I’m Sofi, and I was born in Senegal, West Africa, to the Wolof tribe. Part of the Jolof empire that dominated the 14th -16th centuries, the Wolof became a powerful force and sought after for their trade commodities, but primarily for gold. Even today, Wolof is the primary ethnic group in Senegal.
In our tribe, weaving is passed down generationally, from grandmothers and mothers to daughters and granddaughters. Girls are taught to weave from a very young age and this skill is used throughout our lives. Not only do women create useful items for their families and to sell, but the art of basket weaving is a communal activity women enjoy in the company of others.
we believe that education is the key to a future. I came to the United States at a young age in search of a higher education.
When I got to the states, I was shocked to learn that the idea many people have of Africa is so interwoven with poverty and lacking that it’s their narrative of the continent and all its people. Yet, this was such a stark contrast to the place where I grew up. Senegal is full of color, joy, laughter and life that’s evident in everything from our clothes to our craftsmanship and even the faces of Senegalese people. Senegal is brimming with abundance.
One of my favorite proverbs is, “Until the lion can speak, the story will always glorify the hunter.” It’s a reminder of the importance of telling your own story.
I founded Expedition Subsahara as a way to connect my two very different cultures in a way that is radically respectful. I want to retell the story of African craftsmanship through the lens of the lion, in a way that showcases the incredible skill and expertise of our now 120 Senegalese weavers.
At the same time, we want to provide girls and young women with an education that empowers them to be tomorrow’s leaders. We want future generations to have opportunities to transform the world however they want. Founding a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) school for girls will achieve this mission. That’s why a portion of our sales is earmarked to build and operate a school in Senegal once the business is well-established and able to maintain operations.
was created as a love letter from us to the world. In sharing our culture and
craftsmanship with the world, we aim to revolutionize the way African products
are spoken about, bought and sold.
Generations of traditional craftsmanship and expertise are used to create our
beautiful handmade home goods. And together, we will make the world a
more understanding and colorful place, one happy basket at a time.
St. Louis-Based Business Owner Fights Back Against “The Way It’s Always Been Done” in Shark Tank Pitch
Expedition Subsahara Aired on ABC’s Shark Tank Season 14, Episode 4
St. Louis, MO – “The only people in history who’s ever changed the world are the people who never have accepted somebody saying ‘That’s the way it’s always been done,’” Daymond John, founder, president, and chief executive officer of FUBU, and an investor on the ABC reality television series Shark Tank told Expedition Subsahara Founder Sofi Seck in the Oct. 14 episode.
Expedition Subsahara is a St. Louis-based home decor company that provides authentic, handcrafted goods created in Senegal, West Africa, using techniques passed down through generations of women.
During the episode, the sharks are stunned to learn that Seck is providing her weavers a set wage for weaving her baskets, defying the industry standard of paying per piece.
“There’s an African proverb: Until the lion can speak, the story will always glorify the hunter,” Seck said. “We aim to show the world that Africa is a vibrant, thriving, beautiful continent full of diversity, and to create mutual, radical respect between cultures.”
In addition to connecting cultures, Expedition Subsahara has a mission to build a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) school for girls in Senegal, West Africa. A portion of every sale is earmarked for the education fund.
Seck joins a number of St. Louis entrepreneurs who have appeared on Shark Tank in the past two years, including No Limbits and Flipstik.