Susan Wokabi, Sharon Mundia, Serah Kanyua and Emo Rugene, do these names ring a bell? They have all managed to curve out a niche for themselves in the Kenyan fashion industry.
I had the pleasure of attending a forum last week at USIU where they discussed their successes and challenges of being an entrepreneur in the fashion industry.
For women or men out there who are still looking to create their own niche in the Kenyan fashion and beauty industry, here are some pointers from those who have already forged ahead.
Susan Wokabi, the founder of the first Kenyan cosmetic brand Suzie Beauty, graduated from USIU a few years back and moved to New York where she trained with the well-known beauty brand Clinique for about a year.
With a burning desire to continue in the beauty industry and specifically the make-up world, she returned to Kenya to setup her own business. After visiting around 30 factories all around the world that could produce her make-up line (with a formula she created for the African skin), she finally found the one and thus the birth of Suzie Beauty.
She encompasses what hard work and determination can bring forth. The make-up line has grown immensely, and she reminisced on the way Lupita Nyong’o used a product and sales shot for the Lupita lipstick. She mentioned that one of the most important things is to: “Get the product right”. And you cannot go wrong.
Sharon Mundia is a full-time Kenyan fashion blogger. Her blog is named This is Ess. She created her blog around two years ago after completing college and at the end of a romantic relationship. Since then, she has developed it into a business for herself.
For those who are interested in making money out of their blogs, these are the key pointers she outlined:
1. Grow blog numbers (statistics) to market it
2. Be authentic
3. Be unique
4. Come up with a good rate card and business strategy
Serah Kanyua is a co-founder of Closet49, one of the largest online clothing stores for ladies. The company sells clothes off of their Facebook page that currently has a little over 21,000 likes. They also have an online clothing store through the website. Some of the strategies one can choose if starting an online clothing store is to “Try to be as big as you can on Facebook”, as stated by Serah.
Emo Rugene is a model and fashion shoe designer, and his line is named Afros (African Slippers). The line is incredibly popular with the market abroad, as he receives orders from several people abroad. He has also gained traction in Kenya.
The largest challenge his company faces is when he receives order’s from abroad, and due to the terrible postal system in the country, it makes it harder and more costly to export the shoes, which in turn makes the overall price more expensive for his clients. However, Emo says that “Fashion is big business, and fashion pays.”
Therefore, if you are a fashion designer, fashion blogger, thinking of creating your own cosmetic line, or selling fashion clothing, keep on going and have faith in what you do.
Lizbeth Kariuki founded and runs the fashion blog The Fab Diaries