The artiste with an eye for good design – Joseph Kitole

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Joseph Kitole, artiste and designer.

JOSEPH KITOLE started Kenda Apparel to satisfy a personal need for well-designed, good quality and affordable clothes.

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

For artistes, style is part and parcel of their packaging. They need to look and dress the part for their brands and shows. But what happens when they can’t afford the ‘ideal’ outfits that will make them stand out and be part of their signature look?

Faced with such a dilema, Joseph Kitole, a popularly known Swahiblu, an artiste from Kilifi county, decided to establish Kenda Apparel, a company that makes large scale and customised outfits for both regular and plus-size men and women. 

The 30-year-old’s journey in the fashion and design industry started when he was in third year at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), for a Bachelors in Business, finance major.

He loved to dress well and had  good taste in and sense of fashion, but the clothes he liked were overpriced. 

“The whole journey started with a personal need for well designed, good quality clothes that are not over priced. 

Everyone has the right to dress well and feel good in what they wear. It really boosts their self-esteem and gives them the energy to face the day.

I wanted to give everyone this feeling, and at affordable rates. And that is how I started,” Kitole says.

Kenda Apparel started with making 20 T-shirts, with an investment of Sh7,000 while he was still in campus.

The feedback gave him energy to go fully into the business. Later, it created an opportunity to empower youths by creating employment opportunities.

No unemplyment frustrations

According to the first born of four, venturing into business and opting for self-employment was motivated by his family, especially his parents, Christine Masha, agricultural research officer, and Manasseh Katama, a businessman.

“Growing up, my dad was mostly self employed and we still got through life’s sunny and rainy days.

Mama always had a project running throughout our lives as well. So after school, instead of dealing with the frustrations of unemployment and such, it was easy for me to think in the direction of self employment and how to make a name for myself from what I was skilled in,” says Kitole. 

Pricing consideration

While most businesses would have marketing strategies to avoid fails and roadblocks, the young CEO shares that he has not been investing in big marketing plans like many would assume he would given his popularity.

His major clientele includes other artists and celebrities within and out of the county for whom he designs clothes.

They, in turn, give referrals and share with their connections on social media platforms. 

“I live my business; I walk and talk about it. The rest are referrals to new clients because of a well-done job.

I am all about client satisfaction and the truth thereof, is they will always get the best out of their budget.

I try to be the most considerate when it comes to pricing, so that no one feels extorted,” he says.

Client’s taste

Having visible breakthroughs in his business, he has not been spared from the challenges that come with running a business.

He says difficulties are rife considering he lives in a third world country. While these challenges mainly are technology and inefficient, skilled and disciplined labour, his  biggest challenge was juggling between his business, music and school. 

In fact, he had to miss out on two semesters when he got a major recording deal.

On the other hand, fashion and design business picked up fully in 2013, and with focus and resilience, there’s no stopping him. 

What about motivation for his life and business? Kitole says he has come to learn all obstacles always have a way out. “Life has no problems, but only puzzles for us to solve,” he says.

So far, Kenda Apparel has employed three staff members on permanent basis and many more on short-term contracts.

As a designer, says Kitole, one has to greatly consider a clients taste, what they like and what they do not like and make sure that the end product is of the highest quality.

This in turn wins you a client’s loyalty and this is exactly what has made him the best and grew his business.

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