I am 22 Years old. Therefore, I feel like that is not a question that I can be able to answer adequately. That I am still in a phase where I am changing, learning and unlearning, becoming and becoming. It’s a confusing phase actually. The world is changing at a very fast pace and we are expected to adjust to all these changes. We are expected to be ourselves when we don’t even what that means; to be yourself. I could go on and on about this being 22 thing but I will be regressing, Won’t I? What remains constant, however, is my diligence, kindness, humanity and passion for what I do.
I have always wanted to own my business. My parents both own their own business separate from their profession. So maybe it’s a genetics thing. Honestly speaking, I have never needed inspiration for anything in my life. I was born inspired. Inspired to aspire for greatness. And you can’t just wake up one day and be great so you look for something you love to do and say “ I am going to plant this seed. I am going to water it and this shall be my little great thing.”
I have always wanted to work for myself, to create something that will stand the test of time. I remember when I was in high school I would sneak in a packet of pin pop and sell it at Ksh 20 bob. They were on demand quite then and I would sell everything fast doubling my capital. Soon, I realized that there was a demand for cards especially since almost every day was someone’s birthday. So, I graduated to doing cards, I would ask my computer teacher for embossed paper which I would use to make the cards. What I realized is, I love creating. Seeing something come from an idea to something tangible, from nothing to something. That is why most of my business ideas revolve around creation.
African Yuva specializes in making Ankara outfits. Initially, we wanted to make outfits specifically out of the African print fabric but with time we have graduated to other fabrics as well. I like to call them occasion outfits because most people tend to order these outfits when attending weddings, ruracios or church.
Women, mostly. Especially middle-aged women. Why women? We, women like shopping especially when going for occasions. We could have a closet full of clothes and still have nothing to wear. And given that we want to stand out when we attend occasions we ensure that we make outfits that will make women stand out. A lot of our outfits are meant for occasions especially weddings, ruracios etc.
We are expanding our market base to include people in the diaspora. We have identified a need for African themed outfits especially in the international market and we are hoping that with time our production will have grown large enough to service this market.
Not really. I started quite small actually. I was still a student when I started and you know how hard the life of a student is. So I started looking for customers who wanted custom made outfits first and from the few customers I got I started saving up capital for doing ready-made outfits.
Hitting our targets. Hitting some of the business targets that I had set for the first half of the year was one of my greatest joys. I realized that I could actually do this, that you can start something out of nothing and build it into something.
Establishing trust with clients. African Yuva is an online business anyone that has done online business knows how hard it is to get customers to trust you enough with their orders. So I identified things I could incorporate in my marketing plan and business to garner trust among my prospective clients.
Competition. The market is getting crowded with a lot of people doing the service so you have to curve out a niche for yourself in the market and build your brand in a manner that sets it apart from the other businesses offering similar products.
Low sales. As with every business we sometimes experience a sales dry spell. You start questioning your decision to start the business. Asking yourself whether you are in the right business. What you are doing wrongly. But you have to keep on pushing on because if you don’t, who will? You don’t have the luxury of giving up.
Initially, I remember all the money would come to my Mpesa. Of course this was not sustainable because you would find that it would get mixed up with my personal finances. So I was always ‘balling’ even if the money was technically not mine but the business’ So you find yourself using money meant for the business for personal reasons and then you have to compensate from your own pocket again. Obviously that creates a lot of confusion. So I separated the accounts, opened a Lipa na Mpesa and a bank account that way I know that this money is for the business. I actually pay myself a salary out of it, other expenses then from what is left I set some aside for materials and other expenses and of course a small percentage for when push comes to shove.
Social Media Marketing. My main platforms are Instagram and Facebook. Promoting posts helps a lot. I also post my products to the Facebook markets.
We would like to diversify our market. Hopefully, reach the global and bridal market.
Yes, actually. I am trying to do so much at once that sometimes I end up having burned myself out. However, I also get to a place where I tell myself “Bev, that’s enough for today/ the week. Go have some fun.”
People say business is hard and it is. But it’s not impossible. If you are thinking of doing something get up and do it. It shouldn’t matter that you don’t have enough capital. Start small, lay the foundation then build your business to what you want it to be.
Lastly my favourite quote: We are daughters of women who told us we could be anything that we wanted to be and we heard “You have to be everything.”