- May 26, 2021
- Posted by: Peninah Anyango
- Categories: Brand, Business, Digital Marketing, Innovation, Interviews, Marketing, Social Media, Startups, Strategies
From being in a number of fashion shows, TV interviews to runways, Ruby’s fashion business continues to thrive. What seemed like a dream has become a reality and the counselor by profession, now makes a living through her passion. Ruby Amondi founded and runs Style By Ruby fashion house that uses African Fabric, Ankara, to design and make clothing pieces.
As she continues to practice her counseling profession, her passion for lighting up our wardrobes with beautiful and colorful Ankara fabrics blossoms. We sat down Ruby to discuss her journey to becoming one of the most sought out after fashion designers in Kenya.
Ninah: Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Ruby Amondi?
Ruby: I am a very enthusiastic self-taught fashion designer with a great passion for African prints and locally made materials. I never stepped into a fashion school but my passion, together with several years of experience in trying to look how I want, have led me to be the brand that I am today.
Ninah: Brilliant! When did you first realize that you wanted to start your own business?
Ruby: Well, for me, fashion was mostly about control. Controlling how I look, controlling exactly what I wanted to wear and being in charge of my narrative. Fashion is about self-expression and the world is my runway. Then one day, my sister asked why I haven’t thought of taking this “fashion thing” seriously. I was sold.
Ninah: Was it easy starting?
Ruby: Like most broke start-ups, I didn’t have capital, neither could I take a loan from the bank due to lack of collateral. A few people had asked me to make them some outfit I had posted on Facebook, and that deposit was my capital. Can you believe this?
Ninah: That’s very encouraging to someone starting up without funds. Looking at you now, one would think you had it all together from the beginning. Are your products made on delivery?
Ruby: For a long time I have made bespoke designs for wedding teams and individuals, but I am trying to avail ready-made outfits for a market that requires more convenience.
During COVID, I started a small gig in interior design where I make African-inspired throw pillows, fleece blankets, cushions and possibly lamp holders. I hope you get my drift. An Afrocentric home is one of my agendas.
Ninah: I do love the diversity of your services considering the current situation in the country. What sets you apart from your competitors?
Ruby: Money cannot always be the inspiration. I believe I do everything from the heart because I genuinely love fashion, being a very aesthetic person. I add a personal touch to every design I make.
When I meet someone and walk them through the journey of changing their wardrobe, building their confidence, mentorship programs, walking difficult journeys with new brides I feel the greatest. Their lives just light up and that’s what I am about – Ruby Amondi
Ninah: You are absolutely right, money is not the only inspiration. Your value proposition sets you apart. I’m curious, did you get the support that you needed at the start?
Ruby: Actually, I have friends who constantly kept asking when I was planning to get an actual job. Sucks. My family was kind of understanding especially my sister. Otherwise, others wondered what exactly was the point of spending four years at the university just to venture into fashion.
Ninah: Rough start there, what kept you going?
Ruby: Passion and Consistency. I would say like 80% bail out when they realize that behind the glitz and glam, there is the actual challenge of running a business. I would also say aggressive marketing. Even without reading my bio, one can easily tell I am a designer. At times I am stopped on the streets by strangers who ask me where I made my outfits, or if I am a designer. It has become like part of me. I believe fashion and Ruby are the same entity.
Business is like a game of cards, keep your winning card close to your chest – Ruby Amondi
Ninah: Could you please share more on the challenges you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur, a female one for that matter?
Ruby: The cancel culture. It’s in Kenya. There is basically no room for misunderstanding. Perfection is expected at every single point. While to err is human, there is no room for error in this era of social media and the fact that everyone can access a smartphone. One wrong move and you will be trending.
I would also advise everyone in the business to watch out for cutthroat competition. Competition is so stiff that you have to put your house in order, have a PR Team and who knows? A lawyer. I actually thought business is all popsicles until I started becoming a brand then realized that I had to have a strong support team.
Contracts contracts contracts. For big orders, my lawyer Cliff Oduk has to peruse and sign papers. That said, God first. We humans, even competition, can only do much. The ultimate say is with God, so keep calm and do your best.
In addition, I think a challenge we cannot overlook is how many are for you, not against you. Like, you’d assume the government will be supportive of SMEs yet it’s not as sweet as you think. It’s mostly what you can do for the government, not what it does for you. And it doesn’t matter how much you are struggling.
Ninah: What of the public? Do you feel supported by them?
Ruby Amondi: The public court ain’t for you either. While we complain of the lack of jobs for young Kenyans, you have no idea how badly SMEs are fought by the very public you are supposed to employ. A little mishap can crash an entire business not knowing that it is not just a founder or business name, but an entire system of employees affected.
The irony is, the majority think that, as the public, we are very supportive of SMEs. That is something Kenyans need to look into. All in all, I’m happy that I’ve grown and maneuvered the most difficult parts of growth. All I can tell people is, be kind to yourself. God is fair. And be aggressive.
Ninah: Talking about aggressive, you mentioned how aggressive you are when it comes to marketing. How exactly do you advertise your business to get more customers/clients?
Ruby: While I would always use and recommend Social media, considering that everyone has a smartphone or a Social Media account, if you don’t smoothen the rough edges you still won’t grow. The best form of marketing in my industry is still referrals because it’s legitimate. Anyone can make themselves saints while marketing.
Ninah: I agree that referrals are more convincing. There is a new form of digital marketing known as reputation marketing that can help with this. In your experience, what role do you think social media plays in the fashion industry?
Ruby: I think social media has proven to be the best form of marketing your brand. It is the most accessible way of marketing. Like you mentioned, if one is able to market their reputation online, the better. People have a perceived notion that designers or ‘fundis’ like we call them, are liars. We could definitely use some reputation marketing for the honest ones.
Ninah: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Ruby: For better or worse, like a marriage. If you hate rainy days just avoid this business. It is not always glitz and glam.
Ninah: If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
Ruby: Be kind to yourself.
Ninah: What are the links to your socials?