Woman of the cloth: I cater to your need for African fabric
What you need to know:
- In September 2019 she relocated to Eldoret to set up a shop.
- With seed capital of Sh120,000 sourced from a bank loan, she bought her first sewing machine, rented her first shop and bought a few different types of kitenge fabric, threads and linings.
- Her clients come from Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho, Iten, West Pokot, Nairobi, Meru and even Mombasa.
In 2019, Brenda Kipnusu founded the BreeAfric Collection, a company based in Eldoret town that makes customised African fabric and accessories such as feather fans, necklaces, bangles and beaded ankles.
The 30-year-old says she was motivated to start the venture after realising that there was a gap in the market for unique African fabric.
She notes that she also wanted to provide opportunities to young people, and to create a source of income for herself.
“I remember once looking everywhere for a piece of unique African fabric, but I couldn’t get it. During the search, I realised that I was not alone. I noticed that many people struggled to get the fabric they desired, and that is why I decided to pursue this dream,” explains Ms Kipnusu, who graduated with a degree in clinical nutrition and dietary in 2017 from South Eastern Kenya University.
In 2018, she bought unique fabric in Nairobi and began working with tailors to knit different designs for clients.
She recalls that while in campus, she had developed an interest in fashion, and when she noticed that there was demand for beauty products among students, she began selling jewellery.
“I used to sell to my friends and I realised that it was a good business. I received financial support from my sister and managed to make profits,” says the entrepreneur.
In September 2019 she relocated to Eldoret to set up a shop. With seed capital of Sh120,000 sourced from a bank loan, she bought her first sewing machine, rented her first shop and bought a few different types of kitenge fabric, threads and linings.
“I started by selling the fabric to family members and friends. In the first month, I was quite lucky because we actually made profits which allowed me to slowly expand my business,” she recounts. Today, she runs three shops in Eldoret and has employed 15 staff that include a team of tailors. She also owns seven machines that include the embroidery, button hole, overlock and bead work machines.
Her clients come from Eldoret, Kitale, Kericho, Iten, West Pokot, Nairobi, Meru and even Mombasa. She also exports her finished fabric to clients in Australia, the United States and Canada.
“70 per cent of our clients are in Eldoret, 15 per cent in other parts of the country, and we export the rest. We also serve international tourists.”
Currently, her clients include those looking for unique attires for their weddings, traditional engagements such as koito and ruracio, bridal parties and baby showers. In a good month, she serves over 1,000 clients, walk-ins and orders.
“More people are now appreciating these African outfits. Through these unique fabrics, we are able to preserve our rich culture and identity for future generations,” says the entrepreneur who uses social media platforms, referrals and word of mouth to reach more clients.
Last year, Brenda expanded the scope of her business to include provision of decors during social functions.
“We have so far organised 15 events including birthdays and baby showers. We are guided in our work by the themes of the specific events. For instance, we do Africa-themed décor or modern décor depending on the client’s desire,” says Brenda.
With the ever changing fashion industry, she says that one has to engage in research daily in order to keep up with the latest trends.
“I take competition from other cloth makers positively because it motivates me to be creative and innovative,” noted the proprietor.
Some of the challenges she has to cope with include high transportation fees, high taxation on raw materials and financial constraints.
“I want to encourage anyone who would like to venture into this business to just start and proceed with courage. There are a lot of challenges such as insufficient finances to buy new stock or get new materials, but you have to be resilient because if you don’t stock up, you might lose clients.
“Do what you are passionate about because when you like what you do and are determined to succeed in it, you will. It is also good to build strong systems that can help you in your work so that you don’t get overwhelmed,” she says.
Her future plans?
“I want to open more branches in different towns across the country because there is a good market for our products.