Craftsmanship curved out of a childhood with a mother who earned money making jewelry fired up her inner confidence and freed her from having to stay at a job she did not cherish. She left campus with a statistics degree and headed out for the job market, but as everyone knows if you want a job you love most of the time you have to go out and create one.
Soila however had to do with a short stint at a logistics firm to pay the bills. Soila Nauru was never satisfied with her job in the logistics industry and that made her wonder what she really could enjoy doing and make money while at it.
Many people are employed but are neither satisfied nor happy at their work but cannot dare step out, Soila jumped in to the unknown to work on what she knew better. Her mum supported the decision unlike many parents who would be worried by such a daring move.
Then she thought of something she really had a passion for and had tried during her time at Kenyatta University, bead-work. She managed to sale a number of bead-works to her friends back in campus and she convinced herself that if her friends could buy then others could buy too.
“I got the skills from my mom, so when I was at KU, I used to design earrings and necklaces for other students. Back then I had not taken it serious,” says Soila who also lost her dad when she was only 14. Her mum had always been earning an income making traditional jewelry.
She believes our greatness as Africans lies in developing the skills we already have within us, this allows us to reach our potential and compete with the rest of the world in producing high quality unique products. Given the abundant supply of wood, minerals, leather, sisal and horn on the continent, our creativity and craftsmanship can flourish with ease.
She took the risk and quit her career to start Olakira Ornaments with some support from family and friends. Friends played a pivotal role because they are the ones who pushed her to leave employment and focus on beadwork.
Today, she has a workshop in Olooseos, Kajiado County where she has employed five women, all of them middle aged. Africans are beginning to appreciate their own and demand has been growing.
She says there is a shortage of skilled labour and relies on women back in Kajiado to deal with rising orders. At first, she used to do everything by herself but as demand for her jewellery increased, she decided to employ women mostly from her village.
Her major challenge has been meeting the growing demand amid shortage of skilled labour. “Young people do not want jobs such as these so I am left with no option but to employ old mamas who have the skills, passion and the drive,” says Soila.
Her products have caught the attention of local celebrities and she has dressed a number of big names like musician Kambua and Victoria Kimani among others. Besides, her business has managed to grow organically with just referrals and return customers.
While her market is largely local, she says one of her major breaks was getting foreign orders including 2000 wristband pieces for Seattle Sea Oax, a football team in the United States. She describes this as one of her highest moments in the jewellery business and that her only regret in life is her failure to take fashion serious early enough.
Just like any other business, she has her fare share of competition from fake arrivals from Asia. She has to fight with the Chinese cheapies in the market as well. But even with all hurdles she has been facing, her dream of opening the largest jewellery shop with African inspired ornaments is closer than ever.
“My products are absolutely unique, and so I get repeat orders from my customers and referrals as well,” she says.
The Kenyatta University graduate of 2012 says she could have pursued Fashion had she known. “I would have been in a better place today if I had studied Fashion Design instead of Statistics for instance,” she says with a bright face. Many young people show up in campus under pressure to do supposedly marketable courses only to end up with a degree they have less use for.
Her business has used social media especially to market and reach a wider market since it also affordable. The strategy has worked well given that majority of her prospective customers are internet users.
At the centre of her business strategy, the cheerful Soila says that she has something for everyone. She sells her pieces from as low as Sh100 to as high as Sh2000.
All the same, the journey has been an interesting and her advice to budding entrepreneurs is that they should never be afraid to take the step.