Weaving Passion to Business

Published on 5th February 2008

Teresia Nyariro
Many young African ladies are venturing into business and self-employment, rather than hustle for jobs in the formal sector. Teresia Nyariro, an Interior Design graduate ventured into business unlike her counterparts. Hers is a self-led passion for design, since she was young. Based in Nairobi, the young Kenyan sells formal suits to ladies. Anthony Odeo of The African Executive caught up with her and filed this story:

Anthony: Now that most graduates are moving towards secure jobs, why did you decide to go against the grain?

Teresia: I wouldn’t say I went against the grain.I believe in making independent decisions on what I think is best for me. After graduating from college, I spent eleven months applying for jobs and attending interviews. Every time, I would be told to wait. In spite of my waiting, nothing showed up. I don’t really understand how some people got jobs.

Anthony: So you embarked on self-employment for failure to secure a formal job ?

Teresia: No, it has always been my dream to start something that I can call my own, something that I have control over-business.Had I landed a formal job, it would have served to raise startup capital for the business I had in mind.

Anthony: Why fashion, and how did you start?

Teresia: I have always had passion for fashion. My venture into fashion design was motivated by the desire to be an entrepreneur. With $100 in savings from odd jobs, I had enough reason to try out. After carrying out a week-long market survey, I decided to buy two pairs of new trouser suits from a shop in River Road (a backstreets in Nairobi).On approaching two of my friends with my trial marketing strategy, I was amazed when they tried them on and immediately purchased them. I made a 20% profit. This encouraged me to go ahead and find a suitable pricing system that could not only cover all my expenses and make a small margin of profit, but also be lower than that of my competitors. Six months down the line, I have no regret.

Anthony: Isn’t the fashion market crowded?

Oh yes! It is so over-crowded, but with the wrong items. Fashion is dynamic and needs to be updated every now and then. The ‘uniform’ kind of dressing that has taken control of everyone’s mind is detrimental. It compromises the quality of outfits and undermines the essence of building better African images. I come in to bring a different line of style, one that is not only unique but also exciting to my clients. So far, I have seen it begin to take shape.

Anthony: Who constitutes the bulk of your clientele and to what would you attribute the loyalty of your customers?

Most of my clients constitute young ladies who are newly employed and are more inclined towards building their basic wardrobes. I provide consultation services on building their image and filling the gap with quality suits.I ensure that the suits fit the client perfectly. Most clients identify with my choice of style because we are age-mates. When I started, my attention was on bankers, but now I have spread my clientele to other sectors. My excellent customer service skills, affordable prices and uncompromised quality have boosted customer loyalty.

Anthony: How far has your business come?

It is around six months old. I have seen it grow from two clients to an average of ten per day. My running capital has also gone upwards from the initial $100 to $600 and above during peak days. My profit margins fluctuate between 10-25% since I give quantity discounts to frequent clients.  To ensure my clients find me whenever they need an item, I intend to set up a stall soon. I am also studying the men’s suits market because I intend to begin a gents line to complement the ladies’ line.

Anthony: What challenges do you encounter as an entrepreneur?

When I begun, it was not easy for me to visit every office where my clients work. I felt intimidated by the kind of jobs they had, but now I have started to appreciate my job too.Satisfying cllients is not easy because each of them has different tastes and styles. Meeting all the operating costs while at the same time maintaining a profit margin has been a challenge, but I am currently studying a book on financial management. My business hours are also demanding. Since most of my clients work in offices, my business is mainly transacted after-office hours in the evening. Sometimes, meeting all orders is difficult within such a short time.  I believe setting up a stall will sort this out.  

Anthony: What is your message to fellow young Africans who want to start businesses?

They need to swallow their pride, and make independent decisions.  It does not matter what business you are doing but how you do it. One needs to be hardworking, committed, disciplined and honest. In the current market environment, there is need to see a need and create avenues to meet the need. There is need to evaluate every client’s needs and uniqueness for one to access the unpredictable market trends. Securing your future begins with your attitude but not with a ‘secure’ job.

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