Arline Kendi, 26, is the brain behind African Touch by Kendi, a fast- growing fashion brand inspired by environment conservation.
I am an environmentalist, sustainable fashion awareness creator and a sustainability consultant. After graduating from Chuka University where I studied Ecotourism and Hospitality Management, I tried out different jobs and in between these jobs I thought why not start my own business on environment sustainability as that had always been my dream.
I did research on sustainability and since I am also passionate about fashion, I embarked on building a brand around these two areas. I started a blog but since it was hard paying my bills through blogging, I took the idea to the next level which was to start selling biodegradable bags, it was a good time for me as plastic bags use had also been banned.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I developed www.arlinekendi.com, an environmental and fashion sustainability blog. But that was not enough for me, I wanted something tangible in terms of sustainable handmade products that I could showcase to the world and that’s how African Touch by Kendi was born. I bought my first five bags which I needed as a sample and they cost me Sh3,500. The name was inspired by the fact that I intended to use african print/ fabrics or imprints and that my products would be made in Kenya and by Kenyans.
RUNNING A STARTUP
When I started, it was decided by a pure passion but also the dire need to have a source of income. I had the idea but I didn’t know where exactly to get the products that I needed for upcycling and recycling. Running a startup calls for discipline and intense networking, you don’t expect instant profit sometimes you spend more than you intended.
Getting old leather in good condition is quite hard while gathering fabric offcuts in town is quite time consuming and not many designers want to patch work. I currently started using bottle tops to make table mats and getting someone with the skill here is hard.
I wish I knew that just because I am advocating sustainability, it does not mean everyone will run with my ideas/ passion. Selling these products is also not easy as for instance most women prefer imported bags to locally made ones.
WHERE YOU ARE NOW
We recently embarked on a project themed ‘No such thing as away’. I have four employees for now, I have also created contacts in the different places I source for material so it is not as hard as when we began. We are also working on a website where we will be selling some of these products to tap into the international market.
My greatest tip has been patience, determination and aggressive use of social media platforms. You also have to be unique to stand out. Anyone can start a business, all that matters is how unique that idea is. Find something that you are passionate about and don’t try to copy others, do your thing, the rest will fall into place at the right time.
Launched: December 2017
Facebook: African Touch By Kendi
Startup capital: Sh10,000