Beautiful shoes and women have long been synonymous with one another. In the case of the three talented women entrepreneurs behind the wonderfully creative Kenyan shoe design brand, Buqisi-Ruux, their design inspiration comes directly from the personal stories of the women around them. Nuba Elamin, Lynn Bugaari and Tetsi Bugaari are taking the art of African storytelling to new heights, creating wearable art for the feet, and individual shoe designs that are named after the African women whose stories inspire them. Genuine inspiration for the soul or make that sole!
LoA spoke to Buqisi-Ruux co-founder, Tetsi Bugaari, the brand’s inspirational creative director, about this truly unique and funky African shoe brand that represents the diversity, vibrancy and boldness that lies within the African continent.
What does your company do?
I love to say that we create wearable art by putting Africa at your feet. Buqisi-Ruux is a shoe line from Kenya that designs and produces high-heeled shoes covered in bold and colourful African print material. The Buqisi-Ruux brand also celebrates the success of the African continent and its women, as each shoe is named after an inspirational African woman and her story is shared with the world.
"I love to say that we create wearable art by putting Africa at your feet."
- Tetsi Bugaari, co-founder Buqisi-Ruux
What inspired you to start your company?
Buqisi-Ruux is in part a piece of all of us. The combination of love, curiosity, interest and opportunity inspired us to start up the brand. The company was founded by Nuba Elamin, Lynn Bugaari and Tetsi Bugaari, we are all close family members and this aspect has played a large role in our business and our brand values. Lynn had, or rather has, this obsession for shoes; Nuba has a thirst for knowledge and a wider experience of the African continent; and myself (Tetsi) I bring to the company a passion for fashion and the desire to create. Together, we realised that there was an opportunity to utilise the beautiful colours, prints and patterns on African fabric and were inspired to create a wide variety of differently styled, highly distinctive, high-heeled shoes that any woman would be proud to wear.
Why should anyone be inspired to own a pair of Buqisi-Ruux shoes?
Aside from the stylish comfort we aim to provide with each pair of shoes we design and produce, I would encourage people to engage with our brand for the positive and uplifting African stories we wish to share. Each shoe has a unique and particular significance, being named after an inspirational African woman whose story could encourage and motivate someone else's story. We wold love to have as many people as possible assist us in sharing the success stories of our continent, Africa, and the women behind them.
"The name, Buqisi-Ruux, means 'Queen of the Village'. Buqisi comes from an ancient Egyptian word meaning Queen, while Ruux represents our home-town Rukungiri. The name symbolizes what we as 'Buqisi-Ruux' find important; our African heritage and the sensation of royalty and pride we want women to feel when they wear a pair of Buqisi-Ruux shoes."
Tell us a little about your team
Buqisi-Ruux was founded by Nuba Elamin, Lynn Bugaari and Tetsi Bugaari, and we are all close family members, and this aspect has played a large role in our business and our brand values. Based on our different strengths and qualifications, we have all taken up specific roles in the company to complement each other and grow our brand. Nuba takes the lead in the operations of the company, and with a background in project coordination and strength in planning and organisation, she has facilitated our brand relationships, especially with suppliers, to ensure high quality control and the best possible product release. Lynn focuses on the administration aspect of Buqisi Ruux as a business, and with a background in business management, she handles the financial and administrative functions of the brand necessary for growth. For my part, (Tetsi), I play the role of creative director for Buqisi-Ruux. My passion for fashion puts me in charge of designing the shoes we produce, and with a background in brand management, I am also responsible for the marketing and branding activity for Buqisi-Ruux.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Being recent graduates, Lynn and Nuba were tediously going through the job application phase with a lack of satisfaction. A few months later, sitting on the bedroom floor and having a casual conversation, they decided to create something of their own, a business that they would love and would enjoy doing. When I came home on holiday, they mentioned the idea to me and we set about starting to build a brand that would represent us and all that we stand for. We immediately bought a white board and started brainstorming and writing down literally every idea that we could come up with. With a bit of help and a lot of research, we had our business plan ready and it was time to test the market. At this point, none of us had an entrepreneurial background.
"The Buqisi-Ruux brand celebrates the success of the African continent and its women, as each shoe is named after an inspirational African woman and her story is shared with the world."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We are looking to grow the Buqisi-Ruux brand to be a global platform that will not only continue to provide high quality, contemporary, high-heeled shoes covered in African print material, but that will also provide a basis where we have the opportunity to share the stories and successes of African and most especially, the African woman.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
The first satisfaction comes from seeing our brand being positively accepted in the marketplace, having our shoes accessible and available for everyone, no matter where you are. My greatest satisfaction, however, comes when the holistic view of our brand is understood and appreciated - when all aspects of our brand are recognised, including our shoe designs and their accompanying stories and concepts. This for me makes me feel as though we have found our place in the market, where we can effectively communicate who we are, what we are, and what we wish to do in the future. In my view, this is an indication that the brand is growing in line with our vision, and that for me makes all the challenges faced worth it.
"We are looking to grow the Buqisi-Ruux brand to be a global platform that will not only continue to provide high quality, contemporary, high-heeled shoes covered in African print material, but that will also provide a basis where we have the opportunity to share the stories and successes of Africa, and most especially, the African woman."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
As it is said and written everywhere, starting a business can be very challenging. You can have the best morning, and yet by the next hour, you might not know where you went wrong.
My first piece of advice would be to never give up, always remember your end goal, and despite what challenges come your way, always remember why you started this business in the first place and push through it.
Secondly, I would also encourage entrepreneurs to have an open mind - the market is constantly changing and we have to find different ways to innovate our brands to remain relevant, keep up the pace with the market, and still be able to deliver quality products. Sometimes it will be worth the risk and other times, it will be worth the lesson.
#EntrepreneurAdvice: "we have to find different ways to innovate our brands to remain relevant"
- Tetsi Bugaari, co-founder @Buqisi_Ruux
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love the confidence and unique design aesthetic that so many incredible African women designers have - and the women entrepreneurs behind Kenya’s Bugisi-Ruux brand are the epitome of that confident aesthetic. What makes this team of women so special is that they have captured the essence of African women’s storytelling as a foundation of their brand and their products, and that is truly unique. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa