By Prudence Minayo
Cris Njoki is the founder of Ikojn Africa, a Kenyan fashion brand. The company designs quality, colorful and comfortable outfits. The journey to building Ikojn Africa has not been an easy one for the entrepreneur.
From losing millions to barely making profits, this is her story as told by WoK.
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As a young girl, she loved playing around with used clothes. As early as 13, she would take her mother’s clothes and redesign them to give the outfits a modern touch. This got her really interested in fashion.
After high school, she joined Mcensal School of Fashion to pursue Fashion/ Apparel Design.
Starting a thrift business
While in school, she loved thrift shopping. One day, armed with Ksh200, she went to Gikomba and bought four dresses at Ksh50 each. She then went home, took pictures of the dress and posted them on Facebook, selling each at Ksh800. The dresses sold out within a short period of time and she soon realized the thrift business was profitable.
The fashion designer then got fully immersed in the thrift business. In an interview with KTN, she said she began going for car boot sales where she would at times make Ksh300,000 to Ksh400,000 on a good weekend.
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Losses and the birth of Ikojn
She continued with the business, all the while saving until she decided it was time to open her own clothes brand.
Njoki could not find appropriate production in Kenya hence she went to China. The fashionpreneur conducted research and the costs implications before embarking on the journey. On arrival in China, she found it hard to locate someone who would manufacture a fewer number of clothes. Most of the people wanted large orders which she could not afford as she was just starting out.
Finally, she found a manufacturer who could produce a smaller quantity, though it was still more than she wanted. They agreed on everything and she made a down payment before returning to the country.
The goods were later shipped to her. To her shock and dismay, they were not the right quality. The items were completely different from what she wanted. By this time, she had spent more than a million on the items. All this went down the drain as she could not use the items. Discouraged, she thought of giving up but decided to press on. She moved production to Kenya.
The fashion company began operations in 2015 with her designing the outfits. She sent out a few samples to people in the fashion world and was lucky to get one response. Afterwards, orders started slowly trickling in and the brand Ikojn, which is Njoki spelt backwards, was born.
For a number of years, the company was not making profits. She was only making enough to pay employees and keep the business afloat.
While the Covid-19 pandemic led to the downfall of a lot of business, it was during this time that their brand gained more visibility. She opened her first physical store at Westgate in 2020 and with its success, has managed to open two more branches, one at Greenhouse Mall and the other at Imara.