I don’t think I can say “never”. I think it all just depends on the fit. Actually wait. There is something I would never wear. Chaps. You know those pants with holes where the butt cheeks are supposed to be? Yeah, I don’t think anyone could ever convince me to wear those.
What is your favorite fashion piece?
My Vivo bodycon dresses. They are so flattering, comfortable and versatile. My aim is to have one in every single color.
What is your favorite color?
I don’t have one, although I will say that I noticed I have more black pieces of clothing than any other color.
Black boots. I have about 8 different pairs of all kinds of black boots. From knee highs, to biker boots, to riding boots and stiletto ankle boots. They are timeless.
Favorite item in your makeup bag?
Just one? Woah! Hard to decide. Eyeliner and mascara. Those are my go-to items.
Being left breastless nearly 4 years ago from breast cancer was certainly life changing. But one thing that didn’t cross my mind initially was just how difficult it would be to get dressed. I knew my body had changed but I honestly thought that I’d be able to just throw on all of my old clothes without a worry. I couldn’t quite believe that the permanent personal changes that breast cancer was making to me, also included my wardrobe.
I always loved fashion pre-breast cancer and found myself completely lost when nothing that I had previously worn fit me properly. I also couldn’t believe that there was very little out there as far as support goes for women who have had a mastectomy and are looking for fashion. There were plenty of things that I guess you would call ‘comfortable clothes’ but what struck me was that women who have had a mastectomy are virtually forced into losing their sense of fashion and style just because they no longer have breasts.
This idea didn’t sit well with me and after deciding not to reconstruct my breasts, I knew I would have to find a way to bring style back into my wardrobe. What I have come to learn over the course of the past four years is that there are still plenty of stylish fashion options out there for breastless women, they are just harder to find. In mainstream clothing stores, you have to know what you are looking for and seek these items out without getting down about the things you can no longer wear. After all, let’s face it, everyone is really restricted in some way or another in shops due to their particular body features, so don’t let that part worry you.
Top 10 Tips for Breastless Women
Off the shoulder tops and dresses looks great.
High necklines with detail work well.
Patterned fabric distracts the eye from the breastless chest.
Frills give great coverage of the chest area.
Jewellery is a great option for disguising the flat chest.
Scarves are stylish and also cover the chest well.
Detailed jackets draw the eye.
Avoid deep V necklines or gaping cowl necklines.
Block colours and tight tops make the chest more obvious.
A combination of loose, patterned and frills tops work wonders.
Despite the fact that shopping is in some ways harder than it was before, now that I know what I am looking for, I can again feel excited about finding on trend, stylish fashion items that make me feel breastless and beautiful. For more tips, go to www.leavemebreastless.com and embrace your new normal!
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
After working for over 20 years, I was really looking for more freedom and independence in my working life. I also wanted the opportunity of trying to build something from scratch and seeing where that could go.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The hurdles have really been different at different stages of the business. In the very early days the challenge was identifying the right suppliers and hiring the right staff. Now that the business has grown, the challenges have changed to things like managing cash flow, building systems and learning how to be more of a leader and less of a micro-manager.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Not at all. None of my family are entrepreneurs and to be honest, they have been very supportive from the beginning. One of my brothers even invested money in the business, long before we knew whether it would succeed. So he did it more to support me, and not because he was guaranteed any return.
What was your business’ original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?
Initially our mission was really just to provide great clothing to women. Now that we have better understood our potential impact, we have a much bolder vision – to “Change the way Africa sees herself through Fashion”. And this is because we believe that we are playing a small part in building our confidence in ourselves, in our capabilities and in our worthiness as a people.
Do you prefer to pursue funding or build organically, and why?
We have grown organically for the first 6 years of the business, largely because we did not want to borrow at the very high interest rates and we didn’t think that investors would value us high enough at that stage. However, now that we are bigger and have demonstrated our potential, we have raised a small amount of external capital – just to speed up our growth.
