A young, bright and creative South African woman has a good, respectable job in one of the country’s premier financial institutions. No doubt her future looks bright, her friends are impressed, and her family relieved. But she’s unfulfilled, uninspired, unhappy.
Sound familiar? If that describes you, you’ll find you have a lot in common with Keneilwe Mampuru, who threw her job into the wind to follow her dream and put into practice her passion for designing clothes.
Mampuru started Kente by Keneilwe in 2008 and is building a business making gorgeous, bespoke African-inspired outfits for women.
“I just decided one day I couldn’t work in banking any more. I have always been an artistic person. I studied fashion. It’s my absolute passion. When I realised that other women were experiencing the same challenges I was in finding the right clothes in retail stores that were beautiful and fitted their body shape, I saw a gap in the market and took it,” she says.
Kente’s pay-off line ‘It starts with a dream’ applies as much to the inspiration for Mampuru’s business as it does for the outfits she designs.
“I wanted this business so badly — and I’m so happy helping other women to realise their own dreams of beautiful outfits that make them feel good,” she says.
But living the dream comes with its fair share of sacrifices.
“Friends are often envious of my position because I am doing what I love and I get to decide on the path my life and my work will take. But there are many challenges. Almost everything needs to be reinvested back into the business, so I can only draw a small amount out for myself each month. And I’ve had to become an expert on things that don’t come naturally to me as a creative person, and that I don’t necessarily enjoy,” she adds. One of which is finance.
Mampuru was selected to join the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in early 2013 and describes the experience as ‘completely eye-opening’.
“I realised how narrow-minded I had been about what a business needs. Passion is a great thing but it doesn’t automatically make you money. The learning curve has been steep. Has it been tough? Absolutely. Would I change any of it? Not at all,” she says.
Have the courage to take the road less-travelled and the talent and passion to make it a success.