By Devika Jyothi
‘It is by standing on the shoulders of giants that one is able to see further.’ So reflected Ms Angela Wanjiku, a fashion entrepreneur and participant in the Mitreeki Fashion Incubator Programme, (MFIP), recently launched by SITA’s Mitreeki East Africa-India Partnership (Mitreeki). Mitreeki aims to foster successful entrepreneurship among women; and the goal of the 10-month MFIP is to help East African woman fashion designers develop business and marketing skills. Nineteen Kenyan female fashion designers participated in the first module held in Nairobi from 14-22 January 2019.
Designed and delivered by KikoRomeo founder and lead designer, Ms. Ann McCreath, MFIP’s January module included sessions on defining and interpreting the Brand DNA of a product with respect to its target market to enable better business recognition of a brand name. It also included lessons on how to register a business, maximise return on investment (ROI), costing and pricing of products for local and export markets as well as a session on sales management.
‘This curriculum has been designed based on real experiences in running a fashion business in Kenya. It aims to be practical and useful for young female fashion entrepreneurs, while recognising the pressures on their time. It aims to elevate them faster, both in terms of brand recognition and turnover,’ notes Ms. McCreath. On completion of the course, participants will ‘know how to build their brand, potentially as a sellable commodity, and have packaged it to maximum effect for the media, buyers and the public.’
‘For me the focus is on Brand DNA. The other things follow once this is clear. When designers try to sell internationally, the key thing is their brand DNA, what makes them different for all the other offerings. It’s not really about price, it’s about selling a beautiful product with a compelling story. ‘What’s your brand DNA?’ is the first question any buyer currently asks. I know costing and pricing are critical, but brand DNA has to come first to determine your market and consequent price and cost,’ Ms McCreath added.
Individual mentorship is a key aspect of the programme. From 23-25 January, Ms. McCreath conducted private mentoring sessions with the participants, providing one-on-one guidance on business development. The mentoring sessions gave the participants an opportunity to discuss their experiences as fashion entrepreneurs and to seek guidance on how to improve their work and business performance.
Commenting on the effectiveness of the training programme, Ms. Katrina Liyai, Founder and Creative Director of Pure Maiden Limited, said, ‘Since the orientation in December 2018, I have already begun to practice efficiency both in operation and fabric use, and also apply the costing and pricing formula. A better understanding of my brand DNA has also given me clarity regarding my target market and business goals.’
‘Learning the importance of correct costing and pricing in the overall ROI and profitability of the business was very timely as I am currently working towards applying this to my business,’she added.
‘The Mitreeki Fashion Incubator programme is one of those courses that can help every designer – no matter what level one may be – reach the next level. Because it is not about what you know but what you learn from one another,’ said Ms. Lorna Abwonji, Creative Director, Mia Mara Creations. ‘It gives you perspectives of your business you would otherwise not have thought about; whether you are a start-up or you are at it for years.
Commenting on the evolution of Mitreeki since its launch in Kigali in 2017, SITA Coordinator Mr.Govind Venuprasad said, ‘Since 2017, through Mitreeki, SITA has supported over 250 women entrepreneurs through training, networking, and trade promotion activities. MFIP signals a new phase of Mitreeki underpinned by in-depth and bespoke support is being offered to enhance the business and technical skills of women entrepreneurs, promote higher value addition, and help them enter new international markets.’
As part of the 10-month programme, the participating entrepreneurs will design new collections, which will be shown in October 2019. So, watch this space!