Annesophie Achera: Bringing African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry

Annesophie Achera is the founder and creative director of AAchera Designs, a chic African fashion brand born in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011.

She created the unique clothing line for women to feel bold, vibrant and confident and has since taken her brand across the region to Rwanda, Ghana and across the pond to the US and the UK.

Annesophie takes pride in her designs as they show her love for the African print and African culture unabashedly.

A fashion force to reckon with, Annesophie has had quite the journey and in this article, she shares her eagerness to do a lot more for the burgeoning fashion industry in Kenya.


On how my career in fashion began…

A few years back, I would make my own clothes to wear to family functions, and would always get positive responses about the clothes I designed.

People always wanted to know where I got this dress or that top and it became so frequent that I started getting a few orders here and there and with the constant push from my family, I decided to start my own line.

Being in the company of my cousin Liz Ogumbo, a well-known fashion designer based in South Africa and my mentor also got me very interested in the fashion industry.

Having worked with True Love magazine as a stylist also helped me learn my ways around styling people from all walks of life.

What inspired my fashion line – AACHERA…

I’m very passionate about fashion and style and I personally like dressing for occasions – every day is my runway.

That is what inspired me to create a line for both myself and for people out there who love fashion and want to look and feel confident in what they wear.

I currently have two fashion lines. One is a luxury line which mainly has stock for occasions – this was inspired by wanting and appreciating the finer things in life.

I recently rebranded the line and what inspired that was the need to have local fashion businesses in the retail space, I felt the need to fill that gap and bring African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry.

My thoughts on the fashion scene in Africa…

I think the fashion scene on the continent is doing quite well. I always say Africa is the new luxury at large as a brand in itself.

The industry is really thriving in West and Southern Africa and it is picking up quite fast in East Africa as well.

I have done business in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, and the US and England – so as a designer in Africa, you have quite a big market, especially in the diaspora because they tend to prefer locally made clothes to support their own.

The African Development Bank (AFDB) stated that fashion in Africa is sustainable mainly just by the virtue of creating employment opportunities for our own here, especially for a lot of women and creating a positive working environment.

How I think the fashion scene in Africa can improve…

One challenge I think we face a lot is the challenge of production, and this is something I am constantly working on and gradually overcoming.

It is a case of either growing your in-house production team or taking your designs to the factories and that is always a challenge if you are a small business.

I wish we could have more people taking in small – scale orders so that the businesses that are just starting out can still get the same quality of clothing.

My fashion do’s and don’ts…

Don’t – wear clothes that do not fit.

They give the impression that you’re either not too confident with yourself and it kind of reflects badly on you as a person.

What you wear says a lot about you without you having to say anything at all.

Do – have a good base/foundation to your dressing.

By this, I mean what you wear inside your clothes should also be as good as what you wear outside.

Wearing the right size bra, good clean underwear, provides a positive base for what you will wear on top of all that.

Your style should be a reflection of who you are. Lousy foundations = a lousy fit = lousy confidence.

Don’t – rush into trends

I prefer to make classic pieces that can be worn for a long period of time.

Trends tend to die out quick and you end up wasting money and time on pieces that won’t serve you a long time. Buy clothes that you intend to keep forever.

Quality over quantity any day.

Do – have a signature style.

Be known for something. You don’t need to be a fashion designer or a stylist to be known for that particular style.

How does one get to know their signature style? One should ask themselves various questions like who are you really?

What do you like to do? What do you stand for?

My top 3 fashion icons, locally and internationally…

  • Asiyami Gold
  • Elie Saab
  • Michelle Obama

What motivates me to create and develop new designs…

My motivation comes from different things. I look to different cultures, I try to learn and understand them to appreciate what they offer in terms of creativity.

When I travel I take time to engage with different people from different parts of the world and get to learn the history of the place and the people and understand why certain things are done in a certain way.

All this inspires my designs in one way or another. Some of my collections stem from a personal story that I’m relaying in my work.

AAchera is basically made to incorporate African cultures into the design and telling an African story through our textiles and collections. When it comes to designing, I look a lot to the seasons we experience.

I use different colors according to the season and pick small elements fro what is trending that I add on to the main classic piece that will be the end result.

My advice to those wanting to start their own fashion line…

  • Don’t give yourself an excuse not to start. Just go for it and start. Know your strengths.
  • I knew my strength is in styling so I used that to get my start in the fashion world.
  • Don’t procrastinate – be consistent.
  • When necessary take breaks and you don’t have to explain why, because as creatives we tend to get into a rut or a creative block from time to time so taking a break to get your juices flowing again is not a bad thing.
  • Know your why. If you always remember why you started, no matter what happens or comes in your way you’ll always keep it pushing and keep going because you know your why.

What’s next for the future of AAchera Designs…

We just rebranded in 2017, we had been on a break since 2014.

It’s been a great two years so far of growth and constant learning and I think moving forward, we want to be very consistent and soon have an AAchera Retail outlet.

I want to be able to create clothes for women in all sizes in a retail space. I want the company to grow both locally and globally and continue creating awareness of the versatility of African Fashion.

I want to particularly have a prime presence in East, South and Western Africa with outlets being put up in various cities on the continent.

My biggest lesson in life and business…

Always have written agreements for proof/reference. Be it with suppliers of textiles, employees, any form of business interaction for clarity and all reference in the future, in case things go south. 

Do not make assumptions, communicate clearly.

I’m glad to have learned this early in my business life even before re-branding, and it has saved me a lot.

This has worked well because you end up minimizing your losses and everything is clearly written out for future reference.

It may have cost me earlier in my journey, especially being a young designer in the industry then, but moving forward it has been an effective and important lesson learned.