Did you have major competitors when you started, how did you plan to compete with them, and how did that plan play out?
There have always been and there will always be competition – that’s a given in business unless you have a monopoly. So we are always assessing what is there now, and what we think will be there tomorrow. This is a very dynamic space and people are always entering the market. All we can do is to keep being very clear about our value proposition and revising up when necessary to ensure that differentiate ourselves.
What do you look for in a business partner?
I have only ever had one business partner, my Vivo co-founder, Anne-Marie Burugu. I think what works for us is that we share a similar passion and enthusiasm for the business, we agree on the vision and we deeply trust each other. In our case, we have very clear and differentiated roles though. I run the day-to-day business, and she is the Chair of our Board and provides leadership at that level.
How do you facilitate a positive work environment that attracts and retains talent?
This is a constant work in progress. Our company is growing quickly and so the culture is changing. Now that we have over 60 staff, it is important to be clear about things such as our corporate values – to make sure that they are consistent across the organization. These are the kinds of conversations we are having right now.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
That is such a tough question because I don’t believe it is any one thing! I think success is often a combination of many different things coming together at the same time. And you can never underestimate the role of luck – which can come and go. Touch wood, we have been very lucky so far. But other factors that have contributed to any success we had include a great team, positioning our product right in terms of pricing and style, and lots of great support and loyalty from our clients.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
Hmmmm…. Another tough question. Again – I don’t know that any ONE stands out but I’m sure I make lots of mistakes all the time. I just choose not to see them as mistakes and instead as lessons learned. For example, when I choose a design that turns out to be a complete flop as far as sales are concerned, instead of seeing it as a mistake, I try and look for what that experience can teach us. What about it didn’t work? Did we get the design wrong or did we not market it right? Was it the design or the fabric we chose to make it from? Did we price it too high or too low? There are always lots of questions to ask from any so called “mistake” that can help you be better informed next time.
What has been your greatest moment of success?
When it comes to work, I am most proud of the fact that out of what was just an idea we have built a business that has created over 60 jobs. And as we know in Kenya, each job is probably supporting at least 7 other people. So that makes me incredibly happy. But there have been many other moments that I am grateful for. Mostly in my personal life though… which I guess wasn’t your question J.
How do you approach marketing your business?
Our marketing is almost 100% on social media. That’s what we can afford and that’s the easiest way to reach the bulk of our clients (present or future). We try and create content that will inspire and speak to the people who follow us.
How do you believe evolving technology will impact the way we do business over the next 10 years?
Wow. The speed at which technology is changing its hard to tell what changes it will bring in one year, let alone 10! Right now we are looking at the ways in which technology can help us better understand our clients and our products (e.g. using data analytics). We are also taking advantage of new and improved fabrics and tools for manufacturing. And of course technology constantly offers new ways to reach and communicate with your market.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Nothing really. I’m truly okay with the entrepreneurial journey I’ve experienced so far because I believe that each step has been necessary. I’m learning things as and when I’m ready to learn them, and that learning never stops. If someone had told me how important it is to have a solid board 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to do with that information. But I’m a true believer in the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Right now we are really focused on building our e-commerce business, and we have a great team leading our strategy in this area. All I want to say about it right now is “watch this space”! J
How do you help people grow to the next level and be their best.
Ultimately I believe that everyone has to take responsibility for their own progress and fulfillment. But we are trying to create an environment at Vivo where people take initiative and then are given the resources and tools to explore their ideas. In a growing business, there are plenty of opportunities to grow with it, and that is what we are encouraging.
If you sold your company today, what would be the tone of the conversation? What would you want to gain? What would you want to avoid losing?
Well, just to be clear, I am not planning to sell any time soon! But if and when I do, I will want to be sure that the staff are considered during negotiations. I would not want to see people who have been with us for a long time loose their jobs or livelihoods.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope that within 5 years I will have handed over the day-to-day running of the business to someone else, and I can spend more of my time on big picture issues, as well as in things outside of Vivo, including investing in and mentoring other businesses.
