Zellipah Githui grew up in Kenya and learned to weave sisal bags from her mother.
She knew these artisanal skills passed from generation to generation could be appreciated more broadly. She also believed they could be a vehicle for improving the lives of artisan groups and families in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This belief sparked the creation of her organization, Gitzell Fairtrade International.
The MSU experience
Githui came to the United States with one goal: complete her Master of Business Administration (MBA).
This brought her to Missouri State University, then known as Southwest Missouri State University.
“I loved my time in Springfield and really enjoyed my coursework,” Githui said. “It’s a great community on and off campus.”
She credits the MBA program at Missouri State for building the entrepreneurial skills that have led to her success with her nonprofit and fairtrade organizations.
Since completing her degree in 2002, Githui has excelled as an entrepreneur and philanthropist in the greater St. Louis community.
In 2021, she was named the St. Louis Immigrant Entrepreneur of the Year.
More recently, her work in fair trade and agriculture education caught the attention of the global publication, Marquis Who’s Who.
Her work and service
As the founder and president of Gitzell Fairtrade International, Githui works with artisans from six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for over 220 families.
The organization sells skillfully handcrafted baskets and bags, instruments and other household items that double as works of art.
Githui’s nonprofit, Project Goldfinger, helps improve the lives of women and families in rural Kenya through agriculture education and other community projects.
“There was a massive drought that caused crop failures in Kenya,” Githui said. “We started by training a group of 16 women on improved planting and growing methods and equipped them with proper tools they needed.”
The nonprofit group took the name “Goldfinger,” because they believe women’s fingers can produce the equivalent of gold if they have the right tools and resources.
Outside of her nonprofit work, Githui volunteers with the immigrant community in St. Louis. She also serves as a board member of the Fair Trade Federation and the St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s my passion to help build up others in my community in St. Louis and back home in Kenya,” Githui said “That’s why it’s such an honor to be recognized within my community and by the Marquis Who’s Who.”
About the Marquis Who’s Who
Founded in 1899, the Marquis Who’s Who chronicles the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor. This includes politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment.
The publication serves as an essential biographical resource for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world.