My mantra in life…

To see a change, you need to become a living, breathing asset to everyone you know and a true advocate to everything you believe in.

It can get stressful, hard, but these are things that are getting you ahead so keep at it – be consistent, practice patience and keep learning.

One thing I recently learned is to do business with people who inspire you.

Salma Abdulatif – The Hair Nurse: I kept trying till I got Salummy right

Salma Abdulatif was born in Malindi and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. She studies Marine Business Management at Moi University, and she is a Cohort – 15 graduate of the Young African Leadership Initiative, a programme initiated by former President of the United States, Barrack Obama. Apart from that, writing and poetry have been her forte all through her life. She also enjoys motivating youth and creating innovative solutions to complex problems which she does through her Community-Based Organization, Motivational Talks for Youth (MTY). Salma recently ventured into Natural Hair Oil business – Salummy and she takes us through the journey of being a hair nurse.

 Why did you decide to create natural hair products and how did you transform that into a business?

After listening to my friends complaining about stunted hair growth, dandruff, ‘rough hair, weak hair etc…. You know all those problems girls have with their hair. The problems did not just end there, there was also the issue of hair products which promised to take care of the mentioned issues but most of them failed.   Personally, I have tried all types of hair oils that I could lay my hands on and I found it difficult to get that one particular oil that I could constantly go back to and this was when I realized that I could be the solution to this problem. After a number of trials and errors, I was able to come up with a particular oil that I used for some time and there was a tremendous improvement on my hair in terms of texture, color, size, volume, and strength. I am a Muslim, so I cannot carelessly flaunt my hair all over the place. One day, as I washed my hair, my cousins noticed the change and asked for the secret behind my beautiful hair. After sharing it with it them, they also tried it and it worked!   That is how Salummy hair oil was born. Friends kept on asking for the oil, and I realized I couldn’t keep giving them my oil for free, and I slowly transformed it to my side hustle. I moved from making the oil to shampoo, hair conditioner and even beard balm for the men.

Where do you get the ingredients for your oils? Are they natural? 

I mostly use organic products ( chemical- free)which is a combination of carrier oils, herbs, and essential oils which when mixed together can be a perfect combo to more moisturized, longer, softer and thicker hair. I use black Jamaican castor oil, curry leaves and lavender essential oil as part of the products I use in my combo. I source all my raw materials locally and I get my bottles from Nairobi, in a plastic industry.

Who are your clients, and where are they located?

Most of my clients are natural and transitioning ladies but I also have a significant number of relaxed ladies who still find my hair oil helpful to their hair mainly in terms of reducing on hair loss. I have a big market base- I have clients from Mombasa, Kajiado, Nairobi, Kilifi, Lamu, Zanzibar, Daresalaam, Nakuru and even England.

What has been the feedback since you launched Salummy Hair Products?

The feedback has been overwhelming. When I first started, I did not have a good response and I had to go back to the kitchen time and again to work on my recipe and to keep trying until I had the right proportion for all hair types.

There are so many entrepreneurs out there selling natural hair products, what makes your brand unique from the rest?

My brand is unique because I give the clients exactly what their hair needs. You will find most brands promising so much and delivering little but I have always tried to test my products with my own family and friends before taking them out to the market so that I give the people what they really want and not what I envision for them which might sometimes come out as an illusion of expectations not met. The first time you use a natural oil, you already can feel and know if it works or not. This is the beauty of it. If you are passionate about what you do, you can never fail - @salummy_salmun Click To Tweet

What challenges do you or have you encountered?

The main challenge has been to grow the business by myself. I have so many suppliers and ambassadors but I am still the entrepreneur and the head and it can sometimes come out as overwhelming especially since I have to deal with so many orders. The other challenge I face is introducing new products that my clients need like shampoos, conditioners, deep conditioners, and even soaps. I am really trying to take it easy and go as per my capacity. But I eventually know that I will have all these products out sooner or later. I am also thinking of adding partners in the company and a personal assistant to help me in distribution and marketing.

What is your advice to young women entrepreneurs who keep dismissing their business ideas with doubts and fears?

If you are passionate about what you do, you can never fail. Businesses do not grow in a day, it is a combination of effort, determination, consistency, and creativity. If you have all these with you, your business will speak for itself. Article by Rumona Apiyo.
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Meet the women taking their place as CEO’s in Kenya

A lot has been said about women entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Women have distinguished themselves and we have trailblazers like Tabitha Karanja of Keroche Industries, Flora Mutahi of Melvin’s Tea, Gina Din Kariuki of Gina Din Communications, Judith Owingar of AkiraChix, Lorna Rutto of Eco posts, Ruth Mwanzia of Koola Waters, Shikha Vincent of Shikazuri and Michelle Ntalami of Marini Naturals to name a few.

Entrepreneurship is mainly about business skills, determination, resilience, networking, and social impact. Women are working their way into this area and are slowly but surely making headway.

A lot of focus and support has been given to women entrepreneurs through grants, training, access to finance and favorable government policies like Access to Government Procurement (AGPO) to name a few. More women are encouraged to participate in this sector.

Women in the corporate world have an uphill task to get their place and break all the glass ceilings. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, in her book LEAN IN, gives insights into what the life of a woman in corporate America is and how to maneuver it.

According to Fortune.com, there were 27 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies as at January 2018. How about corporate Kenya?

I admire women in the corporate world because apart from the normal barriers they encounter and overcome, boys club mentality, patriarchy, high technical skills, experience, glass ceiling mentality (Gender stereotyping), sexual harassment, inflexible working conditions and integrity.

The corporate world is harsh and cutthroat. The impact is mostly measured in terms of PROFITS and PROFITS. Only recently have corporates embraced a wider scale to measure the impact of CEO’s to include social impact, teamwork, employee innovation and customer retention to name a few.

This shift gives women a chance to shine as their natural skills of collaboration and teamwork are an asset.

Entrepreneurship is forgiving on the requirements of higher education and experience. A person with a basic education can quickly become a business mogul. However, in the corporate world, experience and education have a lot of weight.

The current trend to consider leadership, softer skills and strategic leadership has made it more accessible for women.

Due to gender roles and social pressure, many women in the past were not in a position to access higher education and therefore did not get promotions to enable them to rise up.

Currently, women are taking up chances to improve their education hence giving them more edge to compete in the corporate world. Experience is a matter of time; men had an advantage of this. In the last 20 years, women have proved that given a fair chance they too climb the corporate ladder right up to the top.

Why do we need women in CEO positions?

 

People in the corporate world manage a large amount of money and direct how it is used. Gender diversity has also been proven over the years to increase profits and performance of corporations.

Therefore, further inclusion of women has been proved to attract talent in the boardrooms where innovative solutions are created. Invariably more women-friendly products and policies emerge from companies that are managed by women. After all, women are 50% of the consumers of products and services.

The simple fundamental reason why women should be in the corporate world is that it’s fair and inclusive to do so.

In Kenya, we have many distinguished ladies at the helm of corporates and organizations. This has increased recently, but to date, only 2 women lead corporations listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange i.e. Maria Msiska of BOC  (until 2016) and Nasim Devji of DTB Bank. We can do better.

Here are examples of Women CEO’s in Kenya:

  • Jennifer Riria is a pioneer of women in CEO position and has been holding this and similar positions in the microfinance and banking industry for 20 years. She is the CEO of Kenya Women Holdings that has a subsidiary Kenya Women microfinance Bank which is a leading bank for women entrepreneurs. She is a Ph.D. holder and has a Degree and Master degree as well.

 

  • Stella Njunge: CEO of Sanlam Life, part of Sanlam Kenya Group. She has over 15 years’ experience in the insurance industry,  a CPA(K), CPS(K), and holds a degree and masters. Stella also has over 16 years’ experience in Insurance.

 

  • Catherine Karimi: CEO of APA Life part of Apollo Group a leading insurer in Kenya. She has 18 years’ experience in Insurance industry, a degree, postgraduate certificate in Actuarial Studies, and is a member of Chartered Insurers (UK).

 

  • Rita Kavashe: is the CEO of General Motors East Africa, Kenya with 35 years’ experience working at GM. She has a degree and postgraduate certificates and rose through the ranks.

 

  • Phyllis Wakiaga: is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers. She has a law degree, Higher Diploma in Law and Human Resource Management, Master Degrees in International Trade and Investment Law and Business Administration.

There are many more female CEO’s in Kenya. The common items in their profiles are EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE.  This is a true testament that education is an equalizer.

Given equal opportunity and based on merit, women can excel and are excelling in the corporate world. Girls need to be encouraged to plan their career path early to help them reach the top CEO positions to bridge the current gap.

I look forward to more women taking up the CEO roles and reducing the barriers to getting there.


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Vaida Odongo: You can start a business anytime with the right mindset

Contrary to what many people and businesses might think, investing in your brand online is not just about spending money on the brand.

Instead, it’s about building an entity that will resonate with your customers and keep them coming back again and again—even when there’s no deal or promotion to entice them.

Who is Vaida?

Vaida Odongo is a young woman living in Nairobi who’s passionate about empowering women and leveraging on technology for sustainable development.

She studied Gender and development studies while in university but came to love marketing after a short stint working as a trainer in the Google Digify Bytes Program that was being implemented by Livity Africa, a youth-focused nonprofit based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Vaida loves seeing businesses grow and coming up with strategies to solve various business challenges. “You might be having a challenge with selling a product online, what I do is that I sit down and look at all the possible solutions that might help solve the problem then we choose one that works. I love the adrenaline rush that comes with brainstorming”. 

“I have always been interested in empowering women. When I was younger, my dream was to work in an NGO that would enable me directly work with women.

I hadn’t figured out yet what exactly I wanted to do when I actually landed the job, but I knew things would become clearer with time.

When you empower a woman, you empower the society - @vaida_odongo Click To Tweet

Fast forward almost ten years later, I have found myself working with women though not in an NGO.

I now help women brand and market their products and services online. I am very passionate about helping women grow and sustain their businesses because I believe that when you empower a woman, you empower the society.” 

Why Digital Marketing?

“The world is increasingly going digital. With more than half the population using online platforms such as social media, companies are now forced to look at how they can leverage these platforms.

The social space is set to grow and there’s a need for training so that the teams which are set on marketing online have the capacity to do so”. 

What does your work involve?

My work involves training women-led business and enterprises on branding online. This means creating a brand story that their online audience will be attracted to. I have been working on this for the last two years and I’m loving it every day.

My pieces of training are conducted over a one to two-day period and tailor-made to fit a customer’s needs.

I love the adrenaline rush that comes with brainstorming - @vaida_odongo Click To Tweet

Whether you are in beauty, fashion, construction or advocacy, I have the right curriculum to help you amplify your online voice. I also help companies come up with strategies that will help amplify their voices online.

I also offer mentorship sessions to my clients. Maybe along the road the strategy we picked might not work, I’ll come in again and we’ll come up with another one. I also offer refresher training to me customers for free. My aim is getting their businesses to grow so we do whatever it takes to make sure this happens.

To empower more businesses to grow, I also offer pro bono services to customers who are just venturing into business and need some advice.

