“Kenyan Fashion Entrepreneur Envisions Africa Clothing the Globe: A Glimpse into the Industry’s Bright Future”

Wandia Gichuru is eagerly awaiting the full implementation of AfCFTA, particularly its impact on the textile and fashion industries.

Embarking on her entrepreneurial journey in her 40s, Gichuru has since become a leading figure in Kenyan fashion with her brand, Vivo Activewear. Her previous career as an international development advisor, including roles with the UK government, the United Nations, and the World Bank, laid the foundation for her future endeavors.

Gichuru, an avid fitness enthusiast and salsa dancer, founded Vivo Activewear with Anne-Marie Burugu in Nairobi in 2011. The brand, committed to creating authentic Kenyan fashion, offers a range of wellness-focused apparel for women. Gichuru expanded her vision with an e-commerce platform featuring Kenyan beauty and fashion brands.

Vivo Activewear, which began with a single store in Nairobi, has grown to include Vivo Woman, Safari, and Zoya. These brands cater to the modern African woman with a blend of style, comfort, functionality, and affordability.

“Our aim at Vivo Fashion Group is to see not only Africa dress herself but also to dress the world,” Gichuru shares. “We’re proud to be at the forefront of creating strong African fashion brands.”

Vivo recently joined the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s Ibuka incubation and acceleration program, reflecting its growing influence.

“We’re inviting as many people as possible to be part of this journey. Listing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange will allow others to join us as shareholders,” Gichuru explains.

Vivo’s strategy includes expanding across East Africa and beyond, adapting its offerings to each unique market rather than simply exporting Kenyan styles. Gichuru stresses the importance of collaborating with local creators, designers, suppliers, and manufacturers to support the industry ecosystem.

Gichuru notes the vast potential in the fashion sector, given the small percentage of East Africans wearing locally produced clothes. “We’ve only just begun to tap into the opportunities available,” she says.

With AfCFTA on the horizon, Gichuru sees a chance to break down barriers in sourcing and distribution, opening doors for new African brands in the Kenyan market. She’s particularly excited about the prospect of using fabrics like Ghanaian Kitenge, which currently faces high import duties.

Gichuru’s Shop Zetu is also making waves in Kenya’s e-commerce sector, offering a wide range of fashion, beauty, and accessory products. Her current focus remains on the East African and COMESA markets.

Vivo Fashion Group emphasizes diversity and inclusion, with over 70% of its 450 employees being women. Gichuru is passionate about encouraging female entrepreneurship.

“Women should be bold about their ambitions,” she advises. “Being clear about your goals and learning to articulate them effectively is crucial, especially when seeking capital.”

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is simple: start now. “Don’t just sit on your ideas. Execute and learn from the feedback you receive,” Gichuru encourages.

As Kenya celebrates 60 years of independence, Gichuru believes resilience and determination are key to maintaining the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. “We have a knack for overcoming challenges with a smile. Our beautiful country and sense of humor keep us going,” she concludes.

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