Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo: Designing Stylish Swimwear for the African Woman

With a background in engineering, logistics and supply chain management, Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo has always fancied herself an entrepreneur. At fourteen, she made her first attempt at entrepreneurship when she cofounded Generation For Change, a fundraising organisation that raised up to 10 million naira over its three years to support underprivileged children in Nigeria.

A graduate from Imperial College London and Cranfield University Milton Keynes, Kambili has worked in the corporate world with big name organisations such as Heinz, where she was a Project Manager for Continental Europe, and Total, where she was  Procurement Expeditor. In 2014, she quit the 9 to 5 life to start KAMOKINI, an African swimwear and accessories brand that caters to the average individual’s body image and fashion consciousness.

Kamokini was born out of the need to find stylish bikinis at high street prices, and helps Africans feel and look beautiful during pool and beach activities. With designs and fabrics that accentuate not intimidate, each swimsuit is inspired by everything — art, music, African culture, Western fashion trends and an understanding of a woman’s sensuality. (Read more about Kamokini here)

Models in KAMOKINI swimwear. Image credit: Kamokini Facebook Page

Models in KAMOKINI swimwear. Image credit: Kamokini Facebook Page

Kambili is passionate about people and the insecurities we individually and collectively possess. When she is not designing KAMOKINI’s latest swimwear collection or looking for new ways to expand the brand, she reads books abut business, philosophy and psychology, and loves dancing.

Why did you decide to start KAMOKINI and what was the first thing you did when you decided?
I started designing swimsuits for myself as a necessity but the positive response from friends and others led me to understand that there was a gap in the market for KAMOKINI. The first thing I did was cross check what I had in my savings because on a personal level, I felt that I had to be somewhat financially invested to start with so I could feel the severity required to make my key startup decisions.

When you started out, did you get any resistance from family and friends?
Initially, I didn’t get any resistance from family and friends other than constructive feedback on how to approach the market. The resistance came when I was trying to make the decision on whether or not to quit my job as Procurement Expeditor at Total. The resistance made sense since at that time, KAMOKINI was not at the point where one is advised to be at before quitting your day job. On the other hand, from working on KAMOKINI for some time, I realised that some of the key activities I needed to do were inhibited by the time of day I allocated to work on my business.

Understanding both sides of the decision, I planned my exit strategy and bootstrapped my expenses to ensure I had saved enough to last me the time I had promised to give my business to become profitable.

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Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you just started your company?
I would tell myself to hire an accountant/ bookkeeper in-house or outsource no matter the cost. Being on top of the money going in and out of the company is vital and it is a painful process if you have to get things in order in the middle.

If you win the She Leads Africa competition, what’s the first thing you’d do?
The first thing I would do is to invest in a mould to make larger bust cups for my African voluptuous ladies, begin the production of a popularly demanded swimsuit, and produce a wider range of samples to create a buyer’s pack to showcase to potential distribution channels.

If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
To aspiring entrepreneurs that are still thinking, just start. Courage is fear in positive action and to be courageous is just to start. To aspiring entrepreneurs that are planning, congratulations on going for it! Now put your back into it and make it count because not much is sweeter than doing what you love.

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To learn more about KAMOKINI, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To see Kambili pitch live on stage, reserve a ticket to the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase HERE.

Every day this week, we will be profiling the six finalists of the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase. Follow the series HERE.

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