To kickstart the Lionesses of Africa Focus on Design month this February, we decided to get an insight into Africa’s fashion design industry. We spoke to Diana Opoti, founder of leading Kenyan fashion consultancy, Diana Opoti PR, a true champion of the continent’s fashion design market and one of Africa’s most formidable fashion connectors.
Tell us a little bit about Diana Opoti PR and the work that you do.
Diana Opoti PR is a fashion consultancy company based in Nairobi, Kenya, that focuses on brand strategy, publicity and campaign development and management for emerging fashion brands in Kenya, as well as for fashion brands looking to enter the country. My services include a lot more than traditional publicity. One day we are doing product reviews for brands, another we are facilitating a production for a fashion campaign, and the next day we could be recruiting on behalf of a fashion brand. I found a vacuum in the industry and it’s an evolving journey for my team and I.
What inspired your business and what is your company’s philosophy?
As a lifestyle television producer, I set out to create a show, Designing Africa that documented the stories of a new generation of fashion designers and creatives, traveling across the continent to interview them, and to attend top fashion events. I then ran a campaign running between June 23rd-Sept 30Th 2014, 100 Days of African Fashion and featured clothes from 100 different brands across the continent.
This was a great defining moment for my consultancy and myself as it exposed a vacuum in the industry, In Kenya there is no agency focused entirely on fashion publicity and marketing. Professionals with great ideas exist as solo professionals commissioned on projects as dictated by client’s needs, but we don’t really have a proper network or environment that supports the growth of fashion professionals, one that standardizes services or even one to challenge professionals to set trends and compete at the level of expectancy of international brands coming other into the market.
My philosophy is simple – raise the status of African Fashion brands to Africans by telling the stories of these brands. As an agency I am focused on serving African and emerging independent international designer brands looking to enter the Kenyan market and engage with local consumers.
How did your entrepreneurial journey start? Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I wouldn’t say I am a natural entrepreneur, rather that I have had great business mentors. It’s been a challenge transforming casual inquiries into work and convincing local fashion brands to commit to our services, as they have previously not engaged professionals locally for similar work. Also, signing clients on monthly retainers so that I could hire a team that would manage the multiple projects.
Tell us a little bit about your current business and how you got started.
I set up a media consulting company, Artemis Media, back in 2012. We started off with our own show, Designing Africa and decided to handle its distribution. The company still consults on content for other companies, as well as facilitates production for independent film crews coming to work here.
From June to September 2014, following enquiries on fashion business, I decided to focus on fashion entirely and created our first campaign, 100 Days of African Fashion. This campaign, sponsored by global brand, Martini, pivoted my brand and image. In November that same year, enquiries on market research and PR followed and we started signing contracts for projects. In 2015, we have signed on 8 clients on retainer that will take us through the year!
What have been the main challenges and hurdles you have faced as an entrepreneur?
The main challenge has been getting clients to not just pay for my services, but also to listen to new strategies that may sometimes challenge their existing brand habits. At the moment, most brands handle every aspect of their own brands – from design to marketing - so its been challenging to get them to hand over aspects of their business to us and pay for our services. I have also had to delicately balance between the “fashionista” and the entrepreneur. People have had to know that whilst I am happy to wear and showcase brands, there is agency work going on in the background. Clients are happy to use my visibility online to share their campaign progress.
What gives you most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Signing on new clients and hearing clients’ satisfaction. Nothing beats knowing that a client has recommended you to another.
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
At the start of the year, I knew I needed a team to manage some of the projects I was signing on. I had spoken to clients numerously, gone back and forth on ideas - I was beginning to panic, and then in a span of 2 weeks, clients came back one after another and now we have commitments running through to October this year.
What are your future plans and aspirations for the business?
I am working towards building a full-fledged fashion consultancy with a research team, production team and media channels including video content for the web.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Find a niche. Turn what you like into a business. Passion fuels business.
Why LoA loves it....
At Lionesses of Africa, we love Diana Opoti’s proactive and passionate approach to building her business and her brand, not to mention her ability to identify a unique niche and business opportunity in the marketplace and make it her own. This is one Lioness of Africa we will be hearing much more about in 2015. Watch this space! --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder and editor-in-chief