What do African cows, civil unrest, and the Guinness Book of World Records have to do with manufacturing? Shanley Knox is building a new factory in Uganda—and pioneering a whole new industry—around a very unique local material. Shanley and her partner, Olivia Byanyima, founded Olivia-Knox to sell products manufactured from Ankole cow horn. This 27-year-old blond, blue-eyed journalism major doesn’t fit most people’s stereotype as a factory-owner, however, and that gets her into some trouble along the way. Her crazy stories raise fascinating questions: when you should demonstrate confidence and when it is good to be vulnerable? How can you manage your control-freak tendencies in a country with power outages and civil unrest? And how should you handle insubordination, discrimination, and even physical assault? Hearing her extreme experiences in East Africa raises some interesting issues about being a leader in any culture. We reached her by Skype in Kenya, because while she was on a business trip the Ugandan elections riots broke out. As a result, we had some audio issues, but the conversation was too good to not share.
About Shanley Knox
Shanley Knox began her career as a social entrepreneur, working on issues ranging from poverty and gender inequality to domestic violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Discovering a love for strategy, she began applying what she learned to the world of marketing and advertising, conducting in-depth research and analysis for leading companies including Nike, Google ATAP, Facebook, Adidas, Bailey’s, Bonobos and Marley Natural.
Still deeply committed to solving social issues through innovative enterprise, though, Shanley is also building her own company, Olivia Knox, that is shifting the perception of East Africa from unreliable sourcing partner to the premier destination for luxury manufacturing. Current partners already include USAID, UNWEP, UN Global Compact, Uganda Industrial Research Institute, AGOA, Google ATAP and COMESA.
Olivia-Knox company website
Shanley Knox on Twitter @shanleyknox
Olivia-Knox on Instagram: @oliviaknoxmfg