- 29-year-old Cindy Orwa was doing well in the banking industry, but her passion for fashion made her quit to start a business
- Over seven years later, Ctyle by Cindy has flourished into a profitable business that now has clients both within and beyond Kenya's borders
- Cindy advises those considering business to begin with courage, do research, and be ready to dedicate all their time to it
Cindy Orwa was born and raised in a family that struggled to make ends meet, something that made her learn how to fend for herself at a young age.
It may have been tedious, but the experience created in her an enterprising mind that saw her employed as a sales agent at the age of 18, earning KSh 11,000.
Whereas she had joined the class of salaried people early in life, there was no time to party as she saved it for her university education.
Started in the banking sector
In an interview with YEN.com.gh Hillary Lisimba, Cindy took a journey down memory lane to her transition, reminiscent of the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly.
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According to her, it all started in January 2013 when she joined Kisii University to study Communication and Media while still working at the bank.
It happened that on one of her sales visits to a client, she was informed that there was an opening for customer service representatives at Chase Bank.
"I applied despite not having a degree because it was a permanent and pensionable job, unlike the sales job. I was fortunate to get hired," she said.
As much as she was excited about the new job, it dawned on her early that banking was not her passion; that the world of fashion was calling.
That essentially took her on a new path as she started the side hustle of selling handbags, shoes and clothes.
"I would travel to Nairobi on weekends and bring the merchandise which I would sell to colleagues and other people in Eldoret town. I did this to supplement my income as I was paying my bills and university fees," she noted.
The more she did the business, the stronger the realisation that her new venture had the opportunity to grow bigger if she paid attention to it.
Towards the end of 2014, she tendered her resignation and bid farewell to the banking world, which saw the birth of Ctyle by Cindy.
Murky world of business
It was a move that started on a rocky path at first because she quickly realised that business is not for the faint-hearted.
"I had gotten used to a guaranteed source of income while employed, but with business, there were days that I'd not sell anything and was forced to skip meals on some days," said Cindy.
She adds that it was also difficult to come to terms with the fact that, unlike in employment where the vision was someone else's, it was time to not only create hers but also draft a strategy to realise the same.
Despite the hardships, Ctyle by Cindy gradually grew to the level that she was able to set up her first shop.
This was a great milestone as she had a location where clients would find her, something that helped grow customer confidence.
She graduated in December 2016, adding that her business success did not come in the way of her education as she believes education is very important.
After being in the business for over seven years, Cindy is alive to the fact that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially the new entrants, is capital.
According to her, it is very difficult to get funding as a start-up as most lending institutions are shy to work with such.
"The struggling economy has also affected my business as customers have less money to spend and are forced to prioritise, for instance, buying food over a shoe," the 29-year-old revealed.
She also decried the heavy taxation for businesses operating in Kenya as it pushes the operating costs too high.
Apart from managing to successfully convince locals that Kenyan products are equally good, she has built a good customer base all over the world.
One of the celebrities she boasts of having styled is singer Ruth Matete, adding that working with such people is different from ordinary clients as most are very particular about their image hence more demanding.
She advises those considering business to begin with courage, do research, and be ready to dedicate all their time to it.
"You can't be too busy for your business. It is not easy but eventually worth it," she concluded.
Passion to profit
In a similar of story of passion becoming business, Alycia Kwamboka's love for baking made her rise from living in a mabati shack to owning a bakery.
Despite having studied Journalism and PR at the university, she has sunk into entrepreneurship so deeply that she does not see herself looking for formal employment.
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