Esther Kibiri is a young mother and a fashion enthusiast; Favor designs in Zimmerman Estate in Ruaraka sub-county doubles up as a self-taught fashion designer. Today she narrates her love for fashion and how economic empowerment by CoWA NGO in partnership with Call Africa helped.
I have loved fashion and style for as far back as I can remember. I used to accompany my mother to clothes stores (Eastleigh, Gikomba, Toi Market) every Christmas holiday. You know how Kenyans we are with the festive seasons, to choose an outfit for my siblings and me. When I grew older, I already knew what I wanted to become, and in addition, I had a precise test in Ankara; some name it Kitenge, but it's just African designs. I love Africa and am a proud Kenyan. Am always excited about colors and prints.
The best gift I have ever received is becoming a mother. I was blessed with two kids, my daughter and a son, who was born with Down syndrome. It reached a point where I had challenges juggling between business and taking care of my son. At some point, I started withdrawing from my work; it depressed me how my dream of becoming a fashion designer was slowly fading away. So, time went by, and my son grew older; I went back to my business located at Zimmerman, just a few dummies showcasing my designs and I was happy. My tailoring machine is commonly known as Cherehani, getting some few coins I was comfortable with. As long as I could put a plate on my table, I was a happy woman. I mean, I could pay my shop rent, with a few Denis(debts) here and there but I mean I was in business and people was seeing me in business. The point is I was just comfortable with just coming to my small shop in the morning, rant how Biashara(business) is down, close my shop, go home and wait for the end month to pay rent, and am a happy woman. This went on for years and years since I started my business in 2013.
My life-changing story started when I was enrolled in the You Will Never Walk Alone (YWNWA) #youllneverwalkalone in partnership with CoWA young entrepreneurs' services in 2020. One of the program's objectives was to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all by training on how to generate a business idea, start a business and improve a business. The first day of class was really interesting to me, I met amazing young women with children living with disabilities. Fun fact they become family. So, it felt nice to embark on this journey with women you can relate to; fast forward, we are now in a Chama together called Njakazi. So, I enrolled for a 20-day class where I was trained on Parenting skills, Mindset, Business Modelling skills, Business Model Canvas, and financial deepening. The last day of class was really sad for me because the trainers were refreshing, motivating, and practical in stimulating the personal economic journey of transforming oneself from despair to hope. But again, I was anticipating two things: Mentorship from CoWA and going to face the world in this context of my current and potential clients. So, this is knowledge learned from these classes.
The first thing I did for my business was branding, and I had to look for a name for my business; initially, it was just a building with mannequins outside with some designs, now it’s called Favor designs with a well-printed name, did some interior designs as well, changed the whole layout of my business in terms of the arrangement to entice more customers. Initially, my social media platforms were just for sharing happy moments, reshare stories to friends and families, now I can say for sure with the knowledge I learned from the class, I had to start marketing my designs online, I take pictures of my latest designs to share to Facebook and WhatsApp. I formed a WhatsApp group for all my clients where I share the new trends of Ankara, and they order from them. My approach to clients has changed, how I talk to them and how I treat them. I learned that customers are my business. I can surely say I don't sit around waiting for customers, look for them, and trust me when I get them, I initiate strategies to maintain them. For example, after a fitting and they have bought for example, a dress for an event, I normally follow up with a call asking them how the event was and maybe if they can share a picture of their fits and always encourage them to do referrals. As I had mentioned earlier, just paying my shop rent was enough for me earlier, not anymore incorporating what I learned into my business led to an increase in sales, and now I know that it's very important to do calculations and separations, that's how I call it in terms of; expenses, costs and profit and most importantly for me savings which I again do it in our Chama Njakizi. My business is booming for sure I make around 20,000-30,000 in a month from what I was making 6000-8000 in a month. After enrolling in the CoWA and Call Africa mentorship program, they boosted my business with a 10,000 Kenyan shillings loan. This was timely as I needed to add more materials for some designs. They normally send a mentor to follow up on my business and advise where to change a strategy or an approach.
I am grateful to be a beneficiary of the economic development of CoWA under the You Will Never Walk Alone program because it was life-changing to me. One last thing you should pass by Zimmerman to come to check out the amazing African designs that we have, ask around Favor designs