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She makes a tidy sum from 3-D signs

ENTERPRISE
By Wainaina Wambu | Dec 22nd 2021 | 5 min read
By Wainaina Wambu | December 22nd 2021
ENTERPRISE

CasaDahlia.ke Founder and Creative Director Yvonne Odongo.

For Yvonne Odongo, the light bulb moment struck while she was expecting a child in 2018.

She envisioned a radiant and stylish nursery for her newborn, but the market disappointed her. She had wanted items such as plaques and keepsake boxes tailored to her tastes. However, the market was filled with cliché options.

“When I was pregnant with Dahlia (her daughter) in 2018, I envisioned how I wanted her nursery to look like. Sadly, the market is saturated with the same items. I needed personalised items, which I wasn’t able to get,” she told Enterprise.

Such a business idea of customised 3D interior décor, hand crafted artifacts and signages had always burned at the back of her mind, and it was now time to actualise it.

So she quit her job, took time to not only rejuvenate but also position her brand. This included taking a short course on entrepreneurship.

“I figured this was something I could actually do, and so when I quit employment in July 2019, I took time to research on where to get materials and also learn how these items were done,” she said.

This is how CasaDahlia.ke was born. The name was inspired by her daughter (named Dahlia after the elegant flower) and Casa, which is Spanish for house.

Her first assignment

By November 2019, she had decided to fully pursue this business and spotted an “ideal client” who would help boost her business profile.

“I needed to do a few pieces to help me with marketing. I approached a friend, who I know really adores his daughter. I shared inspirations from the Internet, which I felt I could easily do.”

“I shared via WhatsApp and he chose two designs. I had given myself a turnaround time of three days, but ended up taking six days. I’m glad he wasn’t difficult to work with,” said Yvonne. 

This turned out to be successful, with the friend sharing her work on Facebook.

“When I was finally done, I sent him the photos via WhatsApp. He was super thrilled with how they turned out so much so that even before dispatching them to him he did a post on Facebook. I got 10 orders from that.” 

Her core business is making customised name signs for children’s rooms and home décor accessories. Recently she started doing business signages for small firms.

Yvonne works with eco-friendly materials drawn from natural wood, Celuka (a type of soft board) and sometimes acrylic.

Name of game

“Custom work is the name of our game and we love to create everything from nursery signs to intricate knick knacks and everything in between. Our commissioned pieces are always one-of-a-kind and make great gifts,” she explained.

CasaDahlia.ke officially began operations in January 2020, and shortly the Covid-19 pandemic - whose devastating economic shocks are still being felt - struck. 

According to the Global State of Small Business Report released by Meta, women-owned small businesses have been worst hit by the pandemic. Female-led businesses were seven percentage points more likely to close due to the pandemic than male-led ones, said the report.

“At some point last year, I had a terrible burn out. I’m glad Dahlia is growing and becoming independent. I also have a very supportive partner and so right now I’m at a better place,” she said.

When she started the business, it was just basic designs. But her craft and skill set has beautifully evolved. Curiously, Yvonne a trained HR professional and has no design background. Her entry into this specialty was borne out of passion.

For full client satisfaction and competitive edge, Yvonne immerses herself to understand each customer’s experience and desire. She literally works with customers’ thoughts, ideas and inspiration.

“I try as much as possible to understand a client’s personality, taste and style including even color preferences,” she explained her process.

As a person who fully runs her business online, social media has been very instrumental in her business’s growth.

“The pandemic had seen people take up e-commerce meaning I had to boost my online presence. Social media is also very cost effective and one is able to reach a wider audience,” she said adding that she sells plaques outside Kenya even as far as Australia.

Perfect balance

As an entrepreneur, she notes that at first the biggest challenge was striking a perfect balance between being a mother, partner and business owner. At the moment she works with one graphics designer and an assistant.

Maintaining brand consistency and authority is also one of her driving forces.

“I’d like to establish a unique brand presence that helps to create loyal customers. I’d like to follow the lead of brand building experts like Apple and Nike whose clients seek them out and don’t even compare them to other business products,” she said.

She also strives to keep creating engaging content, staying current with the algorithms of social media platforms and search engines.

To budding entrepreneurs, her advice is simple – just start. She also underscores the importance of developing networks.

“When starting up a company, most times you’ll be alone and it can get quite tough. The journey can, however, be made easier if you join like-minded individuals where you can learn and share ideas and knowledge. As they say, your network is your net worth,” she said.

She identified organisations such as Her Hustle, which has partnered with Meta Technologies to help women acquire entrepreneurial skills through their She Means Business training program.

The She Means Business program aims to train over 3,000 women entrepreneurs to equip them with digital, financial and business management skills to boost their entrepreneurial resilience in the face of crises.

Women entrepreneurs in the program have inspiring stories of how they have leveraged on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp to grow their businesses.

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