[Interview] Jeffery Wilson, founder JW Show, Kenya
Jeffery Wilson is a Kenyan fashion entrepreneur who has built a name and business around bringing likeminded entrepreneurs to celebrate the art of couture through his JW Fashion show. He talked to Africa Business Communities about the business of fashion, what it takes to make it in the industry and the hiccups slamming the brakes on the sector’s prospects.
Tell us about yourself?
I am a Kenyan fashion entrepreneur who has created a forum that brings together players in the industry. I also double up as a fashion TV show producer, event manager and also personal trainer in fitness
What does JW Fashion entail as a business?
JW stands for Jeffery Wilson. Our fashion business model is hinged on successfully organizing fashion shows, right from sourcing for partners to meticulously ensuring that everything is in place to produce stellar shows.
How big has your reach/intervention been?
The growth has been organic and impressive. We now have over 300 designers in our database and the list keeps growing. We also have a huge portfolio of models who have expressed interest in participating in the show. However we can only accommodate a few since the slots are limited. We look at expanding this in the near future.
Talk to us about the business of fashion. Is there money in fashion?
The fashion industry has grown in leaps and bounds in the recent past especially in Kenya and East Africa primarily because of fashion outlets, even reputable international fashion behemoths, having set up shop in Kenya. The need for fashion houses to exhibit their products through fashion shows is therefore picking up, so yes fashion is paying off well nowadays. However the age old business nuggets still apply in running a successful venture. You need to identify your niche, your visibility, and marketing, exercise discipline and grow your networks.
What would you say has been the most rewarding moment in your fashion business journey?
Ha. Interesting question. When I started everyone thought I was in it for fun; that I was joking. I had no sponsors or partners then. But the tenacity and the fire in my belly became my daily mantra. From those humble beginnings with my friends who agreed to be the models for my shows including Kwinslet, Bianca, Kent Taut, Ken Fredrick, Erick Apiyo, Liz akinyi, Robert Stiler,Debbie Oyugi,and Alvin, it has been a journey I look back with pride and nostalgia. I am ever grateful to them for the unwavering support. It is because of their belief in me that we have created JW Fashion as a household name.
Is it something you would encourage young entrepreneurs to venture into?
Yes definitely. But they must realize that it doesn’t translate into overnight success. It requires tears, sweat and blood. But trust me when they finally hack it, it is bliss all the way.
How has the market responded to your services?
The appetite for our services has been insatiable. We have designers knocking at our doors requesting for our partnership and support. The beauty with it is that I believe in helping each other to grow and that is what I want to keep embracing.
What has the business of fashion taught you?
Always be simple, be you and know your product very well.
What are the emerging issues concerning fashion business in Kenya and Africa?
Theft of intellectual property has really chocked this business and even discouraged very many budding fashion entrepreneurs. Then there is the hustle of sourcing for partners and sponsors and getting them to believe in your concept. It is also tough getting venues for high standard shows. However we take every challenge as it comes and tackle it the best way we can. It explains why we are still in business.
What would you say is the biggest misunderstanding people have about fashion?
The dominant belief that fashion is for the young people and women is totally misplaced. In fact it should be noted that fashion is for both young and old. We all dress every day and change clothes daily, that is the heart of fashion.
How would you rate fashion business in Africa?
In a scale of one to ten I would rate Africa’s fashion business at 7 per cent. We have come of age.
What is the hardest bit about your job?
Event management is no mean feat. Anything can go wrong, and you take the flak at the end of the day. Again you can get messed up by the team you work with. That is why you need meticulous and judicious planning beforehand.
Going forward, what plans do you have for JW Fashion?
We plan to have the JW Show on live television. We want everyone to experience the event first hand. We are also looking at growing our portfolio and foothold while mentoring fledgling businesses in this industry.