Lovers of fine leather accessories in Namibia are now able to shop locally to buy beautifully designed and handcrafted handbags and other specialist products, thanks to the talented entrepreneur Petrina Auino-Mwandingi, founder of KOVA. She has created a premium leather accessory brand specially for the local Namibian market, and her customers are loving the end result.
LoA welcomed business founder, Petrina Auino-Mwandingi, to the Lioness Lean In Namibia event this month to listen to her inspirational startup story.
What does your company do?
At KOVA, we produce high quality leather handbags, primarily totes as well as other leather accessories. Our products range from totes, sling bags, slim card holders, to passport covers and clutch bags.
“I wanted to create a premium brand that supplies the local market with genuine leather bags that are high quality, durable, but with a minimalist aesthetic that is classic and timeless.”
What inspired you to start your company?
I wanted to create a premium brand that supplies the local market with genuine leather bags that are high quality, durable, but with a minimalist aesthetic that is classic and timeless. I wanted to also make bags that were affordable so that I wouldn't have to travel abroad to buy a good leather tote bag.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our bags are made of 100% local genuine leather. They are handcrafted and all ou designs are minimalist and classic. I am involved in the making of every single bag, and at KOVA, our bags are handcrafted with love indeed!
Tell us a little about your team
It's basically just myself, the creative director and founder, plus another lady who is a seasoned seamstress with years of experience working with leather and in the making of bags. The two of us are involved in every step of the process, from pattern making and design, to cutting and stitching, to produce the finished product.
“I want KOVA to become a high-quality luxury brand that is of export quality so that the brand can be part of those new fresh brands from Africa to the world.”
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My mom was an accountant working a full-time job, but she was always entrepreneurial and ran various small businesses on the side. She was into sewing and I watched her sew on the weekends while growing up. My brother has been in business since he was 16 so I guess you could say there's a bit of an entrepreneurial background in my family.
I started my first business after I graduated as a Naturopathic Doctor and couldn't find a job. I co-founded a natural health centre offering complementary and alternative healthcare services in 2010 until 2018. That business closed and I opened up my own practice and similar business called Naturo Health and Wellness which I also currently run. In 2017, after some years of having the idea to start a creative business, I finally established KOVA and am currently growing this business while still running my healthcare practice.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I definitely plan to grow the brand, expand production, and eventually go into the continental and global market. I want KOVA to become a high-quality luxury brand that is of export quality so that the brand can be part of those new fresh brands from Africa to the world. KOVA aspires to help rewrite the African narrative and give the world an amazing range of products. We want to introduce more men's products such as wallets and duffel/weekender bags in the near future.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Creating employment for myself and others. Creating a flexible working lifestyle that allows me to run my professional business based on my passion and career – Naturopathy, and helping people as well as my creative business at the same time. I love being a pioneer and an inspiration to show others that it’s possible to create your dream job, and to run multiple businesses successfully.
“KOVA aspires to help rewrite the African narrative and give the world an amazing range of products. “
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
A few Ps, my pearls of Petrina Wisdom :)
P - Planning : You have to create some sort of guide so you know where you are going and how you will get there. It doesn't have to be the old traditional business plan, but some sort of plan to help you start-up. Think it through, plan and then execute. My favourite life and business quote: "Plan your work and work your plan" - Ded Prez, Hiphop legends!
P - Passion - You have to be passionate about your business idea. When things aren't working out and challenges overwhelm you, this is what will fuel you to keep going.
P- Perseverance - If you want to build a start-up, you have to persevere though it all, keep pushing till you get a yes, till you get the clients, till your business takes off. Perseverance is crucial for any business to not only start but to keep going and growing.
P - Patience - They tell you it's hard to start a business, but often you don't hear about just how long it takes. It can take time, a long time to really see your business thrive and it takes some real patience to keep waiting to finally reap the fruits of your labour.
Contact or follow Kova
Why LoA loves it….
It is always good to see a new, high quality, brand emerging from the African continent, and one that has the potential to move outside the borders of the country in which it’s goods are made. Petrina Auino-Mwandingi has big aspirations for her beautiful leather accessory brand, KOVA, and it is wonderful to see such brands emerging from Namibia that have the potential to resonate with buyers from elsewhere on the African continent. This is definitely one proudly Namibian brand to watch over the coming months and years. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and ceo of Lionesses of Africa