T5: With Akil Ahmed and Jimmy Mwangi

Jimmy Mwangi and Akil Ahmed are brand developers.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Jimmy Mwangi and Akil Ahmed have a combined experience spanning 20 years in building brands.
  • The entrepreneurs are focused on creating and building new age brands for Africa, and have just launched I AM ERO, a footwear line.

1. What influenced your decision to launch the shoe line in Kenya? 

As the country’s urban population continues to grow and with a younger, more globally oriented audience comprising a huge part of consumers today, we needed to avail local products that complement our culture. We sought to find out what it would take to create global brands that incorporate our Kenyan identity, and we settled on manufacturing shoes. That is how ERO was born. Our plan is to grow into a popular, iconic brand.

2. From where do you get the inspiration to create your                      interesting ads? 

The advertising scene has evolved over the years. Today, it takes more than one ad to bring change. That involves a combination of quality designs, branding, technology and communication, a field that we have been fortunate to play in for more than 15 years. Advertising is not just about sharing information. It is about changing perceptions. It is not about how loud you are or how much you can spend, but how well you build a lasting positive impression.

Brands like Beefeater Kenya, who managed to create a new culture of gin consumption among Kenyans, have been a great source of inspiration for us, as well as direct-to-consumer brands in Southern Africa such as Bathu Shoes. Clearly, African brands are making major moves and gaining acceptance worldwide.

3.With all the beaurocracy, how hard is it for entrepreneurs to make it in a country like Kenya?

We have had the idea of creating I AM ERO for more than two years. Everything from business planning, ideation of the product, design tests, brand and market planning has been a journey. As with most African startups, the biggest challenge is access to funding, which is a common stumbling block for young entrepreneurs.

With this in mind, we decided to fund the business ourselves to show investors just how committed we were. We have started small but our plans are big. With adequate government support, we foresee growth of local industries, jobs creation and product development in Africa for Africa.

4. Who was your very first Ero customer?

Our friends and family have really supported us through this journey, and our business networks were instrumental in making the Ero story spread on digital platforms. They bought into our vision wholeheartedly and for that we will be forever grateful.

5. What would you tell a university student about entrepreneurship? 

Information is all around us. We are exposed to resources and content more than ever before. To thrive in business, you must learn and understand the market, trends and audiences. Once we learn, we must overcome the fears that hold us back.

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