Zuvaa- Connecting your skills with your passion [Africa Feature: Nigeria/USA]

Necessity. The mother of invention led Nigerian-American entrepreneur Kelechi Anyadiegwu to create the online platform ‘Zuvaa’ which means “sunshine” in the Shona language from Zimbabwe. The online marketplace is devoted to modern African design that embraces figure-flattering shapes, with sizes up to 18 represented. She may live in the USA but her Nigerian heritage inspired her fashion sense aided by the African prints she received from visiting relatives. The older Kelechi got, the more she realised that African designers were not readily available in the big retail stores, and what was offered was inferior and lacked inventiveness. She then realised that there was a demand for authentic African print pieces from the compliments and queries she constantly received. This sparked a business idea that landed her on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for retail and ecommerce and is set to earn her $2million in revenue this year.

[Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
[Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
Armed with her love for bold print, her Bachelor’s in Information Technology from Michigan State University, as well as her Master’s from Carnegie Mellon in Human Computer Interaction (but do we say), she took the dive into entrepreneurship by purchasing a domain name and setting up her social media pages.  Her goal was to create a platform for talented African designers, using her online marketing experience and user experience, to connect with a global customer base that wanted beautiful, well-crafted products. She told The Style HQ, “Zuvaa not only caters to consumers looking for trendy, quality African pieces but we also look out for the designers. We help them understand the intricacies of retailing from a business standpoint.”

Gitas Portal tea dress [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
Gitas Portal tea dress [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Zuvaa. Kelechi launched her site at a time when it was very trendy to have an online store, making it highly competitive playing field. Then there were the complaints on price points, with some customers insisting the prices were too high. “As I am learning more about the process, I realize that you are not only buying a piece from Zuvaa, you are also supporting the designers and entrepreneurship in Africa. Also there is a lot more that goes into the production of these pieces than people think,” explains Kelechi.

[Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
[Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
Zuvaa isn’t just a site where you can find great design, but a strong sense of community as well. In an interview with Madame Noire she expressed, “I wanted the women who wore pieces from the marketplace, to feel like they were part of a bigger movement. Not only were they supporting small business owners and the African textile industry, but they were showing the love they had for African beauty and vibrancy through fashion. I wanted women to feel that personal connection to all the pieces they bought from the marketplace.”

THE ANYA Classic Wrap Dress in Cream and White Minimalist Mudcloth [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
THE ANYA Classic Wrap Dress in Cream and White Minimalist Mudcloth [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
Kelechi still lists her proudest moment to date as doing her part to grow the demand for African fashion, as well as adding to the movement for artisans and consumers globally to share the stories behind their garments. She told CNN, “[p]eople are excited that their traditional prints are going global and it’s driven by people from their communities. Many are fascinated with the market that exists outside of Africa and how the global interest is trickling down to their local communities.”

Kente mini [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
Kente mini [Image: Courtesy of Zuvaa]
It’s no secret that online stores come and go, but the biggest advice we can all learn from the Zuvaa brand is that you have to trust your own vision. It is you vision that will not only make you stand out, but ensure you are still there years after all others have dropped out of the race. As she told CNN, “[n]o one is going to be able to see this vision, that’s what makes it so special, that’s what will set you apart from others, that’s what will make get up every morning excited to work and build your company.”

 

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