Florence Karemeri is the visionary founder and director of Kitenge World, a thriving fashion house situated in Juja Town.
I started by hawking fabrics when I was a student at the KCA University. I started with Sh10,000 in 2012. I come from an area that is located at the border of Kenya and Tanzania which made it easy for me as I could carry a number of unique fabrics back to Nairobi whenever I visited home. My friends and church-mates would buy from me and I got many referrals and return customers.
I couldn’t meet all my bills within the first two years after I opened a physical shop. I am grateful to my husband who helped me with some of the bills, and this kept me afloat during those tough startup years. Today, the business has become self-reliant. We deal with all kinds of outfits. Initially, we had started with Vitenge only, but due to the growing demand, we started incorporating other fabrics, stitching official suits, corporate uniforms, wedding outfits and so on. We have now perfected our quality which gives us an upper hand in the market.
I am an accountant by profession. I pursued fashion out of passion. I had worked as an accountant in different industries before resigning to pursue business full-time. Like many entrepreneurs, at the initial stage, I did not have a good business operation structure. I could not separate personal money and business money. I remember at one point I took a good amount of money from the business and invested it elsewhere. Fortunately, I quickly realised that I was draining the business and needed to change tact to avoid closure. In 2019, I felt vindicated in the business I was building after I won an award during the Daughters of Faith Conference’s gala night.
If I could start this business all over again, I would put business structures that would separate me from the business itself. This means that from the start, the business operations would not be dependent on me. The business would still be able to operate even without my presence. I find this to be a critical factor that many entrepreneurs fail to address both for business growth, and continuity.
I save my money through the Sacco, bank and the money market. This gives me a balanced portfolio that ensures that my money is growing and at the same time giving transactional ability and liquidity whenever necessary. Previously, my clients used to pay directly to my phone, and I often found myself diverting the cash. I was, however, able to get my finances under control by separating business money from personal accounts, be they mobile, Sacco or bank. This has made it easier for me to account for both personal and business finances.
I have realised that to break even in business, you must be willing to push yourself to go above the basic that you might have been accustomed to underemployment. If your dreams don’t scare you, go back and dream again, it is free to dream big. This is as long as you have faith, confess positively, and keep on moving regardless. The stars will align for you. There is a future in business. In fact, I believe that for a developing nation such as Kenya, business will be the way to go, especially with the dwindling employment opportunities. Get creative, find a need, and convert it into an income stream.