Born in Malawi, Africa, and raised in Canada, entrepreneur Veronica Nnensa never lost her passion for the continent. After studying public affairs and policy management with a focus on African development, in 2014, it was no surprise that her passion for her home country led her to launching her business Kuwala, with co-founder, Freeda Mulenga.
Kuwala is an online boutique curating stylish clothing and accessories from socially responsible fashion brands inspired by Africa. They partner with fashion designers and women’s co-operatives to promote their beautiful handmade pieces globally. As two women from Africa, specifically Malawi, the pair had always had a strong connection to the continent. “We wanted clothes and accessories that reflect our heritage, fusing African prints with western styles that we could incorporate into our everyday attire,” Veronica explained. “We also knew that we could make a big difference in people’s lives by supporting and partnering with emerging fashion businesses.”
Veronica explained that they felt that the designers and co-operatives they work with could make the most difference to the lives of everyday people. After countless trips to Africa visiting friends and family, they realized they were surrounded by ambitious and talented young people doing amazing things. “We wanted to create a platform for them to be able to sell their beautiful garments internationally.”
Through developing relationships with partners and their operations while visiting Africa on different occasions, combined with the accessibility of making connections online, the pair explained how it was easier than expected to find people to work with. They even have regular brands reaching out to them directly via email and social media expressing interest in selling products on their website.
But making sure that each person they choose to work with meets the standards and vision for their business is important. Veronica explained that when people connect with Kuwala, they make sure they assess their existing business practices. “We find that when our partners already share similar values and missions prior to working with us, business runs smoother,” she shared. Veronica and Freeda also explained that when it’s possible they hire a trusted design quality specialist in the country of production who is responsible for ensuring the quality and production standards.
The pair of ambitious entrepreneurs behind Kuwala said that as much as being an entrepreneur is about running and growing a business, it’s also about the whole experience to grow as a person. “Whether we’re gaining new skills, like strategic business planning and basic web development, or networking with other entrepreneurs, we try to be very mindful as to how we individually benefit from such experiences.” They both emphasized the importance for entrepreneurs to take time to reflect on their business journey and be grateful for their accomplishments.
To read more about Veronica and Freeda’s story, click here.
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada