27 year-old Susan ‘Malaika’ Karingi is a mom with the desire to grow her business into a big name in the fashion industry. I had a chat with her about her entrepreneurial journey and how she’s making her dream come true, as she balances work with raising her son.
SMK: I design and sell jewelry, under the outfit ‘Malaika Jewelry Box’. My pieces include earrings, necklaces, bracelets and keyholders.
I have also recently began selling customized denim school bags, on which are embroidered a child’s name. Children love seeing their names written on their bags, and of course, moms are happy when their children are happy. So I am doing this alongside the jewelry pieces.
MT: Why did you get into business?
SMK: I studied accounting at the African Nazarene University and after doing my internship at an audit firm, I knew without doubt that employment was not my thing. I grew up with parents who were in business and I used to help them out a lot. My internship consisted of boring, repetitive tasks that made me sure I wanted to get into my own business.
SMK: Yes I did. After graduation, I set up a carwash business along Ngong Road in Nairobi. But it did not do well as the expenses were more than I had anticipated. So I closed it.
In 2010, I decided to get into the jewelry business because I had always loved beautiful adornments. I decided to make them myself. However, I was faced with my first challenge. After approaching some friends who were in the business to teach me the ropes and get some few insights, I was shocked because I realized that people are very mean with information. So I ended up teaching myself how to do it, and figuring out where to buy the tools and the raw materials for myself. It was rough start, but I was able to overcome it and move on.
SMK: I hope to expand it to become a renowned business. I am beginning to make brooches and hairclips. I am also developing a men’s line because I’ve been getting a lot of requests from men who want neck pieces and bracelets.
While I had initially started with jewelry, I have now started making the school bags, and I’m working on diaper bags as I have gotten requests for these too.
I also hope to sell good shoes and clothes for boys. I have noticed that the market is flooded with girls’ clothing, but for boys –they are few and far between and when available, they are way too expensive. I hope to fill this gap.
MT: What have been the highs in your business?
SMK: The best parts have been meeting different people, and the exposure the business has given me. I don’t have a shop, but depend on online sales. I also sell during exhibitions and car boot sales. Making custom-made jewelry pieces for clients and seeing them satisfied has definitely been rewarding.
Getting capital for the business was an issue, as I had just closed down the car wash business and didn’t have that much money. But I worked with what I had and bought a few tools and beads, and began with that. Marketing and advertizing continue to be a big challenge as these require money.
Other times I have had clients cancel orders at the last minute. Some clients have also delayed on payments, which affects the cash flow of the business.
SMK: To be honest, one of the reasons why I knew that I wanted to get into self-employment was because of my son. With my own business, I manage my own time and meet my own deadlines, and this flexibility ensures that I spend enough time with him.
I enjoy spending time with my son Ryan and I love teaching him different stuff. I have taught him how to make paper airplanes, I’ve taught him to climb trees and I’ve also taught him how to ride a bike!
MT: How are you able to work from the house while your son is there with you?
SMK: It’s actually not that hard. When I’m making my jewelry pieces, he helps me out by picking up the fallen beads, or helping me string the beads. These are usually moments I treasure because we are able to share jokes and stories together.
SMK: I will teach him to respect people, and I will do all that I can to ensure that he grows up to be a responsible man. I will support him fully as he follows his dream.
Malaika’s Jewelry Box can be found here.