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HomebusinessChebet Mutai: Ex-World Bank Consultant-Turned-Fashionista, Entrepreneur & Founder of Waza Wazi Safari...

Chebet Mutai: Ex-World Bank Consultant-Turned-Fashionista, Entrepreneur & Founder of Waza Wazi Safari Travel

Chebet Mutai is the founder and proprietor of Weza Wazi, an Afrocentric luxury leather goods brand that designs, manufactures and distributes leather products in Kenya and globally.

The former World Bank economic consultant works with talented Kenyan artisans to transform cow hide into stunning pieces of fashion, art and culture.

After quitting a career in the corporate world, Chebet Mutai started off as a fashion designer before striking gold in manufacturing high-quality stylish leather products.

“It was while I was at the World Bank that I saw that Africa needed more entrepreneurs and more manufacturing to solve some of our continent’s major problems, like unemployment among our youth,” says Chebet.

File image of Weza Wazi founder and proprietor Chebet Mutai. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Weza Wazi founder and proprietor Chebet Mutai. |Photo| Courtesy|

Her company has enjoyed tremendous success and boasts a retail outlet in Denver, Colorado, USA.

On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, Trade and Investments Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano announced that Chebet will be part of President William Ruto’s entourage to the US where he is expected to make a multi-billion-dollar investment pitch in Atlanta, Georgia.

Background & Education

Chebet Mutai is a graduate of the Kenyatta University and holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and French.

Career

Soon after completing her tertiary studies, she bagged a job with the World Bank – a dream come true for anyone with a background in finance.

Chebet resigned from her job and founded Wazawazi in 2012. The name is coined from Swahili words “waza” which means “to think” and “wazi” which means “open”. The brand name thus translates to ‘open-minded’.

The visionary entrepreneur founded the brand with the aim of telling Africa’s story through superior craftsmanship, rich art, and high-quality material. She began by designing and making the bags from her house, however, as the brand grew, it dawned on her that she needed bigger commercial space.

Chebet was introduced to vast spaces at the Jamhuri showgrounds by her friends. This would become Wazawazi’s home.

“I began making homemade handbags in May 2012 in response to a need in the market for high-quality products from Africa. Our main raw materials are leather, which we source locally, and beads. Our products include handbags, travel bags, a variety of products for business and now we are also getting into small leather accessories,” Chebet says.

File image of a leather bag designed by Weza Wazi founder and proprietor Chebet Mutai. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of a leather bag designed by Weza Wazi founder and proprietor Chebet Mutai. |Photo| Courtesy|

Starting out, she sold the bags to former World Bank colleagues who became her first clients. She advertised by mouth, but then figured she had to go an extra mile to grow her brand further.

Chebet began attending fairs and has since traversed the world marketing her work. She has been to trade fairs in Hong Kong, Frankfurt Germany, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA and New York, USA, among others.

The Wezawazi CEO notes Kenya and Africa as a whole boast tremendous potential in terms of entrepreneurship, however, youth of the continent lack requisite skills to effectively compete globally.

When she set up shop at Valley Road Arcade in Nairobi, Chebet endeavoured to train youth in design and equip them to succeed in the world of fashion.

“I’d like the shop to be a space where creativity can flourish, where other artists can bring their artistic expressions, be they in the shape of visual art, jewellery, music, fashion or even books,” she says.

“I’d like that space to serve fellow storytellers, since I feel the time has come for Africans to share their stories, and not for others to tell our stories for us.”

Chebet also founded Weza Wazi Safari Travel to advertise and showcase Africa’s natural and cultural beauty through tours.

She notes that Africa is moving fast towards the future and youth must be well equiped to develop the continent through excellence in multiple disciplines.