I do this because at the beginning some people just need to know different ways they can market their products and services. 

When building your online brand, you need to:

  • Make sure you understand your audience, their needs, and why they interact with you.
  • Create an online persona that is fun and captivating at the same time.
  • Be consistent. Make sure you post when you are supposed to.
  • Take time to appreciate your customers e.g. through give away. 
  • Remember to have fun. Captivating your audience is trial and error. Have fun while at it.

How do you manage your business?

Being your own boss is a challenge because most of the time, you never know when to stop and take a break. I have learned to schedule myself so that I have enough time to catch my breath and relax.

Also, I enjoy reading and watching animated movies and cartoons.

I also love cooking and discovering how I can use different spices and herbs from all over the world in my food.

What is your advice for young women who are looking to venture into Digital Marketing?

My advice to young women out there is that you can start a business anytime and with the right mindset, you can take it to the next.

Becoming a digital marketing expert requires you to do a lot of research to know what’s happening in the online space. 

Remember that deciding to be your own boss doesn’t mean lots of free time on your hands.

You have to be willing work overtime because most of the time you will have to do everything on your own without a cheering squad. 


If you’d like to share a story with us at She Leads Africa, share your story us here.

#OwnYourYear Nairobi: Feb 3, 2018 @ Nairobi Garage

A goal without a plan is just a wish!

#OwnYourYear Nairobi is a must attend if you are serious about getting the support you need to accomplish your goals this year!

At this workshop, you will: 

-Learn how to live your best life through intimate mentorship sessions led by notable speakers

– Lay out practical and realistic plans for your New Year, and openly discuss how you can achieve even your biggest, most audacious goals

-Be supported and encouraged to achieve your goals through peer mentorship – we’ll hold you accountable even after the event is over!

-And as usual, enjoy this all in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by other #MotherlandMoguls and #AfricanGirlMagic!

What are you waiting for? Don’t let another month go by without getting the support you need to make a plan that will ensure this year is your most productive and successful yet. Get your tickets below!

Schedule

11:30 am
12:00 pm
12:30 pm
1:00 pm
1:30 pm
2:00 pm
2:30 pm
3:00 pm
3:30 pm
4:00 pm
#OwnYourYear
#OwnYourYear
Registration/Open

Ice Breaker

Get to know other #Motherlandmoguls!

Glow up financially with Fridah Cherono (Project Leader at Open Capital Advisors)
12:30 pm - 1:15 pm

As #Motherlandmoguls, its very important we have and make our own. In this session we will be hanging out with Fridah, Project Leader at Open Capital Advisors and she'll be dropping some bars on how we can glow financially this year!

Create Your Best Life with Maureen Murunga (Founder, AMAVIDA)
1:15 pm - 2:00 pm

This 2018, we gon' shine! But how though? Listen Maureen, Founder of AMAVIDA salons speak on how she is living her best life and how we can too!

Break

Grab some snacks, get a drink, chill with your new best friends!

Just do it with Afua Osei (Co-Founder, SLA)
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Learn practical ways to face and implement your big audacious goals with SLA's co-founder, Afua! In this session Afua will be leading exercises to help you implement and live your best life this year !

Learn practical ways to face and implement your big audacious goals with SLA's co-founder, Afua! In this session Afua will be leading exercises to help you implement and live your best life this year !

Close/Pictures

Tickets

4000 KES – Click here to buy your ticket using MPESA! If you’re experiencing difficulties with payment please email ore@sheladsafrica.org. 

Venue

Special thanks to our sponsor!

Joy Kendi: Your 20’s are not for chilling. Work hard now, so you can relax later

Joy Kendi is a lifestyle blogger, vlogger and content creator who covers everything from fashion, beauty, and travel.

She has built her creative career from the ground up, constantly teaching herself along the way to allow for continuous growth in her profession.

Joy is a SLAYboss and runs things on her own terms earning her global recognition and her story below tells us that this journey is only the beginning of far greater things to come.


When did you first get into blogging?

I’ve always been interested in fashion, ever since I was a young girl. I wanted to get into design after high school but most of the schools I applied to didn’t offer scholarships and I don’t come from a wealthy family so I had to scrap that idea.

I took up styling right after college for about six months and I hated it. So I quit that and the blogging bug hit me.

Back then, when blogging was still quite relevant and at the time it was just a hobby, I had been following a few blogs.  Never thought I could make money off of it, until about a year later when Nancie Mwai (popular blogger in Kenya) got the opportunity to go to Germany because of her blog and my entire mindset on it changed.

Then I decided to focus on it more and figure out how to make it more of a business. I knew nothing at the time but I just hit the ground running, going to different offices, telling them about me and what I can offer them.

That’s really how I learned most of the stuff I know now, through trying and getting rejected.

Weirdly enough, everything didn’t change until I shaved my head and I’m not sure why but going bald was the first step in getting people to see me as a different person and not just a regular blogger.

Your 20s are not for chilling, work yourself to the core now - @justjoykendi Click To Tweet

I realized that fashion is very limiting, especially in Kenya, so I started to expand more into beauty.  Then tried travel and food and all that turned into a lifestyle direction for me.

Less than two years ago, lifestyle blogging opened a lot of doors for me because it meant I could do anything – be it advertising phones, makeup, hotels, restaurants, airlines, even countries!

 

What three things do you consider while creating content and/or partnering up with a brand?

My biggest thing to consider when I’m partnering up with a brand is to answer the question – do I or will I actually use the said product? If I do use it, does it go with my brand? And third, will this propel me in a positive or a negative direction?

