Meet Ian, the Economics graduate running his own enterprise at just 23

BY NBM WRITER The general norm for young graduates is to spend the next few months after school mailing resumes to anyone that looks like a potential employer. But In a country where patronage seems to hold sway over qualification or ability, this is often a frustrating exercise. Economics graduate Ian Mati is among a growing number of young Kenyans who have decided not to take this route. At 23, Mati is the founder and CEO of Vintara – a successful accessory brand focusing on the sale of bags, shoes and neckpieces but with a touch of vintage and ankara fabric. His story is quite curious. Mati has always had a passion for the African culture and Vintara would have been a perfect way of expressing it. But Vintara wasn’t his original business, neither was it his intention to make it his economic mainstay. Vintara started off as a means to raise funds for a debt he had incurred from a previous venture. Thereafter, he would go back to the old business. “This was in March 2014 when I decided to do this. By September the same year I had paid the debt and I asked myself why I shouldn’t continue with the business that helped clear a debt. So I registered the business in October of the same year,” he explains. So how he you start, considering that he was already in what seems like a deep debt, where did he get the cash for his first investment? I get curious. “At that time I even had to sell my phone to clear the debt and topped that with the small sales I made when I started the business. The only resource I had when I started was social media. That is where I did my marketing. I remember sending all my pals on my contact list, especially ladies, photos of kitenge shoes. The response was amazing and that’s when I made my first sale (on WhatsApp). In our first year we did sales of Sh650, 000 and our second year we did thrice as much. By and by we grew. • In 2015 Ian and his team got the chance to start selling bags at the airport through Beth International and that was the turning point. It was their first big deal. “I remember running to the washrooms when the deal fell through just to thank God,” Ian offers. • They now have two workshops, one in Jericho Market and the other in Umoja Estate – a bungalow that they transformed into a workspace. Other than the duty free shops, they stock at Inside the Baobab in Yaya and Westgate and Memories of Kenya in Garden City. “We have working relationships with different individuals in the US and Canada who move our products in those • Countries since our products also appeal to foreigners,” he says adding that the business is really expanding and they have started working with cooperates. Last year they worked with Ole Sereni Hotel and Brisk Marketing to do their gift bags and this year they have done gift bags for National Bank.” For all its success, Vintara employs a modest 8 people with products retailing at between Sh1000 and Sh3500. Like many start ups, the company is also only learning how to deal with cash flow problems. And that leaves room for improvement. The ultimate goal for Ian is to have retail stores locally and internationally employing over 100 young men and women. Ian concludes with some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is a journey like life. Don’t be in a rush to make millions. Take time to build your foundation and understand your business through immense research and mentorship,” the young founder and CEO offers to those aspiring to venture into business.

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