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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Two Mothers Who Turned Their Passion Into a Fashion Luxury Brand

Meet the 2 women that turned their passion into one of Kenya’s leading fashion brands, Kooroo designs. They are Ugandan entrepreneur Enid Lanez and Ethiopian designer Hebret Lakew, the 2 met at their children’s school in Nairobi after relocating to Kenya about a decade ago. The 2 mothers struck a friendship which eventually led to one of Kenya’s leading luxury fashion brands.

Kooroo Designs is a designer label targeted at high-income women.The business has grown from a “hobby” of 2 housewives, to an established business selling in Kenya and also internationally via online stores in South Africa, the UK and the US. When they started in 2006, Lanez says the duo only wanted something to keep themselves busy during the day after their husbands left for work and their kids for school. They started selling outfits made out of khanga – a colourful garment popular in Africa – to friends and at exhibitions at their children’s school.

As the popularity of their products increased they decided to take the business more seriously. They moved Kooroo out of their homes, opened a workshop and hired staff. Their products are targeted at mature stylish women. Ethiopian designer Habret Lakew studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the US and worked with leading luxury brands in New York for 15 years.

Lakew says this background and the experience that came with it influences the firm’s efforts to offer high-standard quality products. “It’s not easy to run a business,” says Lanez. “We did not put in millions to start, but as we became more serious we began investing. If you don’t have a good flow of customers, you can easily run out of cash. Running the business can be stressful, but it is fun too.”

Lakew says they take every challenge in their stride and do not let anything out of their control discourage them. “We just handle things as they come. There has to be some degree of joy in what you are doing otherwise it is not worth it. Everyday there are obstacles, but there are also good times such as watching a customer’s excitement when they like what we have produced.”
She advises entrepreneurs to learn to work within their environment and deal with the cultural differences that may exist. An eye for quality, consistency and good customer service is an absolute must. “Also focus on one thing and not try to do everything. If you are a designer you can’t start with men’s, women’s and children’s clothes. Choose one thing, get your name and brand established and only then think about expanding,Lakew advises.

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