When it comes to content creation, I think about:

1. How much work is it and how much time will it take on my end because that’s how I figure out my rate.

2. What have other content creators within the continent done in regards to the product that I need to create content for?

3. Is there a possibility of collaboration with others? If I know a friend or fellow blogger who can do it too, I will always try to bring them in and we both benefit from the job.

 

 

Was this your career of choice? What would you be if you hadn’t gone the blogging route?

If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably still be working in TV/film production. When I was still in school, I was interning at a local TV network, KTN and I was also working in a production company, behind the scenes doing things like writing scripts.

I got burnt out for a while though, which is why I eventually quit at the beginning of this year and solely focused on content creation.

I went to the University of YouTube and watched how other people do photoshoots and edits Click To Tweet

You take 90% of your images, manages your blog and brand on your own. Is there a particular reason why you chose to be a one-woman team?

Well when I first started out, my boyfriend would take my pictures. Due to our different schedules though, I realized I needed to learn how to do this on my own.

When starting out you don’t usually have a flowing income to be able to pay photographers so they would usually do it as a favor to build their portfolio as you build yours.

If they get a paying gig, they will pick that over you thus leaving you stranded once again, so getting a photographer wasn’t an option for me.

I went to the University of YouTube and watched how other people would do things like editing, photo shoots, what cameras to use, what kind of specs to look for and with that information, I slowly started to invest in myself.

I write all my proposals, attend meetings, create content, and do my own accounts Click To Tweet

I saved any money I got to buy my own equipment i.e. camera and lighting equipment, a laptop, computer programmes etc.

It is important that I have a say in what I do, and have control over what goes on with my work such as the editing process.

Before now, I used to have a manager who was actually very nice but sometimes we’d bump heads over things like working with certain companies so these among other reasons is why I decided it’s better to learn and do everything myself.

It’s a very stressful job I can’t lie – I write all my own proposals, attend all the meetings, create the content, send to the client, wait for approval, do my own accounts… It’s so much work but it’s how I prefer to work and also means I don’t have to pay anyone else.

 

What challenges have you faced as a blogger so far?

Getting paid is the biggest challenge and there’s a lot of corruption especially in regards to big global companies that hire agencies here to handle their brand. A budget usually set aside for influencers such as myself is misused by the agency and we end up getting short-changed.

Another challenge is getting burnt out. I kinda got burnt out with blogging, I got bored and couldn’t see more ways to make talking about outfits exciting again. That’s why I got into YouTube, which is so fresh and so much fun. Getting burnt out helped me expand and open up new opportunities, which I never thought I could do before.

One last challenge I will add is learning how to say no. I usually have a list of companies that I would like to work with and if a similar company approaches me that isn’t on my list, I will say no to them, with the belief that the company I really want to work for will come knocking one day.

It’s hard because that is essentially saying no to a paycheck, but I have a belief in my brand and how big it can grow and I think the companies I have written down, will be key in helping my brand grow.

Don’t assume that everyone knows you exist, you have to make yourself known Click To Tweet

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

The Hidesign campaign I just wrapped up in India. My face is in ELLE magazine, in an entire two-page spread!

The HiDesign people linked up with me online because they were planning on opening up a couple of stores in Nairobi. They liked my style so they wanted to meet me.

The head of the company explained how he started the company, his inspiration being how great colored skin complements leather. I was so inspired by his story and his vision, I decided to take a picture with the bag gifted to me by the company, just to say thank you while using his inspiration as my inspiration.

The picture that I posted is what got me the job as the face of Hidesign bags, just like that. Most of the jobs that I’ve gotten came about by chance, mostly because of the passion I have for what I do.

My next goal is Vogue, I’m putting it out into the universe!

 

Do you think vlogging is the new blogging? Do you think blogging will still hold relevance in the future?

People are not interested in reading blogs anymore, they’d rather just use 5 minutes, look at what you did over the weekend and move on.

Vlogging also gives your audience a different view of you. Blogging isn’t what it used to be. It’s hard to tell whether it’s ever going to come back to what it was.

Things are moving fast and people want to consume as much information as they can in a very short time.

 

How would you encourage young women who want to build a brand using social media?

I can’t really tell you how to do it because a lot of things have changed and getting things like followers now isn’t as easy as it used to be.

I would say figure out your brand first if your content is good, companies will be willing to work with you. Figure out your demographic, what stories you are trying to tell because not everything works for everyone, that helps a lot with your direction.

You need to be very patient, it gets hard, especially when just starting out but you have to put yourself out there. Don’t assume that everyone knows you exist, you have to make yourself known.

 

Who are your top three favorite fashion bloggers and YouTubers?

YouTubers: Casey Neistat, Philip DeFranco, Jenna Marbles

Fashion Bloggers: Karla Dera, Song of Style and Fashion bomb daily

What is your life mantra?

‘Work hard now, so you can relax later’. Your 20s are not for chilling, work yourself to the core now, where soon enough your name will make money on its own.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Annemarie Musawale: I took my power back

Annemarie Musawale
Being a single mom, academic writing seemed the best option in order to be home for my son & earn a living Click To Tweet

Annemarie Musawale was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and she says, she’s never actually stepped one foot out of East Africa. Growing up this self-publishing author almost always had a book in her hand. Needless to say, she made up stories of her own. By the time she went to high school, Annemarie had pretty much read every book her classmates were just beginning to discover.

Annemarie went to the University of Nairobi to pursue a BSc. Degree in Botany, Zoology, and Chemistry. Two years into the course, she was accepted to Makerere University to do BPharm. Leaving work as an active Pharmaceutical Technologist, 2009 was the year Annemarie Musawale became a full-time academic writer. In her own words, ‘Being a single mom, it seemed the best option in order to be home for my son when he needed me, and still earn a living.

