Zambian sisters and business partners, Sekayi and Tukiya Fundafunda could not be more opposite. The older of the two by one year, 26-year-old Sekayi is an adventurous risk taker and something of a self-confessed steam engine when it comes to work. More disciplined with her time and organized in her approach to the business, Tukiya finds it easier to step back and is often the one setting up movie dates to ensure the founders get their down time.
While their differences mean they balance each other well as partners, it has resulted in some problems.
“We’ve had our share of arguments on each other’s roles, which basically were the result of poor communication and led to late night conversations and long drives to work things out. Now we make an effort to talk continuously,” Sekayi admits, adding: “Sisters or not, if you don’t understand each other’s way of working, conflict is inevitable between partners.”
Sekayi and Tukiya are the young founders of MaFashio, a Lusaka-based startup providing services in wardrobe and personal styling, creative direction, as well as make-up artistry. Their clients are predominantly public figures, such as media personalities and artists looking to tweak their brand and engage with fans, or companies rolling out campaigns and seeking to reach millennials.
It’s not a bad gig. The sisters watch a lot of fashion shows, follow the international trends, and shop for those who don’t have time. But what really sets MaFashio apart is its focus on promoting Zambian fashion and its effort to shine a bright light on the country’s creativity and expressive spirit.
And to think it all started with a little blog.
“At the time, we didn’t know there was even a name for it. We were street-style blogging on the side of our studies, only giving positive reviews. As our following grew, we got invites to industry events and realized we could build a business on this.”
When the blogging began, Sekayi was studying Economics and Finance, while Tukiya was doing an Advanced Diploma in Computer Science. She has since gone on to study Law.
“Constantly ask yourself why you are doing what you do because that question stays with you as you grow your business. It becomes your “go-to” safe space when you feel you are losing direction.”
“Despite my love for fashion, I saw myself in tax. For a long time, my dream was to work for the Zambia Revenue Authority,” Sekayi says in all seriousness, before cracking a smile. “Tukiya went from computers to law and is graduating this year. But we grew up around fashion, fabrics and colour. Our mother made wedding dresses and our father was always creating stuff out of nothing really, from scrap metal to coins. So I guess you could say it’s in our blood.”
Once they recognized the blog had grown into something much more substantial and capable of generating an income, the Fundafunda sisters decided to incorporate. A friend offered to go to the Office of Patents and Registration to get the process started as the sisters were still at university, but wisely the newly minted entrepreneurs decided not to take a back seat in the process.
“We didn’t have any idea about the business environment in Zambia, but I insisted at being at every meeting. I was curious how the system works and wanted to be sure I was in control of the situation. In the beginning, they spoke more to him, but after they realized I actually knew what I was talking about, they took the conversation with me more seriously,” Sekayi recalls.
Following the official launched, Sekayi and Tukiya knew they needed a space to work in and settled on BongoHive, a co-working and startup-support hub in Lusaka. They had used the space to host fashion events but now that they were an actual business felt they were better positioned to take advantage of all the services the hub has to offer. They signed up for the LAUNCH accelerator, a 3-month programme for businesses that already have some market traction.
At the end of the training, the Fundafunda sisters pitched MaFashio’s evolved business plan to a group of experts and as one of top three pitches, won free access to legal and accounting support and office space.
“BongoHive has been a big part of where we are now. The guidance we got, especially when it comes to administration and structure, was critical. The MaFashio concept is fairly new so LAUNCH definitely helped us sharpen the idea and recalibrate,” Tukiya explains.
Sekayi and Tukiya are completely self-funded. They’ve purchased all their own equipment and supplies and hired a photographer and two interns to support the growing organization. And – like typical bootstrappers – they’ve put every kwacha earned back into the business.
And the future?
“With the celebrity culture growing as it is in Zambia, in the years to come, we plan to have an extensive public figure and corporate client base. We’re looking at ways of supporting the PR campaigns of the numerous international businesses starting operations in Zambia but also working with Zambian industry, the rest of Africa and beyond,” Sekayi says confidently.
All bets are off where this will end up. But at some point – to make the big transition from small startup to high growth business – they’ll need a cash injection to accelerate. You can thank us for the tip five years from now!
- Be competitive but don’t let that be the driving force of what you do. Be insular and focus on doing your best rather than constantly comparing yourself to others in the field.
- Constantly ask yourself why you are doing what you do because that question stays with you as you grow your business. It becomes your “go-to” safe space when you feel you are losing direction.
- Allow yourself to change and evolve; it’s the only way you’ll be able to constantly love what you do.
- Learn from people in your industry, those that have done what you have not and those that are only just starting; everyone can teach you something.