Founded on a mission to create jobs for local artisans in Kenya, fashion entrepreneur Mugo Muna started borawear.com after graduating from Cornell University. Bora Wear is a luxury fashion brand for African men. The company makes one-of-a-kind handmade belts and employs a community of local Kenyan artisans to handcraft each buckle through a sand casting method – after which, the mold is then destroyed – ensuring each piece is 100% unique.
Bora Wear offers socially responsible products to include, belt buckles and high-quality leather belts. In an effort to expand his reach and to finance his business, Mugo Muna recently launched a kickstarter campaign, he plans to raise about $17,000. You may support his work here. Click to donate. The AWP Network met with Mugo to learn more about his business. He shares with us his passion for fashion, inspiration for starting, and how he plans to grow the company.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
Bora in Swahili means “better” or “excellent.” I believe this word best represents my brand. I am inspired by the word ‘Bora’ because I want to make Kenya a better place by starting a business that will create jobs.
What inspired you to start your business?
If not us then who? We as Africans, need to work together to make the continent a better place. I want to make a difference and I believe that my company will create jobs in Kenya.
Who is your target market?
Young African men who appreciate one-of-a-kind buckles and belts.
How have you been able to penetrate the fashion industry?
I am just starting out and still in the early stages of the business. My focus is more on figuring out what people want and not so much on fitting into the “industry.” Once we know what people want then we can worry about penetrating the industry.
How have you financed your business?
With my savings.
What is your competitive edge?
Each belt is handmade by local artisans in Kenya, using the highest quality materials. Each mold is destroyed after the belt is made, making each belt buckle one-of-a-kind. Aside from the materials and the manufacturing process, all of the artisans we work with are locally trained in Kibera, an informal housing settlement here in Nairobi. The manufacturer pays all artisans a living wage.
What is the five (5) year plan for your business?
Our goal is to supply to various retail outlets. We want to build a global brand and strengthen the company’s online presence. We also want to increase our capacity and ability to supply wholesale and deliver bulk orders. Once this happens, I strongly believe that we will make a significant and profound impact on lives here in Kenya.
What challenges do you face?
(1) Quality assurance and the ability to fill large orders,
(2) Finding people with the right skill set and who can pay great attention to detail. Currently, we do not have the capital to train people therefore, many things have happened through the trial and error method, which is fine but we need to find a reliable group of people who understand our need for quality production.
What three (3) things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
- Motivate yourself. You will not be motivated to work on your business all the time, so you need to find a way to work in that situation.
- Delegate. Figure out what you are good at and delegate the rest of the tasks (if you can). Things will take a lot longer than you anticipate.
- Find a partner. The sooner you can find a partner/ co-founder the happier and more secure you will feel about your business.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
Any young person who says there is no money, lacks imagination. I would also say that they are not yet ready to start a business. I mean, there are your traditional routes to funding like, angel investors and venture capitalists, but even beyond that there are so many crowdfunding platforms out there, friends and family, or any other kind of means to funding your idea.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
It is nice to have a platform and to have someone to speak with about your startup problems, I want more young people coming together to share ideas and to provide solutions to challenges. I think that this is critical to the small business process and development. I also believe that having such conversations really helps to keep people motivated and accountable to a larger group.
How many jobs have you created so far?
Right now, we are providing work for about 60 artisans. We plan to expand and I believe that when we get more orders, we can create more jobs.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
I think it comes down to encouraging people to take more risks and trying out their ideas – you know, moving from idea to execution. You have to give things a shot to find out whether an idea will work or not.