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Shining Star: Wacu Kihara

From age 11, I knew I wanted to be a Fashion Designer.

I started Khangadelic in 2015 after a 10 year hiatus upon encouragement from my Aunt.

When I got back from Italy in 1995 where I studied Fashion Design at POLIMODA: Istituto Internazionale Politecnico Della Moda, I registered Back To Black Designs and won various awards. Search for a National Costume in 1995 1st prize Ladies and 2nd Prize Men, SIFA Smirnoff International Fashion Awards, 3rd Prize in the Professional Category.

I got a lot of encouragement from my American friends in Naivasha where I had lived for 10 years before coming back to Mombasa 2 years ago this April. They supported and bought Khangadelic products locally and for family back home as gifts.

Khangadelic did 2 Charity Fashion Shows one for the EAWL East African Women’s League of which I was also Secretary for the Naivasha Branch for 2 years. EAWL raises money to support Charities that help Women and Children and the second one to raise funds for the boy’s dormitory at St. Andrew’s Tarabete in Kasarani, North Lake, Naivasha and we donated 10% of our sales towards the same.

Swahili Pot has helped with networking through various members.

Firstly I would like to thank Jammy El Jabry for telling me about Swahili Pot.

Ohms Law Montana is a mentor to my son Lucca aka Lucca Eky Rapper as well as the Brand Ambassador and the Face of my Fashion label Khangadelic.

Ohms Law introduced me to Musa Oyoo of Terra Models Management who has provided models for 2 of my photo shoots.

Musa in turn introduced me to Erick Pamba of Pamba Photography who does all of Khangadelic’s photography.

Paul Akwabi has introduced my son Lucca to TechKidz Africa a brilliant initiative for children on learning more about Robotics and Programming.

Angela Mumbi introduced us to Kids Fashion Show in which Lucca modelled and also Khangadelic was given the opportunity to showcase our collection on the Catwalk. Mumbi was also the inspiration behind the Valentine’s photo shoot in which she modelled a strapless satin gown with Khanga accents and a khanga velvet lined cape.

Ruth Kaveke of Pwani Teknowgalz trained me on Web Development and helped me set up my ecommerce website www.khangadelic.com

Swahili Pot also has fast and reliable internet, the members are a community and one big family and are very supportive of each other’s ventures. They also have a good relationship with the County Government who always send representatives to their functions.

Other networks and resources have been the Export Promotion Council who have given Khangadelic the platform and opportunity to travel and exhibit at International Trade Fairs such as NY NOW 2016, Sourcing at MAGIC 2017 in Las Vegas, FIHAV 2016 (Havana International Fair), Cuba and Spring Fair 2018, Birmingham, UK.

Mombasa County Government Department of Trade, Investment sponsored Khanagdelic to NY NOW 2016.

Challenges we face are

  1. Financing especially from Banks: we have in the past been financed by family and friends (My late Mother was my biggest supporter)
  2. Outlets to stock our products; they normally take the products on consignment and so we get paid as they sell which ties up our funds indefinitely. My dream would be to have my own Boutique/ showroom/ studio.
  3. We have a couple of clients in the USA, but are working to get more as we feel the export market is more appreciative of our products and are willing to pay without haggling over price.
  4. We also want to bridge the gap in the Trade deficit in the balance of trade. Kenya imports more than she exports and our PS in the State Department of Trade Dr Chris Kiptoo keeps challenging us in the various forums we have attended to have export ready goods and look for markets abroad. My heart sinks every time I see ships leaving the port of Mombasa empty but coming in full.
  5. Payment: We have in the past provided clothing for a couple of people for various events, but they feel they do not want to pay for the outfits or even give a mention that they were dressed by Khangadelic. Making clothing costs from the fabric, labour, delivery, time and effort spent.

Another passion of mine is the environment. Khangadelic is working with the Green Gang enrichment club of the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa on Environmental and Recycling Projects in Mombasa County. We carried out a clean-up exercise along Mama Ngina Drive and on the beach by the Ferry and were joined by the Patron of Swahili Pot, Mahmoud Noor and other members. But there is so much rubbish to be collected, I don’t think we made much difference with our clean up, but we did create awareness. We have an online petition to Ban Plastic Bottles and for Responsible Consumption (one of the Global Sustainable Development Goals). We need to care for our environment and responsibly dispose of waste especially plastic waste which takes hundreds of years to decompose and is killing a lot of animals that eat it and end up starving to death because of the plastic they swallow.

 

The advice I would like to give others who want to start up is to follow their passion and whatever they do will be an enjoyable journey and it will not seem like work. The journey is not without difficulties and at times one may feel like “throwing in the towel” but don’t.

It is good to do a lot of research, join Associations or groups with the same interests, they will help you grow and network.

Attend training sessions or workshops, you never stop learning.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), Women in Business (WIB) are just some of the few. Export Promotion Council (EPC) has also greatly helped Khangadelic especially if you want to venture into the export market.

 

My Mother’s last words were “Don’t give up”

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4 comments

  1. Hawi

    You can only get better so keep on keeping on. The afro perfume venture is still on course? . Let’s hope it starts soon….

  2. Mary Ellen

    So very well written,Wacu. Proud of you for not giving up!

  3. Tom

    This is great coming from a lady who is going to be among the Top designers in Kenya

  4. Thuita

    This is awesome. Yes, passion is all it takes and the rest follows. Keep it up Wacu!

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