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How I got Instagram to build my business


you’re young and eager to make a mark in local fashion circles, but you don’t have the financial muscle to fight it out with your much larger competitors.

To make a mark, you know you need the kind of money that would rent you a nice place in an uptown area, as well as cover your licences, furniture and wardrobe samples.

But you’re not ready to give up on your dream of being a fashion stylist – a fashion-conscious professionals who have an eye for detail and know how to co-ordinate clothes and accessories – so in today’s world, the obvious solution would be to set up online.

This is what Ian Mussilli, a fashion stylist and blogger in his 20s, did when he found his finances lacking.

Most fashion stylists in Kenya are hired to select the right look for magazine and newspaper editorial features, print or television advertising campaigns, music videos, concert performances, and public appearances made by celebrities, models or individuals who want to look exceptional.

It’s a great gig – if you can get the clients. The biggest challenge stylists face is accessing the kind of people ready to spend a pretty penny to look unrivalled when they show up at an event.

Growing a following

Ian wasn’t going to let this hurdle stop him. He knew that online, the playing field was largely level, so he turned to what was an underutilised platform for the Kenyan stylist at the time: photo-sharing app Instagram.

“I didn’t have enough capital to set up a physical office in town that would display my abilities, so Instagram was a great option,” says Ian.

He created an account in 2015 and then went to different men’s clothing stores to source for outfits, which he sometimes got for free because of the free publicity he offered.

He’d then visit scenic locations across the country and take pictures of himself dressed in various outfits. Given the quality of pictures, it didn’t take long to grow a following online.

“In addition to people ‘double tapping’ my photos, I started getting interested people reaching out to me for my fashion consultancy services. Instagram turned out to be a cheap marketing platform and a good way to build a business,” says Ian.

And as his profile improved, he could afford to hire the services of a professional photographer on occasion – but most of the time, his pictures are taken from a mobile phone.

“All I need is my phone camera, which is a Samsung Note, and Internet bundles, and then I’m able to tell the world what I’m about. I’m making my living off of Instagram.”

Ian says he gets at least three serious clients a week ready to pay the Sh5,000 fee for his consultancy services.

“Most of my clients are interested in buying the clothes that are in my photos, or at least getting a style that’s similar to what I’m showcasing,” he says.

After consulting with his clients, they settle on the kind of the clothes the client can afford based on their budget. Ian then sources for outfits from suppliers in clothing stores.

He doesn’t get paid by these stores, but is offered a discount on the purchases he makes, which allows him to charge his clients the shelf price and make deliveries.

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