them to access basic needs such as food and medicine. The international sales revenue from these sandals has created a great impact improving the quality of life of the entire Maasai Community paying fair wages to support the women and families involved in the project.

-Pikolinos links Spain to Kenya, in other words Europe to Africa. How do you make the world endorse this project?

We like to explain that Pikolinos is not doing this alone… From the very beginning, we work closely with ADCAM NGO. ADCAM (Association for Development, Alternative Trade and Microcredit) is specialized in empowering women in developing countries and focuses on establishing stable trade channels with developed nations. ADCAM’s goal, and also Pikolinos’, is the sustainability of the project. That’s the reason why we don’t like the word “charity”: we want to do business and to integrate sustainability with the world of fashion. The background of an NGO and the real commitment with fashion world – the Ambassadress of the project is Olivia Palermo -, make this project respected.

-What do you do to keep this project authentic and what is the real impact here?

This unique project is being developed via the NGO ADCAM (Association for Development, Alternative Trade and Microcredit). The Pikolinos Maasai Project has been consolidated on an international level. This is the fourth collection of Maasai sandals, which means that over the course of four years these women from Kenya and Tanzania have been able to have access to basic amenities such as food and medicines. The sales made from the Maasai sandals during these four years have given financial independence to these women who embroider them, such that they have been able to invest.




-Tell us what Carmencita stands for…

Carmencita stands for the name of the founder´s daughter, Carmen. Back in the 1920´s in Novelda (Alicante, Spain), it was usual to use the image of your children on your brand logo, so Jesús Navarro Jover had his daughter pose with her arms akimbo, wearing a cordovan hat and a manila shawl. Nowadays, Carmencita remains as a family based business and has become an undeniable icon for the Spanish cuisine.

-Why is investing in spices a good idea?

Well Novelda has always been a town of entrepreneurs, in which many companies were and are related to spices. For us, it all started with Saffron and since then Carmencita has evolved to become the Spanish spice and seasoning leading brand, packing flavor and lifestyle enhancing aromatic products in general.

-What is the difference between Paella and Paellero?

Paella is the dish name as well as the pan in which the Paella is cooked. Paellero is the perfect spice blend for Paella, developed by us, more than 25 years ago. We dedicated more than 2 years to come up with this product until we managed to get the exact paella flavor we were looking for. It´s main feature is that it guarantees always the same taste. It’s our key selling product and more than 1million units are sold worldwide.

-How do you do the ingredient evaluation and what makes your brand tastes different compared to others?

We have a Product Development Department which includes Quality, Marketing, Production & Purchasing and they all work together to get the best possible ingredients and products to the market. All goods are tasted several times by our Chef and professional testers until we get the final product we are looking for. What makes us different from other brand tastes is that everything is done in Novelda, by a motivated and well prepared staff, carefully following the new markets trends. From Carmencita we add that special touch that makes our products highly appreciated in Spain and around the world.

-From breakfast via lunch and snacks to dinner, Carmencita wants to be in our plates and cups. What is the positive impact, you intend to bring to the world today?

Our commitment to CSR goes beyond legal obligations and from the beginning it has been part of the DNA of the company. Our aim is to help our employees to live better and work ethically and more efficiently in an increasingly competitive global context. We are convinced that HONESTY, with both product and society, based on a philosophy of “Men sana in corpore sano” and a diet of ethics and good integrated ethical principles in the chain production, is highly profitable over time and is what has allowed us to get where we are. We work with all sorts of NGO, we sponsor local sport teams and events…. our equity plan since 2011, gives both men and women of our staff, the same opportunities and responsibilities of job improvement and wages…. and our quality department works to make health as tasty as possible: Natural and Gluten Free products. From our small town Novelda and small size, we try to do our bit for all who have anything to do or expect something from us.

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