Running a company has not been easy, especially in Nigeria where things are not always as straight forward as one may like them to be. However, with hard work, perseverance and doing what you love, the sky is the limit.
From childhood I have had two identifiable giftings- an analytical mind and a passion for fashion.
I graduated from the University Of Bristol, UK in July 2011, with an LLB law degree. With law I had put formal training to my analytic skills, but what about my passion?
I moved back to Nigeria the summer after graduation to enrol at the Nigerian Law School. Moving back to “the land of opportunity”, I knew I wanted to start a fashion- related “side hustle”. I never imagined that what I had planned to be a “side hustle” would blow up, and potentially become my “main hustle”. However I must say, I am an astute person by nature and the possibility of combining business and fashion was exciting to me right from the start.
My company, Kene Rapu Enterprise – which is positioned to be an integral part of the value chain in the Nigerian fashion industry; was introduced in October 2011.
The first line Kene Rapu Enterprise launched was ‘SlippersbyKene’. It produces handcrafted slippers using the best of locally sourced materials, including vibrant African fabrics. Apart from satisfying my passion for fashion, my mission is to provide employment and support for local producers.
Kene Rapu Enterprise has just turned one year old. It has been a challenging but fulfilling year. We have grown very quickly, with a demand for slippers way beyond my expectation. We have a clientele base spanning from children to grandmothers, to fashion visionaries such as Deola Sagoe.
Due to the buzz SlippersbyKene has created, I was interviewed and my slippers featured in the September edition of the renowned Genevieve magazine.
Running a company has not been easy, especially in Nigeria where things are not always as straight forward as one may like them to be. However, with hard work, perseverance and doing what you love, the sky is the limit. Having a strong support system has also helped; I have been blessed with amazing family and friends.
My advice to other youths thinking of starting up businesses, is to not go in blindly. Get as much work experience in the field you want to go into. My desire to enhance my creativity played out early in life. Thus my first internship at the age of 13 was with one of my most influential mentors, the Founder and Creative Director of the globally renowned John 3v3 Hats. In the past few years, I have interned as an assistant to the fashion editor of True Love magazine; as an assistant to the fashion stylist of the Nigerian segment of the ELITE Model Look 2010 contest and also with the project coordinator of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2011. My successful handling of these projects resulted in my appointment as one of the co-ordinators of the Lagos Fashion and Design week 2012.
Most recently, I have been working as the store manager of the Tiffany Amber flagship store. Working with one of the pioneers of Nigerian fashion has taught me a lot, I have been able to learn business principles and first hand tips on being a FEMPRENEUR from the brain behind Tiffany Amber herself.
All of these experiences have helped me grow into the person I am today, and I look forward to working with more visionaries in the industry both in and outside Nigeria.
Formal training in the field you intend to go into is also important. For me, I believe it is of utmost importance to be stimulated in such a way that my creativity is channelled into a more financially viable enterprise. As such, I intend to enrol at a top fashion school in the next year or two.
My ambition is to build a strong global brand and to join the ranks of African designers who have global impact. What’s yours? I advise you to think outside the box, the time of the FEMPRENEUR is NOW.
Kene Rapu is the 22 year old Nigerian model and shoe designer behind the brand ‘Kene Rapu’. She is the second of three children of Dr and Mrs Tony Rapu. She spent her early years in Nigeria before going to the UK for her secondary education at the Cheltenham Ladies College; and later to the University of Bristol for a law degree. You can check out her website at www.kenerapu.com, and follow her on twitter- @slippersbykene
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.