Can investors in educatin reap handsome returns? And how long does a school take to break even? The answer to these questions depends on the ecosystem player you ask.
Take the case of fashion entrepreneur Saitoti Meitamei, who runs a thriving school of tailoring, fashion and design at Nairobi's Muindi Mbingu Street.
It all began while he was still a university student pursuing an economics degree. Mr Meitamei observed that despite technical skills being in high demand, most institutions were not that practical-oriented. After graduating from the University of Nairobi in 2011, he started mobilising funds to develop an institution.
With three students including one who was a retiree, Delight Technical College came to fruition in 2015.
The institution is two-fold comprising the biggest school which teaches tailoring and fashion design. The other is The School of Photography and The School of New Media and Graphic Design - operating both in the central business district (CBD) and Kasarani campuses.
The fashion students are trained to produce children dresses, and men's wear as well as house fittings including curtains and various drapings.
He spoke to Enterprise about his journey.
What was your starting capital?
My start-up capital was Sh350, 000. The financing was mainly drawn from personal savings and also from friends and family.
What does running a business in the crowded city centre look like?
The challenge has been securing space in the central business district (CBD). We moved to this building in July this year. Before that, we were operating from Biashara Street. Rent in the CBD has always been high. We have also suffered the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic where our operating costs went higher.
What is the scope of your school?
We currently have 60 students. We have six employees on a permanent and four on a temporary basis. Most of our students, 55 in number, are taking tailoring and fashion design. We have three taking videography and photography and two studying graphic design and new media.
And so far, from 2015, we have handled more than 600 students. For any given intake, we normally admit ten to 15 students on a monthly basis to train them between three months and two years. Twenty-three are set to graduate this year.
Other than student fees, how do you support your daily operations?
We also engage in corporate training where we offer tailor-made courses. We also sell fashion accessories made here.
How easy or hard is it for your students once they graduate?
Because of the training we offer and active engagement with the textile industry, it is easy for our students to get internships and jobs after they finish school. Most of our students end up in fashion design with established fashion houses and fashion brands owned by renowned fashion entrepreneurs like Aulgah Neto, John Kaveke, Ashok Sunny, Lucy Rao, as well as Bevern Oguk.
Some students also decide to set up their own businesses. The student completion rate is always above 80 per cent.
Our course outline requires a student to satisfy all the training requirements which are creative and practical in nature including presentation and communication skills and time management.
The school has been around for almost seven years now. How profitable is it?
Though we managed to break even, it is not as profitable as one might expect in other ventures.
Also, while is biggest expenditure is in terms of paying rent and tutors, our profit in a good year now ranges from between Sh200,000 and Sh300,000 which we reinvest in the business.
The college appears predominantly female...
It is a baffling situation for us also because contrary to our business expectations, it is more females that usually apply for our training every time there is an opening. We try to balance this by tailoring our marketing communication to male candidates as well.
Talk to us about textile sourcing
We always work on outfits that borrow from the cultures of the communities in Kenya. In doing this, we also always emphasise function over form, meaning we take that our designs are suited to the event, occasion and place.
What do you do with the best student designs?
We regularly organise fashion events so the students can benchmark, and get visibility as well as personal clients. Some get cash and non-monetary awards for their best works on display during any of our internal or external events. The Delight Fashion Week for example has always put out a handsome for the winner of the most creative outfit and winner of the best outfit throughout the week as well as issue them with a certificate.
Your future plans?
In the next five years, we want to have invested in more sophisticated training equipment and grow our student numbers across the country.