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The story of Ankole Living begins with two missionaries from San Antonio, Texas, who saw the need for sustainable economic growth in developing nations. Meet Bobby and Downie Mickler, the founders and entrepreneurs behind Ankole Living, a lifestyle brand that is among the first to embrace a business model to support and provide lasting opportunities to local East African communities. In 2006, Bobby and Downie moved to East Africa with their four, soon to be five, children. It was there, in Kampala, Uganda where they started EcoNation Africa Ltd., installing eco-friendly mosquito misting systems in homes and businesses in the capital to help fight Malaria.
The business soon expanded into a service company offering plumbing, painting, lawn care, and pest control, which continues to grow under the direction of Robert Sembuya in Kampala, Uganda today (to learn more about Robert, visit https://ankoleliving.com/blogs/news/embrace-your-present-blessing).
The Mickler's expanded into their second business, African Style. African Style started in a community of extreme poverty near a swamp in Kampala. The Micklers’ mission was to provide steady income for local women of different religious backgrounds. They provided these women materials enabling them to collaborate with each other and create jewelry that was then sold in the United States at trunk shows in homes and churches. In 2010, African Style was taken over by Jalia and Daniel Matovu, and through a beautiful partnership with Jessica Honegger of Austin, Texas, NoonDay Collection was born and continues to flourish to this day. The Matovu’s business, Ajuna African Style, now employs over 200 artisans and has been mentioned in Honegger’s book “Imperfect Courage” (for more information, see noondaycollection.com).
In 2012, Bobby traveled to South Sudan to help create infrastructure in the new country for an international Teak exporter. It was there, on his daily walk past the stock yards, he noticed a large pile of discarded Ankole Watusi cow horns. Intrigued by the beauty of the horns, Bobby began contemplating ways to repurpose them in hopes of creating yet another opportunity for jobs in East Africa. He met with locals in Uganda who knew how to clean and manipulate the horn with boiling shea butter to create bowls and other products for household use.
The Micklers began to purchase discarded Ankole horns from the stockyards of South Sudan and to train and collaborate with local artisans on the technique of crafting the horns into luxury household products. Another sustainable small business was created and Ankole Living Uganda Ltd. was born and was officially introduced to the United States market in 2014. As up-cycling natural materials became more and more popular, Bobby and Downie developed a unique and elegant way of mounting the horns on lucite acrylic bases to create breathtaking statement pieces as well as lighting features, including lamps and sconces.
The Micklers continue in their ventures to create small businesses wherever they are. “Work is a blessing,” says Bobby. “We are creating sustainable businesses because it is our personal mission, and we believe that it is an important part of the solution to problems we see all over the world. We want to be able to help restore dignity and improve the quality of life for as many people as possible.” Today, Ankole Living Uganda Ltd. creates and manufactures the highest quality home and lifestyle products made of Ankole horn and other natural materials from East Africa, epitomizing the grandeur and passion of the East African people.