SLA contributor Rumbidzai had an opportunity to interview her and Annemarie had all these interesting stories to tell.


How long does it take you to write a book?

Unfortunately for me, writing my own books is not my day job. So I can only write in my spare time, which is very scarce these days. So on average, it can take me anything from six months to two years to write a book. I’m working on making time no matter what, to write daily but so far, I’m not there yet.

Looking at the books or pieces you have written what is your ultimate goal?

When I wrote “Single Motherhood Unplugged” almost eight years ago, it was a catharsis for me. A way to get my baggage off my back and let it go.

I put the book up for sale because once it was written; I could not just throw it away. There were life lessons to be learned, a way for someone else to learn from my experience. So I let it go out into the world and find its audience. It is my one non-fiction book and I call it my ‘step-child’ because of how much I do not market it. The goal therefore with that book was…help someone else who was looking for answers.

My other books are fictional in nature. They were written with a lot of love and I guess their goal has been achieved. To have someone read them, and enjoy the words; perhaps be touched by it. My ultimate goal, of course, is to make the New York Times Bestseller lists.

My role model in this business is Diana Gabaldon because our paths are remarkably similar. Background in the sciences, Diana started out writing (in her late thirties) just to ‘try it’. She ended up creating characters it is difficult to let go of. Twenty years later, Diana is where I want to be, twenty years from now.

My ultimate goal, of course, is to make the New York Times Bestseller lists - Annemarie Musawale Click To Tweet

Annemarie Musawale

For the sake of some of our Motherland Moguls who haven’t read your book, “Single Motherhood, what can they expect from it?

They can expect it to be raw, painful to read even and completely truthful on what it is really like to have a baby on your own. I called it ‘unplugged’ because it is like those musical performances where the singer has just a stool and a guitar and whatever talent they have in their bodies. They present it to you and let you judge them on the merit of their work.

In the book, I let people into my head and lay it bare for them to do with, as they will. It was a very difficult thing to do, but from the feedback I have gotten, there are people out there who needed to read it. So have a look at it with my blessing.

Now that’s interesting! In your line of work is there anything you find particularly challenging?

Well, the business of writing has its challenges as many writers can tell you. The first is marketing. Getting enough people to hear of your books so that they want to go look for them. The market is crowded and getting noticed is hard.

Add to that the fact that my books are not the typical ‘African writers’ type of book. One of my Kenyan readers put it this way; “This book could have been written by anyone, anywhere. It is not confined by time or space.” And while I agree that that is true, I think that nobody but me could have conceived of these books the way I did.

It was my unique perspective brought about by living in the ‘global village’ but residing in Kenya. For that reason though, my books don’t have a readymade market. They have too many elements that are foreign to the African psyche, and yet if it were written by a Westerner, most Africans wouldn’t have a problem with it. But the combination of being an African, writing a global book is a new idea.

The upside of this is, my audience is not confined to those around me but is truly global. When I see that people from as far away as Japan, Ukraine, Russia, America, and Brazil…have clicked on my links and looked at my books…it makes me feel warm and happy. However, it also makes hosting book signings a bit difficult.

When I began in this business, I was traditionally published. However, my publisher was very stingy with information to do with my book. They expected me to do the lion’s share of marketing (as most authors are expected to) without giving me feedback on what was working, what sales figures were or even paying me royalties. So I took my power back, took my books back and went the self-publishing route. This way, I have complete control over my content and when I try a marketing style, I have direct feedback on whether it is working or not.

Another major challenge is getting people to leave reviews. I can get an email from a reader telling me how great one of my books was, and why. But asking them to post a review gets an ‘I’ll do it right away.’ and then crickets. All of my reviews that have been given on any of my works have been totally random and unrequested. Those are usually the best kind though so I am not complaining.

Annemarie Musawale: The first challenge in the business of writing is marketing Click To Tweet

Annemarie Musawale

Do you read your book reviews? How do you react to both the good and the bad?

I read every single book review I get. It is like catnip for writers I think. Any writer who tells you they do not read their reviews is either lying or not invested in their work. I am yet to have a bad review though, so maybe when that happens I will be more selective. Even when I get less than four stars, the reasons given for it are not to do with the work; one three star review stated that the price of the book and the size were not commensurate. Well, at the time, my publisher controlled the price…

My one and only two-star review was one I got on my book, “Child of Destiny”. It is actually one of the most comprehensive and complimentary reviews I have ever received. But the reader had a policy that if she is unable to finish the book, she gives it an automatic two stars. I urge you to go and read the review on Amazon, and see if your curiosity to read the book is not peaked.

I am always grateful for anyone who takes the time out to read my book and then go the extra mile and write a review. It is a compliment whether the review is good or bad and I always appreciate it.

Annemarie, what’s your favorite under-appreciated book/ novel?

I think one book that probably does not get the recognition it deserves is “Children of God” by Maria Doria Russell. I cannot emphasize how much her creation of new worlds and her envisioning of the future of this one influenced my writing and my life.

Annemarie Musawale

Are there Annemarie Musawale stories or experiences you would love to share?

Well, recently I have had several aspiring writers ask me how I got started. It’s a difficult question to answer because I’ve been writing stories since I was six years old.

I’d write something and take it to my mother to read. She’d read it and tell me I did well. I guess she was my very first ‘fan’. When she died, I sort of lost my way or my reason for living and I channeled all that pain into writing “Single Motherhood Unplugged.” It was a conduit to get rid of the rage and the pain. It was that or go mad.

It was the beginning of getting better. After that, there were many stories I began and failed to finish. But then one night I had a dream about a teenage girl and a teenage guy. And when I woke up the story was still in my head. And it stayed in my head until I wrote it down.

Then I sent it to the Kwani Manuscript Project. And they long listed it despite the fact that it was in no way an ‘African writer’ type story. So when people ask me, “How did you do it?” I really don’t know what to say. Because it just happened.

Tell us would you rather be unable to use search engines or unable to use social media?

This is a hard one guys. Search engines are necessary for just finding things out and social media is necessary to get the word out. They’re both equally important. But if I absolutely had to choose, I guess I could do without social media for a while. There are other ways to get the word out…hopefully.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Facebook Live with Frenny Jowi: Journalism as a profitable career choice(July 6)

For 4 years, Frenny had a successful career at one of the world’s leading international broadcasters, the BBC. Join us for a Facebook Live session with her on July. 6th, as she shares with us how journalism has been a profitable career for her.


Journalism as a sector is evolving, and there are plenty of job opportunities in the field. However, Aspiring journalists have to build their experience and gather certain skill sets to thrive in the industry.

If you’re interested in starting (or growing) a career as a media Motherland Mogul, then you have a lot to learn from Frenny Jowi.

Frenny started her career in journalism as an intern at the BBC African Bureau in Nairobi and quickly scaled through her career as a journalist, amplifying African voices and stories.

Join Frenny on Thursday, July 6th, for a 30-minute Facebook Live session where she’ll be discussing journalism as a profitable career choice, and the skills aspiring journalists need to acquire.

Register for this Facebook Live below and ask Frenny all your pressing questions.

Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • How to make it as a journalist
  • Media career choices for young people in Africa 
  • Moving from employment to entrepreneurship
  • Personal PR: Social media etiquette and how it impacts your professionalism
  • Why young Africans should demand quality content from media outlets(African advocates of public interest journalism)

Facebook Live Details:

  • Date: Thursday, July 6th, 2017
  • Time: 2pm Lagos / 3pm Johannesburg / 4pm Nairobi
  • Where: https://www.facebook.com/sheleadsafrica/

Watch here:

Facebook Live with Frenny Jowi, Journalist and Media consultant, sharing insights on the skills aspiring journalists need to acquire to thrive in the industry.. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join .

Posted by She Leads Africa on Thursday, July 6, 2017

 About Frenny Jowi

Frenny Jowi is a journalist, digital media and PR consultant who is currently consulting at Media Focus on Africa, as a radio producer, media relations trainer and digital journalism trainer. She also works as a volunteer youth mentor and freelance journalist.

For 4 years Frenny had a successful career at one of the world’s leading international broadcasters, the BBC.

While working for BBC Africa both in Kenya and the United Kingdom, she led several productions including creating digital content for younger audiences and news coverage of historic President Obama visit to Africa.

In June 2016, she took one of the lead roles in setting up Kenya’s first 24-hour news channel, KTN News.  Her work helped direct the day to day running of the newsroom and training journalists on storytelling and social media skills.

She has a BA in media studies from the University of Nairobi.

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha: God gave me a beautiful mind to inspire others to dream bigger

I believe in touching one life at a time - Jackline Aseyo Kidaha Click To Tweet

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha is a Kenyan lady who founded Golden Hearts for the Vulnerable (GHV Initiative), a CBO in Kangemi, Nairobi.  The 24-year-old is also the Program Coordinator at Edge Disability Mainstreaming Partners (EDMAP AGENCIES), an organisation that convenes disability mainstreaming training and workshops for government ministries and parastatals.

As a young social entrepreneur still in her baby steps, Jackie believes in youth power as key actors to development and agents of positive change.


Why do you say that youths are the best agents of change?

Young people make up the largest population in Africa. The youth are growing up with high energy, creativity, innovativeness, and talents which I believe are key to the attainment of various Sustainable Development Goals.

All this needs to be tapped into as it’s not only for individual benefit but also for the betterment of the African continent to bring up social and economic shifts.

What are your expectations from this generation?

Much sacrifice and aggressiveness in reaching this goal of restoring our mother continent to abundance, wealth, and diversity.

The previous generation achieved the political emancipation but I expect the current youth of Africa to achieve the socio-economical emancipation. Thus this generation of young people needs to be more open-minded, proactive in identifying gaps and addressing them.

Can you give SLA readers a sense of where GHV Initiative is at the moment and what plans you have for the future?

GHV Initiative (Golden Hearts for the Vulnerable) in a glimpse is a registered community-based organization in an informal settlement called Kangemi (Nairobi). It was founded in March 2015 and was officially registered in March 2017. Our main goal being to empower the vulnerable groups in informal settlements with relevant information on life skills, talents and helping realize their rights as enshrined in various legal documents. This is to give them a voice to speak up, be their own decision-makers in life and be actors in development too.

So far I can contently say that we are a notch higher compared to when we began as GHV Initiative. We are now equipped to challenge and ready to bridge the gaps identified in our community. More so I can frankly say that as the Founder I now have a more reliable, committed and dedicated team that I work with to ensure that we achieve the overall GHV vision.

jackiephotoOur future plan as an initiative is setting up a centre which will compose of unique an art space; crafts making and a talent space to nurture the spirit of dancing. The centre will entail teaching crafting, dancing, communication and entrepreneurial skills to more groups.

We are also strategizing on coming up with a charity clothing line/boutique within the centre where well-wishers can to donate. This will have clothes for both boys and girls from ages 5 to 16 to enhance decency and boost their self-esteem which is critical to many of them, especially those in their teenage years who are shy in relation to how they are dressed thus pulling down their self-confidence.

