Kenya is fast becoming a rising star of African fashion, with new talented designers emerging every day. Afrivazi is a company helping those designers reach discerning customers looking to support proudly ‘Made in Kenya’ brand names, and its founder Valerie Nyamwaya, is an entrepreneur on a mission to make it happen.
LoA found out more about this passionate Kenyan fashionpreneur and her vision for the future of the country’s fashion scene.
What does your company do?
Afrivazi Limited owns a fashion line and offers fashionable ‘Made in Kenya’ clothing and apparel, footwear, and accessories for men, women, and children from local designers under their various brand names. The company is based in Nairobi, Kenya.
"Afrivazi Limited owns a fashion line and offers fashionable ‘Made in Kenya’ clothing and apparel, footwear, and accessories for men, women, and children from local designers under their various brand names."
What inspired you to start your company?
Afrivazi was inspired by a long period of hard work, creativity, and the need to earn a living from my art, something I felt talented creatives should not have to go through when starting out. More so recognising that these creatives do not have the money needed to invest in a dream, and the little they have has to be used for purchasing materials, paying for manufacturing, among other activities that are involved in the industry, and still leaving some funds to get by. I started out by holding fashion events when still in campus, since I felt this would be a good way to get designers noticed, and with time people started using me as a reference point for fashion products. I would get calls from people I didn't even know who wanted quality African products and who were constantly disappointed at how hectic the process was for them, or how unreliable or unprofessional the retail system was. So with a vision of revolutionising fashion in Africa, I took this as an opportunity to be a link, thus creating the online market where we could have the talented designers sell their items and earn a living from their work, and in turn where customers could access a variety of unique products easily from the comfort of their home and were assured of timely delivery. This was also an opportunity to talk about Africa, after all we all have a story to tell about where we come from, where we are going, what we have been through, our aspirations - the list is endless. All in a bid to define ourselves, create our space, and make an impact. Through Afrivazi it was my dream that designers would get a platform to sell their products, with customers getting access to well made and designed clothes that would fit well. In addition, with every purchase those customers would hear a tale that speaks of an untold beauty that lies in our rich African culture expressing what we believe in, what we love, what we value, and who we are, through the combination of the stories of different designers we work with.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
By using our services and purchasing our products one is assured of African quality, reliability, variety and uniqueness at it's best.
"Being a fashion designer and entrepreneur who has a vision of revolutionising fashion in Africa, I took this as an opportunity to be a link, thus the online market where we could have talented designers sell their items and earn a living from their work, and where customers could access a variety of unique products easily from the comfort of their home, and assured of timely delivery."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I had no entrepreneurial background but I have always been the person who wanted to do things a little differently, a little better, with a little more passion. I always wanted to question the status quo and push my creativity past what most people find comfortable. It has been a baptism of fire I must say as we grew from simply having events, to creating the online shop, with greater heights yet to be reached in our quest to bring out the best in the Kenyan Fashion Industry. As I look back to where it all started, I can't help but give thanks for the overwhelming support and goodwill I have had from friends, family, clients and everyone who has been part of making the Afrivazi story. It has been a time of learning and growth, not to forget failure, and having to pick up the pieces and starting again. But as is the case with any industry, there is more that comes with working in the fashion industry than the glamour we see in pictures - there is hard work, there are tears no one will ever talk about, but there is greater joy when you can see the impact your work is having.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We are working towards opening a physical store in Nairobi which will be fully stocked with clothes made by Kenyan designers, and as we grow, it is our dream that we will have more stores across the continent and abroad where one can walk in and buy products from different African designers. Our vision is to raise a generation of African designers whose fashion products meet both the local and international market standards and whose legacy outlives them, not only through the important contributions they make in the industry but also through the social impact their work will have.
"By using our services and purchasing our products one is assured of African quality, reliability, variety and uniqueness at it's best."
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
There is joy in knowing that you have helped increase revenues and clients for designers from the connections we have helped them create. There is joy when clients attest not only to the good quality of work done by local designers but go ahead to buy and become return clients and refer others to buy locally made items. But my greatest joy comes from the fact that the brand has resonated with the younger working class who have owned it and made it their own. I may not get to talk to all clients, but the stories of the few I interact with inspire me to continue doing what I do. For them, Afrivazi is more than just the clothes they wear, it is an identity of who they are - for some it is an expression of their stories and much more.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
It is a tough journey but worthwhile - you get to learn a lot not only about yourself as an entrepreneur, but also about your industry and other issues, and what better way to live life than becoming a better version of who you are, and constantly improving and having an impact on other people's lives.
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Why LoA loves it….
Impact is a word that resonates particularly powerfully amongst women entrepreneurs in Africa, as they know that the businesses, brands and social enterprises they build can have far reaching positive impacts on people, society and the environment. In the case of entrepreneur Valerie Nyamwaya, she is making a huge impact on the lives and prospects of the talented women fashionpreneurs of Kenya, and opening up a wealth of opportunities for them to thrive. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa