Enterprising tailor scales family business to next level

Adriana Juma owns Tiankara Creations, a third-generation business. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Growing up in a family surrounded by textile entrepreneurs gave Adriana Juma the gist of wanting to expand the family business by changing its outlook and giving it a new face.

Ms Juma now owns Tiankara Creations which is a third-generation business, her mother used to own a tailor shop in Nakuru town, which she inherited from Ms Juma's grandmother.

She wanted to do something different from the two generations before her, by creating something unique which is ready-manufactured in Kenya and by using Ankara fabric.

"I'm a young female entrepreneur who was brought up in a business environment, being in a line of fashion called Tiankara creation meaning, Tiara for the crown and Ankara for Kitenge, we are Afrocentric," she told Enterprise.

Born and raised in Nakuru, Juma spent most of her childhood moments with her parents in the tailoring shop.

The 30-year-old and firstborn in her family, schooled in Nakuru and after her secondary education she got a scholarship and joined Shanghai University in China where she pursued International Trade and Economics.

"At Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, I was schooling and at the same time working. I did a lot of sourcing and teaching English, and with that, I enjoyed earning my own money. At the end of four years I decided that I don't want to get employed," Ms Juma added.

Her passion for owning a business and creating an opportunity for others made her confident to start something.

Government jobs

Her parents wanted her to get employed which led to a huge disagreement as she felt like they never understood her reasons for declining jobs in government.

She decided to request her mother to allow her to sew some clothes from the discarded fabric to sharpen her skills. Ms Juma also made use of YouTube for tutorials to learn value addition, how to use a sewing machine, and associate with fabric in general.

But still, she wanted to help her parents improve the business by attracting clients who will not only appreciate their work but also satisfy the market in which she noticed a gap and created a niche.

In 2018, she started the Daraja project in partnership with a friend where they would rehabilitate street mothers directly from the street by showing them how to stitch and also teaching them skills management, in an effort to make them independent.

"I'm happy the program is working which has helped 360 street mothers and children to support their families as we subcontract them to supply some of the designs we have," she said.

In August 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, she approached her mother and grandmother that she wanted to change the business approach of clients walking in with fabrics but instead manufacture ready attire for customers to avoid the notion that tailors disappoint when the delivery date and high prices.

When starting Tiankara Creation, Ms Juma says that capital was a challenge. Her mother gave her Sh10,000 which she used to buy fabric.

"It was difficult and we had no operators. I have five friends, we call ourselves 'think tank' and we kept on even as neighbors would laugh at us and discourage us that it was a tall order given that Kenyans don't value Kitenges," she reflected.

She would walk to town, and sacrifice in ensuring that she opened her business and made it grow. She recalls vividly her first client who changed the business fortune, the client she said was going to the neighbors' shop but stopped to check what was happening and ended up paying the Sh10,150.

To them, it was like winning a lottery and they would project the amount they would get monthly. When employing, she said that she looks for people who are passionate, and good-hearted, and with time they have employed over 30 people.

As part of the token, she stated that they have tried employing people and encouraging them to start their own businesses.

"We had to figure out what to do by putting our minds together and finally we came up with a solution which has worked for us," she said.

The business, she noted that they thrived with the Buy Kenya, Build Kenya concept by diversifying their products into cooperate.

Recycling of waste management, she explained that the waste products are recycled.

Since September 2020, they have been selling over 50 pieces a day.


Sourcing of fabrics was also a challenge. This was as she tried to balance between quality and pocket-friendly products, as their supplier failed to provide them with the best quality they wanted.

Sizing is another factor, which affected the business, as Ms Juma said that using the standard body size failed to work for them as creating a body size that fits led them to loss.

The workmanship was a problem, she said, given that most of the employees were not trained, which led to a waste of fabric.

She blames the laws put in place by the government on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which sidelined the textile industry.

Lowest and best moments

The lowest moment was before she opened Tiankara Creation, during the planning period, in that it was difficult given that there was existing business and transiting to open doors wasn't easy.

The best moment, she said, is every day in that they have been making millions every month.

"We are wondering why the government is not recognizing us, we pay our revenue up to the last coin, we hope in the future we will be able to work with the government in encouraging buy Kenya, build Kenya," she added.

In an effort to market its products and services, Juma uses different platforms such as social media, fieldwork, trade shows, and registering as a member of a business network association.

Most of their clients now are walking in and referrals. She encourages the youth to utilize any platform they can get by being creative and avoid copy-pasting. She challenges them to find a gap and fill it.

Understating what the target market wants has put them on the map, they opened their second shop within Nakuru, with their target audience being family-oriented, office wear and cooperates among others.

Juma's dream is to see the business grow across the country by touching lives.