Our empowerment program doesn't give fish but teaches target beneficiaries how to fish themselves Click To Tweet

What programs do you provide and what are some of the setbacks you have faced?

We have two programs so far. One is ‘Limited Edition’ which is a continuous life skill program for teenagers. It mainly seeks to equip young minds with knowledge of life, its challenges and how to overcome them by sticking to their principles. The program aims to reduce issues such as early pregnancies and unsafe sexual behaviour leading to school dropout as early as primary level. Being limited editions means that they are not easily swayed by things which will cost them their lives and not realize their dreams.

The second one is ‘Nifunze Nijitegemee’ (meaning “teach me so that I can be independent”) which is a continuous empowerment program that seeks to teach practical skills. We believe in not giving the fish but teaching the target beneficiaries how to fish by themselves. This is to enable them to shift their talents and skills gained into profits thereby making them sustainable.

Rolling out the programs at the beginning was a great challenge, as with any idea or innovation to be diffused both early adopters and laggards are present. Our target beneficiaries are diverse, have different mindsets, knowledge gap levels, lack of enough resources in terms of funds for facilitation and other logistics.

jacklinekidaha2

What kind of response are you getting from the vulnerable groups you are empowering?

From the activities conducted so far by GHV Initiative, we have received positive and overwhelming feedback. This has stimulated and motivated us to do more despite the challenges.

We are constantly receiving calls and messages from the previous schools, children centers and hospital visited encouraging us to do these activities more often.

How are you measuring the impact or effectiveness of GHV Initiative in your community?

We utilize the theory of change in executing and evaluating our programs’ effectiveness. We have set a number of indicators and respective tools to measure that.

For instance, in determining self-esteem among the teenagers we use the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale which has ten brief questions that an individual is asked to respond to.

After each activity conducted we monitor and evaluate the success and gaps to measure the impact of our programs.

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha is showing the world that something good can come out of the slum Click To Tweet

Besides education, how else are you empowering the people of Kangemi?

I personally make DIY things such as cards, hair accessories, bow ties, crocheted mats, scrapbooks and journals all with an African touch or theme.

Art is cool. I believe in touching one life at a time thus teaching those around me who are still figuring out the next step in life how to make the above stuff and getting small markets for them too. I do this during my free time just in the house.

jacklinekidaha

Are there any GHV Initiative stories you really want to tell?

I have always believed in my life being someone else’s inspiration not to give up on themselves. I would really like to share my personal journey as a young lady with big dreams living and overcoming challenges in the slum until the birth of GHV Initiative.

Moreso demystifying negative perceptions and assure the world that something good can come out of the slum and there’s more rising girl power in transforming African continent.

Tell me about something you would happily do again

Serving humanity, saving the vulnerable and doing charity.

When I do these I feel more accomplished. I have or would not regret doing this for the rest of my life. I believe God gave me a beautiful mind to inspire others to dream bigger and be their own change agents.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

What you can learn about leaps of faith and other career lessons from Isis Nyong’o Madison

isis nyong'o madison

Isis Nyong’o Madison is a tech entrepreneur, investor and influencer in the African entrepreneurship scene. Aside from being named as one of the youngest power women in Africa, she is a principal at strategic advisory and investment firm Asphalt and Ink and previously served as the Vice President and Managing Director at InMobi and Google’s Business Development Manager in Africa.

With numerous nods, including several acknowledgements from Kenya’s Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40 Women, Isis Nyong’o Madison is someone all young African women need to look up to. We went through some of her interviews and learnt a few career lessons.

1. Take a leap of faith

Kenya in recent years has been touted as the hottest tech hub of Africa but in 2002, this was not the case. Isis chose to come back to Kenya against the advice of a career officer at Harvard in order to pursue tech opportunities in the market.

 Even if the steps you want to take in your career do not look like the correct ones to others, you need to be able to critically review advice from others and draw your own conclusions. Coming back to Kenya was a leap of faith for Isis and it has paid off.

isis nyong'o madison

2. Take a chance on you

While she was still a student, Isis flew out to London on her own dime, to meet with MTV Africa head Alex Okosi. This is because she felt that she was the right person for the job. Taking a chance on yourself means not giving up on an opportunity you think suits you no matter the obstacles.

3. Make a decision and stick to it

To achieve anything in life, clear decisions need to be made. Once you have decided what direction your career should take, it is important to stick to it. Isis has said in numerous interviews that there are no quick wins.

Success takes time; you need to give yourself time. Isis has declined higher paying jobs in her career that did not meet her own personal goals of challenging work, responsibility, and growth.

4. Build/create/do something worthwhile

It is not enough to just focus on moving up the ranks, you need something to show for it. It is just as important to build a track record or building something on your own or within a company no matter what role you are in. This is definitely something that can be said of every role Isis has held.

Isis Nyong'o Madison

5. Be confident

No one is going to hand it to you. You need to go after the career or promotion you want. Once you have taken the time to build something worthwhile, do not be afraid to show it.

Use it as a portfolio to show just what you have accomplished and make it hard for anyone to pass you up for or question your promotion. Isis has been asked several times by people with more seniority than her whether she can do the job and her response as always been yes. You’ve shown you can do it, now prove it.

6. Be open to learning

You can never learn anything enough and Isis knows this. Take every opportunity you can to learn something new. As Isis puts it, “learn about new ideas, build a new skill or deepen your understanding about a subject you are already familiar with.”

7. Be committed

After it’s all said and done, Isis truly does commit to her work. In an interview with Forbes Africa magazine, Isis said about her former firm, “As we are a global organization (InMobi), there are often conference calls in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning. InMobi never sleeps.”

To grow your career, you should be willing to give that level of commitment to your career.