Setutsi Kwami, 20, is the founder and CEO of Setutsi, a clothing line he describes as modern African daily wear. He is also a student at Edulink
International College in Nairobi, where he studying for a degree in business and entrepreneurship.
He started his business three years ago when he was 17, armed with Sh20,000 savings from pocket money.
The challenges started almost immediately.
Like many other young entrepreneurs, Kwami was learning on the job – he had the idea and the talent, but he had no idea how to run a business. He would design an outfit, then hand it to a tailor, who would fail to give him the quality he desired. As a result, the few clients he had managed to get on board began to leave.
“I needed no one to tell me that I had to learn how to professionally conduct and manage my business, otherwise, it would crash before it even began,” he says.
He felt he could only get these skills in school, and so he immediately began to research on suitable colleges that could impart the kind of knowledge he needed to get his business off the ground. Eventually, he settled on Edulink International College, where he is in his second year. The college offers a wide range of business options at foundation and undergraduate level, which lead to a University of Northampton-awarded degree.
“Some of the modules I am studying include marketing management and accounting, which have helped me operate and manage my business better,” he explains, adding that studying entrepreneurship and business has helped him discover the type of entrepreneur he is.
“This course requires you to do an analysis on your strengths and weaknesses – an understanding of my talent and limitations has made me a better businessman. Key among these skills has been people management, which helps me interact with my clients and employees better.”
He points out that to navigate a smooth ship, he employs different management strategies.
“No two employees are alike, therefore, I have had to find out how best to handle each to get the best out of them; I am firm, but I am also friendly and open-minded, this sets those I work with free and promotes creativity of ideas,” Kwami explains.
He designs the outfits and then gets his two part-time tailors to stitch them up under his supervision - he manages the production process from start to finish, and also does the marketing.
His designs are quite versatile, and all are inspired by the popular Kitenge fabric.
He targets the middle upper class individual, as well as corporates. A t-shirt costs sh3,000, hood Sh4,000, while a bag goes for Sh4,500.
His first clients were his friends and his mother’s friends.
“I am lucky because mum, a formidable business woman, did lots of behind-the-scenes marketing amongst her friends, who were my very first clients, so I did not have to start from scratch,” Kwami recollects.
He admits that to run a successful business and also maintain good grades at school, he has had to keep a tight schedule.
“It helps that each lecture runs for two hours with a break in between classes, this is how I am able to run my business as well.”
His role model is his mother.
“When I was younger, she would often take me along with her whenever she went for business meetings. She is hardworking and very good at business negotiation,” says Kwami, the firstborn in a family of two children.
So far, social media and word of mouth have been his most successful marketing tools.
“When you do a good job, happy clients will gladly market your products for you; this is why I am particular about quality, my customers have become the Setutsi brand ambassadors, and as a result, my business keeps growing.”
Every entrepreneur, he says, upcoming or established, should take advantage of social media to market their business.
“Besides our website, www.setutsi.com, I also have a Facebook page, Setutsi; we are also on Instagram @Setutsi_ I regularly post my designs on these social media pages and actively engage with visitors and followers, most of whom become faithful clients.”
To save on running and production costs, Kwami runs his business from the family home in Kileleshwa, Nairobi, where his two employees work from whenever he is designing a new line.
To make deliveries within Nairobi, he has contracted a motorcyclist – this mode of transport, he points out, is faster and more convenient, and also cheaper than hiring a car or using a personal car. For deliveries outside the city, he uses courier services, at clients’ costs.
Kwami believes that he is on track to achieving his goal of becoming an entrepreneur of high repute.
“The fact that I am now able to manage the different aspects of my business skillfully make me confident that I would be capable of running a much bigger outfit, I foresee much bigger prospects ahead.”