Vivo Fashion: Wandia Gichuru’s Odyssey from International Development to Revolutionizing African Fashion

By Duchess Magazine

Wandia Gichuru, in her forties, pivoted from a distinguished career in international development to becoming a pacesetter entrepreneur, reshaping the fashion landscape in Kenya. Gichuru’s brainchild, Vivo Fashion Group, has evolved into fearless entrepreneurship, embodying a new era of African innovation.

Having spent over 15 years as an international development advisor for prestigious entities such as the UK government, the United Nations, and the World Bank, Gichuru’s return to Kenya was fueled by an unyielding desire to make a difference in her homeland.

Her journey into entrepreneurship began unexpectedly, co-founding Vivo Activewear in 2011 with friend Anne-Marie Burugu. This venture aimed to create a ‘Made in Kenya’ brand tailored for women embracing wellness as a lifestyle, tapping into Gichuru’s passion for fitness and salsa dancing. The brand swiftly expanded, encompassing Vivo Woman, Safari, and Zoya, each curated to resonate with the modern African, blending style, comfort, functionality, and affordability.

“We want as many people as possible to join us on this journey. So, listing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange would be one way to do this, by allowing anyone who wishes to become a shareholder of the group,” says Gichuru, highlighting Vivo Fashion Group’s recent inclusion in the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s Ibuka incubation and acceleration program.

The Vivo vision extends beyond borders, aiming to tailor offerings for diverse markets rather than simply exporting Kenyan styles. Gichuru emphasizes the significance of forging partnerships within each region, nurturing a robust industry ecosystem.

“As Africa prepares for a single trading bloc under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), this presents an exciting opportunity, especially in the textiles and fashion sector,” says Gichuru. The removal of barriers, she envisions, could pave the way for new African brands to enter the Kenyan market.

Gichuru’s e-commerce platform, Shop Zetu, is making waves in Kenya’s burgeoning online marketplace, focusing on fashion, beauty, and accessories. Her current emphasis is on the East African and COMESA markets, optimizing efficient product movement.

However, Gichuru’s impact transcends business metrics. With over 70% of Vivo Fashion Group’s 450 employees being women, she champions diversity and inclusion. Recognizing the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, she advocates clarity and confidence in articulating goals to secure funding.

As Kenya commemorates 60 years of independence, Gichuru’s journey epitomizes determination. In her words, “We have a way of picking ourselves up and keeping ourselves going.” Against the backdrop of Kenya’s natural beauty and humor, Gichuru’s story emerges as a testament to the country’s unwavering entrepreneurial spirit.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, her advice is simple yet profound: “Just get started! Don’t let ideas just sit in your head. Start! Execute! Put something in front of potential customers and get a reaction.”

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