What you need to know:
What you need to know:
- Brightstar started Star Tailored Designs in 2019
- Before this, she had stayed indoors for close to three months, depressed until Samuel her friend implored her to get out and introduced her to his tailoring business
- Today, Brightstar employs nine tailors at her dressmaking shop
We are going through some childhood photos of Brightstar Kasyoka. There's one photo of her sandwiched between her grandparents in Mwingi, Kitui County. She smiles and shares that back then, she did not have an English name. She would acquire it later from one of her teachers.
This particular picture is of significance because it represents the beginning of her story. A few months after it was taken, Brightstar fell on a rock injuring her right hand. "The plastering was done wrongly and reconstructive surgery was recommended. We couldn't afford it. My grandfather was the sole breadwinner and worked as a local security guard. The muscles wasted away leaving my right hand deformed," Brightstar says of the year 2000 accident, which occurred when she was two.
It is on a Sunday afternoon and we are having this conversation in her office, which she occupies with her best friend and co-founder, Samuel Njoroge. For today's look, Brightstar settled on a maroon suit and paired it with a silver jewelry piece. "We made this suit here," she prides.
Brightstar started Star Tailored Designs in 2019. Before this, she had stayed indoors for close to three months, depressed until Samuel implored her to get out and do something meaningful with her life. "I was in a very dark place...lonely and sad," she says.
Her journey down the rough road of depression had started earlier. In 2018, Brightstar took part in a national competition, Ms. President, a reality show that aired on a local TV channel to empower women and increase conversations about the possibility of a woman being a President. It is here that she decided to stop hiding her hand. "It was an amazing opportunity. I got to interact with other amazing women and learnt a lot from them. I felt that I had done so much for myself and the community. 'Surely, I must be more than my hand!' I reasoned. So, I decided to bring it out. Then the calls started coming, "Oh, I didn't know your hand was like this", "you are beautiful and intelligent, I wish you didn't have a hand like this." At that point, I felt that no matter what I do, people will always focus on my hand. That affected me and that's how I found myself not wanting to get out. It was a dark period. I lost friends and depended on the caretaker and neighbours to get me food. Thankfully, Samuel looked for me," she says.
Samuel who is listening in to our conversation interjects; "We had been great friends since campus so when she went under, I got concerned and I decided to look for her only to learn that she was depressed. I had started the tailoring business earlier so I brought her on board, taught her the game of the industry and now, she's even a better marketer than I am."
Growing up, Brightstar's grandfather doted on her and heralded her bright future. In primary school, owing to her exemplary performance, only a handful of students dared to make fun of her right hand.
In 2014, Brightstar joined Maseno university to pursue a degree in Political Science and Information Technology.
"It was in campus that I started hiding my hand by wearing long sleeves or covering it with a sweater. I was tired of questions like, "what happened to your hand?" and statements that alluded that I was imperfect. It crushed my self-esteem and confidence," she says.
While at the university she started the Brightstar Rose Foundation, which empowers needy children through education through the provision of stationery and school fees. "Then, I would rally my friends for help. Now, I use some of the profits from my business," she shares. In her university years, she also got interested in leadership and vied and won the position of Finance Secretary. "It was one the best seasons of my life," she says.
After graduating in 2018, Brightstar first tried to get internships in media houses. "I also did a pilot for a TV show and pitched it to a few stations," she says.
In the same year, the Ms. President competition came calling, and for a few months, she concentrated on the show. Shortly after departing from the programme depression hit. In 2019 her friend Samuel rescued her and welcomed him into his tailoring venture. She then slowly carved her path.
At the tailoring shop, Brightstar has nine employees. Her work involves marketing their bespoke tailoring services, engaging potential clients, taking their measurements, and passing them to the tailors who get into the process of cutting and stitching.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think of myself as an entrepreneur but I really enjoy what I do and I hope to open more branches soon," Brightstar whose shop is located in Latema road Nairobi, says.
Like any entrepreneur, she has faced challenges. "First, I didn't have capital and my self-esteem was still low. To solve my first problem, I borrowed money around. For my second, let's say that it's a work in progress," she confides.
During the business peak, Brightstar would make at least 10 suits every day each costing between Sh8,000 and Sh10,000.
"What makes our Shop unique is our quality, our customer service, and timely delivery. What I have learnt in the business is that customers don't just go for the quality of products. It also depends on who is selling and how you interact with them. Why do I say this? We have had multiple clients who've come because of referrals. Someone says, 'Oh, you are BrightStar..... a client of ours referred me to you. They said you are bubbly and affable'," Brightstar who specializes in weddings and official attires, says.
When the pandemic happened, the events industry was affected, plus people didn't need suits as much as.
"To stay afloat, we had to re-strategise. I had to diversify into mask making, casual wear, T-shirts, and other garments that can be worn even at home," she says.
She is optimistic that things are slowly picking up as she now makes at least a suit a day.
"After the business downturn I tried to get into corporate tenders but it needed heavy capital to execute. I am in talks with several investors to help further diversify our offering," she says.
As a young entrepreneur, Brightstar's biggest business lessons she has learnt are to keep friends who matter and to keep pushing even when one doesn't get the desired results.
"It might take a while, but you'll get there," she assures.
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