After working briefly as a receptionist Sharon Wendo decided to call it quits and venture into the not so popular field of jewelry design.
That’s what Wendo, 27, has been doing for the past one year through her company Epic African Jewelry which focuses mainly on African ornaments.
Working from her home in Kayole estate, Nairobi, her products range from necklaces to bracelets with her raw materials mainly being beads, threads and ankara fabric.
The work isn’t easy as it takes many hours to complete a single piece, considering that most of her products are complex.
For instance, it takes her up to 15 hours to complete a single neck because she focuses on special, rare designs.
This is one reason that sets her apart from the rest of the pack.
“My designs are new, special and in most cases bigger than usual; an achievement I get from constant research,” she explains, adding that this has played a big role in helping her establish and maintain special clients.
The uniqueness and diligence have enabled her to set higher than usual prices, with her jewelry ranging from Sh500 to Sh10,000 per piece.
Other factors that determine prices of her products include size, materials used, and cost of production.
“Different designs have different costs as I have small and big pieces. For example, for a small neck piece I use about Sh600 on materials and spend about 15 hours working on it, meaning that the end product will be a little expensive,” she explains.
And she’s reaping big from her work, raking in an average monthly income of between Sh60,000 and Sh75,000 in a good season, and between Sh20,000 and Sh28,000 in the low season.
“My products sell mostly during hot seasons while sales in cold, rainy spells are usually slow as people don’t wear accessories on sweaters and coats.
“Also, during school opening times sales are usually slow considering that most of my clients are parents who have school fees to think about,” she explains.
She exclusively markets her products online, capitalising on social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, with most of her customers being women between 20 and 55 years.
“I decided to use these platforms because I don’t have to open a physical shop which is expensive considering that I have to pay rent and hire someone on full time basis,” she says.
Ms Wendo says she has had passion for design since childhood but took long to make up her mind on venturing in the business.
“I have always loved fashion and when I learnt beading I started doing research and was inspired by the African culture and wanted to learn more,” she explains.
In 2015 she got a chance to be trained under the Kenya Youth Empowerment Project, a government sponsored initiative where youth are taken through training in life skills, financial management and entrepreneurship, among other things, after which they get a three-month internship.
“I learnt a lot about entrepreneurship and the skills I received gave me assurance to start my business,” she explains.
But it wasn’t until last year when she resigned from her job as a receptionist at a Nairobi school to venture into the business. “I was not happy at my workplace, deep inside I knew that I didn’t belong there so I decided to take the risk and pursue my passion,” she says.
She started off making small pieces targeting friends and posting them on her social media pages.
Ms Wendo has one employee who does the beading, and whom she pays on commission.
“I would have loved to employ more people on a permanent basis and pay them fixed salary but the problem is that it is still a young business,” she says.
Her advice to young people is not to be afraid to do what they love.
“Be consistent and persistent because that is the only way to succeed. Also, you have to work extra hard to accomplish your goals, it isn’t easy but it’s worth it.”