African fashion is taking centre space on the world stage, largely due to the fact that it is readily more accessible than ever before. Kelechi Anyadiegwu, Founder of African-fashion themed online portal Zuvaa.com speaks candidly about life as an entrepreneur, the future of online retail, and how social media helped expand her business.
Leading Ladies Africa: Congratulations on the first anniversary of Zuvaa.com, how do you feel?
Kelechi Anyadiegwu: It’s feels amazing to have started something that is making an impact and that people around the world love. I never thought Zuvaa would grow this big in just a years’ time. I’m excited to grow this industry.
Many people know the brand, shop the brand, but don’t know the brain behind the brand. Who is Kelechi Anyadiegwu?
KA: I’m just a girl who genuinely believes in and loves African Fashion and emerging designers. And someone who believes that the way to make this industry mainstream is through social media, content and community building. We would have never grown so quickly without our community.
What inspired you to create Zuvaa – a digital marketplace for African-inspired fashion?
KA: I started Zuvaa, because as a Nigerian woman in the diaspora, I saw the interest in African prints and textiles. Whenever I would wear African prints, I would get LOTS of compliments. And I knew there were lots of talented designers around the world, who just need a platform to be able to sell and showcase their items. With my passion for the continent and my strong interest in fashion and web design, building an online destination for African Fashion and Design was a perfect fit.
Roberto Cavalli, Micheal Kors, Gucci, etc, are some of the international designers whose collections have been influenced by Africa. Is this good for business?
KA: Absolutely! As long as they attribute where their inspirations come from, I don’t see a problem.
Let’s backtrack a little. How did your interest in technology start?
KA: I’ve always interested in technology; ever since my dad bought my brothers and I a computer in the early 2000’s. I’ve always been interested in digital layout publishing and design. I took this interest all the way to college where I studied Information and Community Technology. It has always fascinated me the way people interact with technologies and how design and layout can inform decisions.
A lot of entrepreneurs list funding as one of the major challenges to starting business. How did your source funding?
KA: I’ve bootstrapped since the beginning and we are still bootstrapping. I don’t want to raise any money until I really need it.
So there’s the tech part, the fashion part, and also the retail part of Zuvaa? How does all of this come together as a sustainable business model?
KA: It’s all about creating value on both sides. I create value for the designers and for the customers. The main part of the model is really understanding the needs of our designers and customers and finding a way to monetize on that.
Are there times where you wanted to give up, and how did you get back up?
KA: All the time, but I have faith in my vision and I can’t stop until I reach my goal.
You have a huge following online. Would you say social media has helped to grow your business?
KA: This has been the number one factor why our business has grown so quickly, the people, our community. This has been the best type of marketing for us because it has enabled us to grow organically.
How do local designers get listed on the Zuvaa platform?
KA: They can apply at www.zuvaa.com/apply
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in running an online retail business?
KA: I’ve learned a lot since starting Zuvaa. I’ve had a lot of growing pains. All the mistakes, have made me a better business woman and person.
Name 3 women who inspire and motivate you
KA: So hard to name three, but one for sure is My Mother. She’s the smartest woman I know.
Name 3 things that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur
KA: Might sound cliche, but you need to really believe in your idea, if you’re going to be successful. So:
- Trust your vision
- Be confident
- Don’t give up
What are your plans for Zuvaa within the next 5 years?
KA: I don’t want to give too much away 😉 But just be excited!
If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
KA: I think everything happens for a reason and I’m happy about where I am in life.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.