I have decided to invest in a clothing business. I might not be the
epitome of high fashion (my mother begs me to go shopping and I’m not
averse to wearing socks with holes) but I know when a business
opportunity is too good to miss.
The new company, KK Fashion (yes, we are not very creative) is a cooperative setup by the vocational students sponsored by Kijana Kwanza in Arusha. The story began sometime back in May 2019 when we invited the students to Moshi to celebrate the national holiday. It was the first time they had visited our head office in Moshi (“head office” sounds a little grand but that’s what they call it). Always on the look out for a bargain, the students visited the local second hand clothes market and were shocked that the prices of good quality clothing were 70% lower than in Arusha.
Back in Arusha, all styled and kitted up in their fake Gucci tops and ripped Levis, the students began to attract a lot of attention. Especially the boys. Think Love Island without the beach.
Despite the fact that our students are sponsored many still struggle, unable to meet essential living costs. Every year that they continue in education, they cannot work and put food on the table for their younger siblings or contribute towards the medical treatment of a parent.
The savvy students (after gloating in their fame and no doubt lecherous exploits) saw a business opportunity – buy in Moshi and sell to the burgeoning community of spendthrift students in Arusha. At half the local price.
There’s no shop or venue. New products are advertised through WhatsApp and social media – and when a request comes through, a member of the team delivers the goods and collects the funds. I know it sounds a bit like a drug deal, but trust me, it’s all legit (well, not the Gucci and Levis labels, but anything goes in these parts).
In the last month, the students have developed a business plan, pitched their proposal and we’ve agreed a loan of Tsh. 240,000 (about £85 or $100) – on condition of full repayment in 3 months and a 10% share of the business. As collateral, we will hold on to their college certificates until they can repay the full amount.
Profits aside, what impressed me most was that this project emerged from the young people themselves. They recognised a need, they saw an opportunity and they pursued it. Indeed, this is a perfect example of what Kijana Kwanza is all about.
Whether KK Fashion succeeds or fails is irrelevant in my eyes – the experience they gain is worth much more.