How do you keep up with the changing trends of the industry?
We have a design team that researches trends – however we always try to have a Vivo-spin to anything we create.
What kind of person will succeed in this industry?
I’m not sure that this industry is that different when it comes to the basics… to succeed in business (and many other aspects of life) you need grit and determination, to work hard and to have honest conversations with yourself and with other people. I don’t really believe it overnight success… even when it might appear that way. Apart from a very few exceptions most successful people have worked REALLY hard to get to where they are.
Bebeto Ochieng, better known as Thufu-B is a master of lines. Graffiti circles have fondly dubbed him the “Lines man”. He is one of the founding members of BSQ crew, a street art group based in Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi. His work focuses mainly on African females. Notably, portraits with African patterns on the background finishing with lines that create faces. These portraits mostly focus on traditional African Cultures. Also, he has a special bias for BBW which is Big Beautiful Women, given his fascination for the African Woman’s features. Ultimately, he hopes to showcase his work to the world. His dreams stretch wide and vast.
“Female poses are more fluid, more loving. They inspire the best out of my creativity”
My name is Queen Achieng’, I started Eleksie Noir about two years ago. My intention with the brand or blog rather was to showcase my personal style and creative outfits, fostered by my love for fashion and beauty. I couldn’t get a good photographer then, and always had issues with how the images came out. I had just relocated in Mombasa so I didn’t know people around apart from my colleagues.
I’d like to believe I am a perfectionist, and most people who know me well say as much. So I ended up going for shoots which never ended up on the blog. In my search for designers and brands I could collaborate with, I realized a gap in the African fashion industry.
There were all these creatives who I felt were under exposed, and the lack of enough media platforms to showcase African creatives work. That is when I decided to channel my website to focus on the African fashion industry.
Being a creative of any kind, it is hard to juggle an 8-5 with your content creation. So after like a year, I decided to quit my job, come back to Nairobi and focus fully on content creation. However all did not go according to plan especially with financial matters and I decided to go back to employment and try to make both work.
That is never easy, but when you love what you do, you do what you have to do. It’s called making sacrifices. Right now am not fully in employment, and luckily my job is not so demanding
Eleksie is now a pro black brand that creates content that revolves around fashion, beauty, lifestyle and events focusing on black fashion and black excellence. I put less of myself out there and more of the content that supports the black industry.
When people hear pro black they think it is anti-white.
Here is a top definition. Pro black is simply a lifestyle that encourages the economic growth and development of the black people as a whole with a purpose of increasing the wealth and population of black people around the world. Whether it be spending money with black own business in your communities or online. Promoting love for black people and encouraging the black youths.
So I do the same with art and fashion. Eleksie is not where it needs to be, but well on the path. I have a manager to ensure that the plans follow through and someone I consult as well. I now have a few projects coming up and I am currently working with African Fashion and Design Week (AFDW) which normally holds in Lagos, New York and Los Angeles as Kenyan Project Manager. We launched the first Business of Fashion Seminar at Safaricom Micheal Joseph Centre last month and hoping to launch the fashion show in Kenya soon.
Most people know Eleksie but they have no idea who Queen is. In fact most people think Eleksie is my name. And as long as the work and the message gets out there, it’s good enough for me.
My perspective on the creative industry
The creative industry is really growing. A while back, creatives’ struggled with making ends meet and earning off their art. But right now things have changed. Take Africa for instance, Africans are finding their strengths and extent of their abilities and living off it.
The creative industry right now boasts a pool of young bright talents whose creative skills reach an audience far beyond their respective country borders and shaping the creative world.
Cities are being dubbed the world fashion capital with high caliber of fashion shows, and economies growing at a higher percentage due to the creatives who work relentlessly. Africa fashion culture, inspired by African heritage continues to be a trend setter and foundation for inspiration emulated by worldwide fashion designers, photographers and brands.
We have seen Vanessa Kingori as the first female Publisher of British GQ, a Men’s fashion and Style, Lupita Nyon’go wining a Grammy, Wunmi Mosaku bagging the British Academy Television Award and Pinky Ghelani getting crowned the First Moët Nectar Impérial Queen in Kenya, among other creatives who continue to be celebrated.
The creative industry is a culture of diversity, it is a culture that recognizes differences, embraces them and capitalizes on them. Right now the creative industry is the footprint in the world.
My perspective on youth opportunities
Youth opportunities has always been a thorn in the flesh. Youth account for 48% of all Africans unemployed, according to the World Bank. For a long time youths were not given enough platforms to showcase their work. The research, published by youth charity Young Enterprise, reveal 40% think young people lack the confidence to apply for competitive jobs.
But right now I would say there are more opportunities being created for the youths. More than 70% of the youth in the “Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are either self-employed or contributing to family work.”
We have platforms like coke studio a forum which brings together Artists from around the continent, Blaze, workshops, trainings, conferences, competitions and funding opportunities. Most award shows have upcoming categories.
With the digital era we have platforms where the youths can showcase their works like Instagram, YouTube and websites. We even have free tutorials at our disposal. So basically the youths have managed to use the digital platforms to sell their work.
Its high time brands realize that investing in youths is investing in thriving communities. Through education, skills training, supports and referrals in place the youths will reach their full potential. As a young person, I know for a fact that with the right investment and opportunities, youth creativity is the next economic boom.
What it’s like to be in my shoes:
Well, all I have to say is, I have walked away from jobs to make my plans work. I have also walked away from opportunities because of insecurities. I have and continues to make sacrifices for this to work. I have spent sleepless nights with ideas and no starting point. I have felt like am not ready to pull through with my plans for the industry.
I have received no’s, maybes, and unreplied emails. My introvert nature has kept me from interacting with people who could be potential partners or support systems. This is just to let everyone know that when you decide to create your brand you will get blows, experience the lows, feelings of inadequacy and lack of support.
But there have been many joyous times, too. I have a commitment to believe in myself and rise above any challenges with dignity and hope.
Always go back to your why. Do your thing, don’t carry your mistakes with you. Place them under your feet and use them as stepping stone to rise above them. God will always have you exactly where you should be. Use the digital podiums to showcase your visual ideas and experiences
Attract positive attention with your art, music, fashion, or entertainment. Be part of the movement to rebrand Africa and the whole creative industry. Let your work do the shouting.
“Always feed your creative, and keep painting.” – Smokillah
Graffiti Girls Kenya is a workshop dedicated in involving young women in graffiti as an art form where they discuss, share and paint on issues affecting them.
The workshop is run by muralist Douglas Kihiko, one of the pioneers of graffiti art in Kenya in 2002 called Spray Uzi.
Being a professional graffiti muralist, Douglas started this workshop seeing there are no women professional graffiti artists in Nairobi. He saw the need of training young women the art form on a professional basis with the aim of balancing out the percentage of male graffiti artists to female.
On how Graffiti Girls Kenya came to be, Smokillah says, “It was in 2015. I used to train a group of young boys in this studio. I started noticing a few ladies who would come and peep through that window at what we were doing, then they would walk away probably intimated by the male only classes. That was when the concept of this initiative was born.”
Most people call me Lomole. What most people do not know is that it is actually my surname. Emmanuel Marsuk Lomole is the name given to me on the 1st of May somewhere in the 20th Century. I never really know where to start when introducing myself. I am a doctor in waiting, in my level 5 training at the University of Nairobi, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. I am a musician, written songs and play the guitar in my local church band and in SHAHIDI – a band of medical school classmates. I am multicultural: a South Sudanese, born and raised in Kenya, who speaks fluent French. I am a leader, and a follower – one really is always both. But for purposes of this expose, I am SCROLLS, an entrepreneurial start up inspired by a passion hitherto unmentioned.
