“I started my business as a hobby at 21 and I’ve been running it for three years now,” says Vanessa Mukami, 25.
The first born in a family of two girls did not initially intend to go into business. At 20, and fresh from High School, going into business was quite a challenge. But her love for art and authentic African jewellery saw her go out shopping for them. However, she says, she seldom got jewellery that matched her taste.
“I was growing and I was looking for designs that had African touch. Since I was good in art and design, I figured, why not make my own designs?”
Ms Mukami began designing her jewellery from home. Her friends started to admire her work and some offered to buy them.
“It dawned on me that I could turn my hobby into business.”
But there was a problem, she had no capital to open a workshop. Moreover, she had just enrolled for a degree and her free time was weekends only.
“I did not want to start making business proposals to my parents. And I didn’t want my budding business to derail their financial inflow any further.”
With Sh500 savings, she set out to establish and run Kihuruta Designs.
“Deep down, I feared that it would not take me long before collapsing. At times, I didn’t think it was as serious as a business ought to be,” says the veterinary medicine student at the University of Nairobi. Nonetheless, she steered on and today, it has grown to over Sh200,000 in net worth,” she says.
After her graduation this year, she plans grow the business. “I will expand to incorporate both science and art,” she said.
However, quality control has been her biggest challenge. Availability of raw materials and time has also strained her. “I prefer to handle delivery of my products personally since meeting with my customers keeps me updated on what they need. That way, my business becomes an interactive, friendly and profitable enterprise. With school, though, this can be a real strain.”
Her friends and parents have been supportive, she says.
“I have also chosen friends who push me up rather than those who disapprove and discourage me.”
She designs her products after lectures and on weekends. She then advertises them on her Facebook page, her website, and on ShopSoko.
“I also market and sell my designs by word of mouth, bulk SMS and through emails,” she says, adding: “My website is being reconstructed to make it more user friendly. This is part of my strategy to gain access to bigger markets overseas. I plan to start selling my collections in the US this year.”
Her price for earrings range between Sh300 and Sh1,500 while bracelets attract between Sh400 and Sh1,000. Her necklaces bring in between Sh800 and Sh7,000, a piece.
“I started with Sh500 but today, I am counting tens of thousands. I believe we as young people should start with what we have rather than sit back and waste away.”