About four years ago, Wanja Mwangi’s husband got a job in West Africa and made a dress for her, then bought different fabrics for their relatives as a gift. With a tip of Sh20,000 from a guest, the guy opted to appreciate and empower his wife in style. He purchased 12 pieces of Vitenges, a fabric that is currently popular as Ankara.
“Our friends saw the fabrics and the dresses and started asking if I could ask my husband to send them the same. We sold to our close friends and relatives and from that we got more orders from friends and Kenyans from all corners of the country and that helped our small venture to grow to a large business,” she says, happy about her husband’s choice.
That’s how Mrs Mwangi found her path to business, and My Angels Investments, a company registered about three years ago, was born. The initial capital was 40, 000 Naira, equivalent to about Sh20, 000 back then.
She ploughed back the capital plus the little profit obtained from the sales and bought 20 pieces, then reinvested the capital again from the 20 fabrics plus the profit. Instead of sending cash for upkeep, my husband would send fabrics, which I would then sell and make more money and the business continued growing.
At a time when some fabrics are sold off at Sh800 at Textile Centre or Garisa Lodge in Eastleigh, Mrs Mwangi says Kenyans should know the difference as far as quality is concerned. A Woodin, for example, is a big brand that flies off her boutique at about Sh4, 000. In a good month, the business, which is currently worth about Sh3.5 million, rakes in about Sh300, 000.
“We don’t stock bulk, we ensure we pull the demand from the market by buying only what the customer’s request. This keeps us ahead of competition and helps to ensure that every time Woodin or Da Viva releases a new designs in the market, we are able to stock it and sell it before the other competitors have a chance to stock them,” she says.
In 2014, one of her regular customers designed a dress that won the African Wear Category during Miss Africa PERTH 2014.
The couple requested the designer if they could use the dress to market and as a result sold almost 200 pieces of that fabric. When Dashiki came to the market, she was among the first to sell the ready-made dresses in Nairobi.
Apart from the individual customers, she has had an opportunity to supply fabrics to respected designers such as Pat Lulu (popular as Poisa), Kawira Mirero (Mambo Pambo), Kiafrika Designs, Manciny, Pipiro by Nekesah Wafullah, MonAfric, Nato Design House, Shytess Fashion House, among others. Then in a sweet twist of fate, they would meet Jancy Creations, a prominent designer based in Kisumu who enabled her business tap into the lucrative Western and Nyanza market.
“We have individual customers and designers in all parts of the country. We also got Kenyans based in UK, Germany, US and other countries sending their relatives to buy the fabrics from us and in essence helping us reach other markets,” she says.
Representing a silent majority of individuals who jumped into business in a most unlikely ways, she has learned quite a lot. She says that entrepreneurship is the way to go and that it does not matter how you started off, giving an impression that turning to business, sort of, is not overrated. You can always start with what you have, and then grow over time.
Market your business
In addition, the best business partner you can get, she says, is your spouse and it is wise not to eat the seed. Plant it because a seed must die for it to multiply, she says, arguing that with passion and commitment, impossible is nothing. What delights her is when she gets her customers what they are looking for, citing a unique fabric that automatically turns around a wedding or “ruracio” to exactly the way it was envisaged.
To Ms Mwangi, a satisfied and happy customer is the best way to market your business; a happy lot can’t stop talking about you and your products.
“When our customers especially designers make an award winning dress or when we see fabrics we have sold being worn by prominent members in the society, we feel happy,” she says.
The few resources she would recommend to someone who would like to try their hands on the same business is not only a good phone and stable internet but also better understanding of what you do. “Take time and read a book entitled ‘Facebook Marketing, an Hour a Day’ and you will learn a lot,” she says, arguing that the increasing supply of best quality Ankara products in the market means that there is huge opportunity in this line of business.