SCROLLS is a start-up venture creating the finest in handmade leather journals South of the Sahara, personalised for a touch of who you are as a client. The journey began over 11 years ago. My earliest memory of journaling was a small pocket sized Karatasi brand hard cover book –the black ones with a red spine. Well, it got lost somewhere at home along with all my secrets. The next major milestone I believe was ten years ago. My older brother Daniel got me a beautiful journal. I was hooked ever since and journaling became an integral part of who I am. Over 30 journals later, one of my favourites from my sister Joy, and still high on that first dose. These journals carry my poems, songs I have written, words from travels to a distant continent, my hopes and dreams, speeches I gave as School captain in high school, deep philosophical thoughts, random bus fare calculations, conversations with strangers, sketches and drawings, notes from conferences that I have never read – we are all guilt of it I suppose – really almost everything that is me save secrets and “Dear diary” moments – I learnt my lesson from the journal I misplaced.
The next milestone was a rainy day, even worse, a rainy Monday, in May this year. It threatened to be my worst birthday yet. All until that evening when a friend, June, offered me a Birthday out, and when I received that journal gift, it was the spark long awaited by the fuel inside me. I had always wanted to make my own journals, considering I often didn’t have the money to buy my own. Just to illustrate the point, I come from a family of 9 children, one mama, one papa. We even have a WhatsApp group – go figure. Once so often I hustled for cash to buy my next journal, my sisters would joke that I should take a Kasuku exercise book, give it a fancy cover and good to go.
I made my first journal from spare leather Daniel gave. Showed it to my parents. Priced it with my brothers David and John, took a few photo and posted them on my WhatsApp status and there is all began. That first journal I gifted it in June. Since it has been a rapid evolution of design and ideas, talking to people, taking advice, so many providential events, challenging clients and the growth over a few months has just been rapid.
I honestly did not expect there were as many journal lovers in Nairobi and beyond as I have found out there are. WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Interactions – what I abbreviate as W.I.F.I. are at the centre of all my marketing. I think most start-ups have under-utilized this asset granted freely to our generation – such waste. My customer segments are people looking to give special custom unique gifts to their friends – especially this festive gift season – hint hint J . Secondly is conferences. I have supplied customised gifts for speakers at a Conference in Naivasha. I am also targeting hotels to give branded unique journal gifts to their visitors, company gifts to employees as well. So far the most fruitful segment has been the gifting customer segment.
I think the hardest and most exciting part of this venture is the creation of something new and introducing it into a market hitherto unexposed. Those are two challenges, and two opportunities. It has been exciting defining the product, creating it, standardizing and also exposing it to clients, some who at first mistake it for a purse.
My dream for SCROLLS Handmade Leather Journals is to become a supplier to lifetime clients who will experience the high of having a SCROLL and never go back. Once so often I fancy a SCROLL on the table of a president. Once so often I fancy my grandchild talking about the journals grandpa used to make. In simple words, I intend to be here for the long-run. Standardise, scale and endure.
Mandela—the acclaimed Kenyan singer and performer best known for his role as Sarabi band’s lead vocalist has now embarked on a solo music career. With the double release of brand new singles: “Fantastic Love” and “Hakuna Matata”, Mandela has officially launched his new brand as one of East Africa’s most talented songwriters and live performers. Speaking on his new direction, Mandela says, “I am still the same Mandela but a bit wiser and matured. Nothing has changed. However, people should expect a new energy from me.”
Kenyan–born singer, songwriter and musician, Prince Ambasa Mandela, a.k.a Mandela is one of Africa’s best live-performing artistes. To date, Mandela has over 10 years’ experience working as a singer, songwriter and performing artiste. Mandela’s music can be described as real African fusion—a blend of traditional East African rhythms alongside Benga, fused with Afro beat, Jazz and a dash of Reggae. Mandela’s ‘ONA SASA’ EP falls back on love as a spiritual level and will reunite Mandela with his fans on a personal level, avoiding any discrimination. He says that during the making of his new music he was inspired by observing the daily happenings around him.
As the dynamic and talented lead singer of Sarabi, Mandela wrote and composed the majority of their songs. His musical ability saw Sarabi become one of East Africa’s most popular live bands. In 2015, the group completed a successful summer tour in Europe, performed at Africa Oye Festival in Liverpool and WOMEX in Budapest, and delighted crowds of 20,000 plus people at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. Mandela then returned to Africa, ending the year on a high at the Karibu Music Festival in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Mandela has performed at Sauti Za Busara Festival in Zanzibar, Selam Festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Bayimba International Festival in Kampala, Uganda, DOADOA cultural market in Jinja, Uganda, Tanzania’s East Africa Vibes Concert hosted by Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA), and Wikiendi Live at Nafasi Art Space, in Dar Es Salaam.
Tell us about yourself
I am a father. I am a designer, an artist, singer song writer and a teacher. I teach performing arts and do workshops across East Africa. I’m a Creative.
People in your field that you admire
In our field of music, I admire our local artists from the likes of Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Eric Wainaina, Susan Owino and The Youth’s Camp Mula. And of course Meja, I just love his creativity with his lyrics and video.
What’s your perspective on the creative industry?
I think it is a powerful industry that is always changing. I really trust in collaborative works and having a good social life where artists can really meet and socialize and be creative together just to know each other. It’s a powerful place of powerful people and I’m glad to be a part of it.
Do you think that there are enough youth opportunities?
Well, I believe there are youth opportunities. I just don’t think enough has communicated out to the youths for them to know of their existence. If there are present, a good communication structure where youths can get to learn of these opportunities needs to be set up. But it is also up to the youth to push themselves and be very active in these spaces. For me, when I was younger, I had the opportunity to be under MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) of which there was the Arts and Culture program within. That’s where I grew up musically- artistically.
What needs to be done to get Kenyan youths interested into the local brands?
It’s upon the person, the artist, to push themselves. To make themselves visible. You have to wake up and do the things that will cause Kenyans to see you. For example, Kenyan’s are very much in technology. We are people of social media. We’re people who look things up- anything interesting and interesting stuff start from your way of life, how you dress- find a style of your own or something. Stand out. Kenyans love that something that is unique, of its own kind because we know so much that if you fake it, we’ll know immediately. It is important to know what you really want portray and stick to it.
How do you keep up with industry trends?
I just pop in and out of places and get to see who is here and there and what’s happening. I like to hang out with some artists in the industry and get to know them. I like to travel across Tanzania and Kenya to get to see what’s new, studios, new production and sounds, and the hottest producer. That’s how I keep up.
Renowned for his unique and powerful voice, Mandela is out to bring out consciousness and art through his music and high-energy performances. His vocal abilities and stage presence has already won him many fans in Africa and abroad. For several years, he has been on a journey to self-realization—what influenced his decision to relocate to Tanzania, where he teamed up with Humphrey Ndomboka (Tanzanian based Zimbabwean producer) to work on his forthcoming EP set for release later this year. He now operated in between the entertainment industries of Kenya and Tanzania.
More than ten years later, his book seems prescient. For the first time, being different is more prized than fitting in and black-and-white thinkers are being left behind.
Young people have revolted against the financiers. They’re taking jobs that allow for expression instead of going for the highest paycheck. Tattoos and piercings are commonplace in the office, as the brain is valued over the outside package.
There is an economic need for the “creative class,” which is why it’s thriving right now, writes Florida. He says one in three Americans, or 40 million workers, belong to it.
Here’s how he defines the creative class:
“I define the Creative Class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.
It’s necessary because creativity is what powers many of the new industries of our day: from social media and computer graphics to medical research and urban planning, Florida says. The current business environment means that creativity is the “most prized commodity.”