There’s just something about sitting at Café Deli, safe from the harsh Nairobi sun, watching as people literally chase their dreams (yes, that’s why in Nairobi everyone is in a hurry) and then listen on the other hand, to someone narrate to you how they decided to quit their well-paying job to pursue their real passion. From scratch no less. You might be tempted to ask them, are you for real? You master all the effort to restrain yourself from loudly wondering why good things, such as well-paying jobs, happen to bad people. Not bad in the bad sense of bad, just people who have better things to do you know, like pursue their passion rather than have a formal job that will not entirely enable them accomplish their life’s full potential. Well if I put it like that, it doesn’t sound so crazy after all, right?
Among the several things that will strike you if or when you meet Wanjiru Kariuki is her charm, her intelligence, and her witty humor. I would have mentioned, and elaborated on her exceptional beauty, but she’s happily married and my Mom taught me better than to be a home-wrecker. Not that I would succeed even if I tried. She loves the lucky guy to bits, as she tells me when our interview goes off-script, as well as her beautiful two-year old daughter. At this point I have to mention that this is simply my noble attempt at putting to rest any lingering ‘team mafisi’ ambitions that may exist among any of our esteemed readers.
Wanjiru Kariuki pursued two courses at JKUAT, Business Administration and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Commerce , Marketing option, and went on to practice a successful career in Marketing for five years, before deciding to hang her boots and venture into a career that is truly at the epicenter of her heart; fashion. She’s currently at the take off stage of her real love that got suppressed for so long. An image consultant, stylist, and fashion blogger (www.wanjirukariuki.co.ke), Wanjiru has her eyes trained on accomplishing her life’s purpose.
What inspired your move from Marketing to Fashion?
My mentality was, and still is, that it’s never all about money because I was moving into something I love. What most people don’t understand is that fashion is a very wide area and has a lot of opportunities someone can venture into. The thing is, you can build a career out of fashion.
Does the Degree you studied in University apply to what you’re doing now?
Definitely yes. My website for instance is open for advertisements, and that’s marketing. I am also partnering with various brands and companies in my current ventures. All these, and basically everything I do benefits a lot from my Marketing Degree. The contacts and networks I cultivated during my previous job have also been instrumental in what I currently do.
What do you believe is your life’s purpose and how do you fulfill it?
I believe my life’s purpose is to empower women in the world of fashion and empower them to gain confidence in themselves, and I do this through promoting positive body image.
Word of advice to anyone budding to do what you do?
I think I took too long to get to where I am because of doubts and maybe fear of the unknown. So my advice would be that don’t be held back by doubts if you have something you feel you should do. If you are passionate in something, if there’s a fire burning inside of you, don’t let doubt extinguish it. Follow your heart.
What is your life’s principle or philosophy you live by?
Don’t live a mediocre life. Whatever you set yourself to do, give it your total best, 150% if possible.
What sets you apart from other players in the market who are doing what you do?
I think my kind of fashion is quite different. I’m getting into this as a career and I’m learning from mistakes as I go forward. What also makes my business unique is that I believe in positive body image and decency in fashion. I believe you don’t have to expose your body to look fashionable, and I take this mentality in my image consultancy and styling business.
How do you make that sell in a world that believes ‘sex sells’ more than modesty?
I am not a conformist, so I believe you don’t have to move with the waves simply because most people are doing this or that. The fact is that you can still stand out when you’re decently dressed as opposed to exposing your body. And this is important because you get to command respect, and maintain your dignity.
What do you have to say to those who think otherwise?
Well, you know style is personal, and everyone gets to go with what they think best define who they are. But you got to ask yourself, five or ten years from now, will you proudly look back to how you used to dress? Will you be proud of your younger self or count the opportunities you lost because of your dressing?
What challenges have you experienced so far since your transition?
The investment aspect has been challenging, especially because I’m just starting. There is so much money getting spent and little earned, but that is the nature of business and it takes passion to keep going. Fashion blogging for instance entails quite a lot, and establishing myself to be where I am now took some time. Getting key players who share in your vision is not easy.
What advice would you give to ladies in Campus as well as those just beginning their careers?
Work hard while you’re in School and give it your all. Don’t be so much into having fun and forget the main purpose why you’re in Campus. Once you’re successfully done you will have all the time in the world. Don’t try to count ten before counting one. Put first things first. Right now I can have all the fun I want in life. For the ladies just beginning their careers I can say in everything or job that you do, give it your all and leave an impact.
Your ultimate vision in the next few years to come?
I want Wanjiru Kariuki to be a household name, mainly because of the positive impact I shall have brought in the society, not just in terms of fashion but in other aspects of life through mentorship and inspiration. I also hope to partner and work with other brands and organizations keen on positive fashion as well as on matters women empowerment.