The rise of a self taught designer

BY VICTOR ADAR

Rosemarie Anyango Omondi has been creating jewelry using bones, beads and brass since 2015. Her passion has grown so much that today she designs and creates pure leather handbags as well as bespoke accessories. And the forces of the market tends to work in her favour, more so given that her collections comprise of accessories which are hand crafted and sourced in Kenya.

Over the last five years Ms Omondi has grown Zanta Adeyde from simple startup to become one of the familiar Kenyan brands in accessories. Indeed, when you give alternative advantage to customers while offering customised pieces, the reality is that you will advance. 

Rosemarie Anyango Omondi

“Zanta is an African name that means a beautiful girl and we pride in enhancing beauty using exotic African concepts,” she says. “We target corporate executives with luxurious quality handmade leather travel and laptop bags, ladies handbags and conference sleeves. We also design African inspired jewelry for the modern day women of all ages.” 

The fact that we are currently living in interesting times where businesses are virtually not doing well, it is wise to try ventures that require little capital to start. Financial institutions are generally hesitant to lend to small players especially those without statements to show proof of income, and even bad credit score as a result of previously unpaid loans. Arguably, the process is complex especially if one is on a shoestring budget. But an interesting perspective is how Ms Omondi used Sh1, 500 from part of her savings, an absurdly little amount, to start off her venture. And you can’t imagine how her company has grown.

“It has grown by approximately 40% each year… There has been a positive upward trend in regards to our products range that include pure leather bags and custom made jewelry. We get to hear exciting positive testimonials from customers about the quality of Zanta products. Most of our clientele are repeated and referral customers whose feeback inspires us to keep creating quality products,” she says.

Currently working with artisans on piecework, and two employees, the self-taught designer says that while it is noble to go into business full circle, certain merits must be met. That means that a lot of things must be done in a different manner. She is selling online big time while trying to break the myth that things like necklaces are not high value items and are unsellable.

The chief designer and founder of Zanta also has a soft spot for breast cancer survivors and ensures that 10% of every jewelry sale goes to purchase yarns for making a prosthesis for the Limau Cancer Connection, an organization that gives free “knitted knockers” to women whose breasts have been removed.

Being online means that Zanta is global. And, well, some of her earrings go for around Sh2, 600, neckpieces Sh6, 400, and those who are outside Nairobi County, or outside Kenya are well catered for. 

“Most of the clients globally order on the website and as an SME we have an account with DHL that provides subsidized shipping costs…clients do pay through mobile and bank transfers,” she says, adding that she owns a shop in Village market, an up market area in Nairobi.

“The village market concept store where we work with different premium brands is the first one of its kind that works on sharing space with designers and maximizing on profits. Our vision is to create partnerships with like minded stores globally,” she explains. 

As far as business sustainability is concerned, going forward, pure leather handbags and bespoke accessories is a venture Ms Omondi may advice entrepreneurship oriented individuals to consider. She hopes to redefine the creative industry three to four years from now.

“We shall be able to tell the African narrative boldly in our fashion sense globally. The narrative will expose our unique culture and authenticity in clothes and jewelry that we adorn. So it is a success story but I would however caution them not to focus on the business and ignore the passion bit which is the backbone of our success. Kenyan designers have a story on each product they make that includes Zanta…but we are making strides towards Kenyan handmade product awareness.”

In the wake of Covid-19, a majority of enterprises that failed to draw a business development plan this year, or were yet to, might be facing it rough. The pandemic has affected many companies’ products offerings, with some going to an extent of restructuring, slashing employees salaries, or are simply sending staff home on unpaid leave in order to stay afloat. Agreeing that bouncing back may take sometime, it is all of the type of products that a company is still able to develop. Are you solving a human problem? To thrive at this time also calls for high standards and good planning. 

“We are currently working on one (referring to a development plan) and more emphasis is directed towards online marketing and presence considering most of our products sales have been affected adversely by covid 19. So the biggest challenge at the moment as an SME is the pandemic, which has adversely affected many other businesses. In addition, imports of cheap products from china and other parts of the world affect the local creative and production industry,” she says.  

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