Set up in 2010 by Ms. Wangari Nyanjui, Peperuka aims to enrich the Kenyan experience through Afro-inspired products with socially and environmentally sound business practices
Thousands of apparel companies operate in Kenya. The country’s 2015 economic survey approximate 170 are medium and large, while 74,000 are micro and small companies. 21 of these operate in EPZ employing an average of 1,800 people per company.
As discussions ensue on the social and economic viability of Kenya’s creative sector, one company is capturing customers’ insights through its appealing, creative and unique apparels. Peperuka, founded by Ms. Wangari Nyanjui, aims to redefine Kenyans’ experience.
Ms. Nyanjui attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Art Center College of Design,California, specializing in graphic design.
After graduating from college, she worked for a series of companies in the US, that helped hone her skills.
“My first job out of college was based in the Bay Area where I worked on creating brochures, fliers and branding items for corporate clients in Silicon Valley. I later had a stint at a children’s hospital under the communications department. My work there majorly involved crafting communication materials. After this, I worked with an ad agency in San Francisco on developing social campaigns,” opens up Ms. Nyanjui during an interview with Edge Magazine at her office in Nairobi.
She says that the work impacted people’s lives in many ways, especially in highlighting the plight of social issues such as public health.
Based on this success and far reaching impact of her work, she envisioned that she could transfer her expertise to Kenya..
She returned home and set up Black Butterfly-a graphic design company in 2006, where she worked with a number of local and regional corporate clients.
While in Nairobi, she searched for t-shirts that resonated with her values and contemporary Kenyan culture but didn’t find any. This prompted her to come up with her own designs.
She began with a t-shirt line that celebrates women. She says at the time, women were doing amazing things which mostly went unnoticed and uncelebrated. “The likes of Winnie Mandela, Rita Marley and Wangari Maathai were global icons and I wanted to celebrate them through Afro-inspired products,” adding that: “When I did a t-shirt design with Wangari Maathai and posted it on Facebook after she passed away, it created a buzz which was profound.”
What started as a side hustle has grown to be her mainstay. Today, she runs Peperuka, an eco-friendly lifestyle brand of products that consists of fresh, handmade body products, apparels and accessories. “Named after the Swahili word that means ‘to soar’, we built our company to rise above the average and fill your lives with more than just beautiful things,” notes Ms. Nyanjui.
She goes on: “With our creations, we encourage healthy, conscious living by making products from natural ingredients and promoting sustainability to create a better cleaner world.”
Peperuka products are crafted with passion and keen attention to detail. Its body products are gentle. Some of the company’s limited edition garments are made from natural or recycled fabrics and the design aesthetic is rooted in African history and tradition while remaining unique, contemporary and expressive. “Our accessories are inspired by curiosity. Peperuka isn’t just about our products. It’s a way of life. ” she firms up.
Me I Love Nairobi
She says she took advantage of Kenya’s social speak to come up with products that resonates with Kenyans.
Lupita Nyong’o rocked the ‘Me I Love Nairobi’ T-shirt at Disneyland and created a buzz which helped push the brand. Ne-yo also wore the same design when he was in the country last year.
This has seen the company come up with county edition t-shirt designs such as Nax Vegas, Mombasa Raha and Kisumu Ber.
Fridge magnets which sport popular Kenyan speak ‘Tuma na ya kutoa’, ‘Niko kwa jam nacome’ among others have proved popular with people.“The t-shirt is an accessible form of art. Kenyans are starting to appreciate non-traditional forms of art. There’s a big push towards Kenyan products and the creative sector is growing,” she explains.
They make use of social media to grow the brand. You can find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Peperuka.World, @PeperukaWorld on Instagram and Twitter: and through its online shop www.peperuka.co.ke
The products are also available at Kiko Romeo at Yaya Centre, MarulaStudios as well as Urban African Collective at The Hub, Karen.
Further, she is looking to export the merchandise across Africa, USA and Europe.
Reports from the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development shows Kenya faces an inadequate supply of locally-produced cotton, the little that is available is of low quality. This means that majority of quality fabrics manufactured in Kenya is made from imported fibres,.. These costs are labored to the consumer. Peperuka sources regular and organic cotton from various suppliers who import them from Tanzania, USA and India.
Being the founder, Ms. Nyanjui is the head of creative and holds the vision for her company. “We are currently a team of four – two part time and two permanent.”
Along the way, she’s fortunate to work with Heva Fund who have helped her align the business, enhance operations and as well as project the future.
“Heva Fund came through and supported us financially. They are helping us with asset capital, talent management and financial planning advice,” she notes adding that: “They will be helping us expand in the digital marketing space and push our brand online.”
“Our fulfillment is bringing joy to customers through appealing merchandise as well as further Wangari Maathai’s legacy which inspires me in a foremost way.”The firm donates a tree to the Green Belt Movement for every item sold that features Wangari Maathai.
The company also runs Peperuka Foundation where it supports Seed of Hope-an organization that trains girls from disadvantaged backgrounds and equips them with educational and business skills. Under the arrangement, Peperuka Foundation sponsored some girls to participate in their one year mentorship and training programme on tailoring, fashion design and entrepreneurship.
As part of the plan to further stamp its footprint in the market, Peperuka envisions owning an outlet where it will sell its merchandise directly to the public. It also looks to work with partners to acquire production machinery and strengthen capacity.
According to Ms. Nyanjui,it’s really a great time to be a creative. “People are now taking it seriously, the sector is growing and Peperuka looks forward to play a major role towards its growth.”