Vanessa Okello, running a jewellery business at just 20

With today’s harsh economic times, many university students will find themselves engaging in some activity that will at least enable them to earn some extra coin to boost what their parents give them in order to sustain themselves while at the university. Vanessa Okello, 20, is such one student. She talks of how the need to be financially independent pushed her into starting her own business.

In the spirit of being entrepreneurial and making that extra coin, Vanessa Okello ventured into business to try and be financially independent. As a young, upbeat and hardworking student, she knew she had what it takes to realize her dreams and make some cash for herself instead of relying on her parents all the time.

“I personally love the idea of not having to depend on someone financially. I also saw business as a stepping stone towards building something greater. I am quite a dreamer,” says Vanessa who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Design at the University of Nairobi.

Born and raised in Mwihoko in Githurai, Vanessa who is the first born in a family of five siblings (she has 2 brothers and 2 sisters) started NessaCreatives in November 2017 where she sells accessories such as bags, shoes, watches and jewellery.

“NessaCreatives is just short for Vanessa. However, that wasn’t my first choice of name for my business. It was actually Afriprints Kenya hence when I quit and then rejoined business; I rebranded to NessaCreatives and had to change everything. I personalised the business and gave it my name,” she explains.

However, before rolling out the business, just as anyone who ventures into the murky waters of entrepreneurship for the first time, Vanessa had her own fears.

“The fear of the unknown is what I struggled with. Here I was, a 19-year-old lady who had big dreams but didn’t know if those dreams would materialise. My parents had always provided for me, made decisions on my behalf and secured me from the outside world. Hence not knowing what to expect is what frightened me,” she says.

NessaCreatives

She adds: “I also kept thinking that maybe I wasn’t really cut out for business.  But my greatest fear was that I would not be able to pursue my dreams and that thought kept on pushing me until I kick-started the business.”

With Sh.1, 000 which she had saved up, she went and bought five watches which she sold and made a profit. And that marked a new beginning for her to bring in more energy into her business.

In a good week, she makes sales worth Sh.7, 000. Her clients are drawn from all over the country.

However, she says she has had to put up with some challenges, especially now that her business is purely online.

“I have had to borrow money in order to reach my customer’s satisfaction. On the other end, people have ordered for things which they end up not picking leaving me to incur huge losses,” she says.

Making deliveries has also been a challenge since getting someone who is trustworthy and keeps time can be hectic.

“Sometimes I end up with countless complaints from my clients about the goods to be delivered hence am forced to leave Mwihoko and go to town to sort things out,” she says.

For Vanessa, striking a balance between business, school and her social life is the toughest challenge she is facing now. This has forced her to neglect her social life for now.

“It has been seven months of ups and downs since NessaCreatives started, but its growth is immense and promising. I am planning to open my first physical shop and launch my own line of accessories, hence I could not be prouder,” says Vanessa.

“Starting a business venture requires lots of patience and consistency but the fruits are worth it. I have met a number of great people in my line of business and this has expanded my networks. To this effect, I am sure the business is going to expand to greater heights.”

“To all women in business, finding your own voice as a woman is truly a revolution. Go after everything you want and you will be sure to get it as long as you remain aggressive,” says Vanessa.

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