Interview by Martine Irakoze
My goal in writing this first article in what will become a series of Startup Story features for Lionesses of Africa is to shine a light on Burundian female entrepreneurs who are moving things in their country. My first interviewee is Krystal Bella Shabani, an ambitious Burundian young woman who is revolutionizing the fashion industry in the country.
What does your company do?
Krysbel Designs is a Made in Burundi and an African-inspired fashion brand of clothes, footwear, and accessories for women, men, and children. Krysbel is a combination of my full names, Krystal Bella Shabani.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey.
My entrepreneurial journey started small but with a big vision. At university, I was assigned to make a business plan and I used my designs. From there, I started considering fashion as a career. Then, I bootstrapped with my little pocket money, around 2000 Burundians Francs (less than a USD D now). My first clothing collection comprised of only 5 items of clothing. Now, my designs have been exhibited to different programs, conferences, and shows in Africa and abroad. One of them is the YALI program (Young African Leadership Initiative).
Why should anyone use your product?
People should buy Krysbel Designs because it represents a blend of contemporary design with a classic style. It aims to spread happiness and culture. This is what I feel when I am creating designs: happiness and passion for my culture. That is the core identity of my products.
Tell us a little bit about your team?
I partner with some cooperatives and associations where I train people to make-up my designs on a full-time basis. This is a powerful workforce which contributes to solving the issue of unemployment in my community.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I envision Krysbel as an international fashion brand which represents the “Made in Burundi” movement. For the moment, I do exports some of my products to Canada, USA, and Sweden where we have a great number of Burundian Diaspora, which is very supportive. However, we are still struggling with shipping and exporting the products abroad on a larger scale.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love the fact that I do what I love and manage my own schedule. I also enjoy being a young entrepreneur in Africa because most of the young people are still marginalized in the sense that they do not have the agency to make their own decisions and contribute to the development of their country.
What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to other Burundian women looking to start their business?
Fear is one of the major barriers for young people to start business. My advice would be that, in business, failure will be their best friend. So, they should start getting used to that. This message goes especially to women because they are still behind in entrepreneurship because of fear. I believe that if more Burundian women participated in entrepreneurship, we can make changes happen faster.
What are the biggest challenges for you as a Burundian female entrepreneurs?
As a female entrepreneur, it is really hard to get financial support because people and financial institutions do not believe in us. This requires patience. However, the problem is that, we, young people want to be rich very quickly. Another challenge is access to information in general; either on how to do business or exports. As a solution, I read books on entrepreneurship and use the internet. Nonetheless, in general, starting a business as a Burundian woman is not that complicated. It requires personality and attitude, knowing who you are first.
For anyone interested in knowing more about Krysbel Design in Burundi, check out the company’s social media links:
Qu'ils jouent avec le tissu ou les notes, ils ont la réussite au bout des doigts. Zoom sur deux jeunes créateurs de Bujumbura. Elle n'a pas atterri dans le monde de la mode par hasard. D'aussi loin qu'elle s'en souvienne, Krystal Shabani a toujours eu à portée de main "une petite trousse remplie d'aiguilles et de fil".
Design in A Cultural Context - Krysbel Krysbel is an Africa-inspired fashion brand offering handmade clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Contemporary Design With a Classic Style aiming to spread happiness and celebrating culture through designs.
About the author
Martine Irakoze is a Burundian student at the University of Edinburgh in International Relations & International Law. She is a serial entrepreneur, passionate about African youth empowerment. One of her favourite activities in Burundi is to walk around the streets of the slums, where it is common to see young people sitting inactive and unemployed. This sight fuels her drive to break this cycle of wasted youth potential. She envisions an Africa where every young person has the opportunity to fulfil their full potential. She believes that, by investing in young people and involving them in the development of their communities, we are not only rising nations but a whole continent. At university, Martine co-founded Linda, which is a student-led social enterprise aiming to spark conversations around sexual health related issues affecting young people in Kenya and Africa. She was also awarded the Resolution Fellowship and the MasterCard Scholarship at the University of Edinburgh.