SYLVIA MANDA: Helping Campus Ladies Slay for Less

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In her quest to find cheap but appealing school wear, Sylvia Manda, a second-year student at Kenyatta University pursuing Bachelor of Commerce, Majoring in Accounting stumbled into business.

The most interesting part of the MJ Fashion Closet (the name of the business) is that it is less than two weeks old yet the research and input have been going on for almost two years!

The closet stocks dresses, tops as well as pants. The dresses seem to be more popular. The slogan is Slaying For Less, a term meaning Looking awesome on a lower budget.

“Campus teaches you a lot of things. Normally, you go shopping with your parents where all the expenses are on them. Here, it is a totally different story. You have to manage little money for all your needs.

Sylvia Manda

Sylvia Manda, Owner of MJ Fashion Closet

“This includes clothing. When I sought out to get the clothes for sale, I was referred to Thika, Ruiru and the all-time favorite of many, Gikomba. I couldn’t find anything that people would come back for more.

“I spent almost all day in Gikomba. I got a few articles of clothing but these could only suite me, not the university students I was targeting. It was a hectic experience as I had never been there before.

“The frustration took me to social media where I conducted a search and landed on groups that deal with cheap clothing and marketplaces particularly on Facebook. Some are Mtumba Chap Chap and Fagia.”

Through the many pages and groups she was approved to join, Sylvia reached out by networking to various people and sourcing advice from others in the market.

She was successful in landing herself five different suppliers from different regions who currently transport the merchandise to her.

“The holidays gave me time to conduct the wide research needed. I decided I had done enough short courses and used my time to learn more on marketing. Where could I belong?

“I used to work as a saleslady in a boutique where I gained useful experience. I learned how to talk to customers, their different body sizes, preferential tastes. This is very key in my business.”

She had initially been saving her earnings from her work at the IEBC to replace her stolen laptop. She ended up using the savings to start the enterprise forgoing the device.

“My thinking was in the lines that, I could grow money out of what I have, earn a profit and get a laptop at the end of it all. It seemed a sweet deal. I am passionate about what people wear, I correct those who do it wrong.”

MJ Fashion Closet is a partnership although Sylvia is the brain behind the idea. She wants to finish her first stock as she makes analysis of what pops for most of the customers. Jack, the partner, can then chip in.

“My first bale got lost. I had hired Mama wa Kufua to wash them before the sale. I dropped off the bundle as agreed but somehow, it never reached her. It was devastating as I had already advertised them.

“This mistake taught me not to be a slay queen in the business world. I have now resolved to do it all. I wash and iron them myself. It was painful losing my first batch with no returns on a single item.

She markets her work on Whatsapp as well as the Facebook page MJ Fashion Closet.

“The perks include discovering who my true friends are. There are those who offer support by encouraging and sharing my items. Others accompany me to the market to choose the clothes that would sell off quickly.

“My dad is the supportive of my parents. He urges me not to give up. As for my mother, let us say she has no idea that I’m running the business from my bedroom (laughs). She’s reluctant on me working.

“I like challenges. The first 3 days, however, were tough. I was hardly sleeping. I was offering free deliveries but then some of the people back out at the last minute and that is time and transport money wasted.

“Together with my partner, we are looking to expanding to a make collection once business holds ground. This will be a big challenge as men’s wear is more expensive. Challenges are to be overcome anyway.

“Swimming is the best relaxation for me. I also read novels or model. I deal with commercial and advertisements modeling with a local agency mostly in photoshoots. Movies, old school music, and soft rock are also on my list.

“School is very important. Do other things but stay in school. When starting out, conduct a lot of research. If you can, do your own thing as you figure out other possibilities, it saves you money.”

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