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Africa’s beauty stirred them to quit their jobs

The popularity  of beaded leather  sandals only seems to grow in spite of the market looking crowded with manufacturers, and it’s no different for Nini’s Afrique Boutique, where sandals are a speciality.

Its new gladiator sandal collection is made using bigger sized beads and plenty of colour. They also incorporating beads not ordinarily used in this type of leatherwork. The end result is sandals that catch the  attention of anyone who sees them.

Tired with office work

Nini’s did not start this way.  In fact, it has been five years since it was started. When two family friends, Rachel Njoki and Patience Kibaya were both tired of formal employment, they set out to start a retail business in November 2009.

They had found a common interest in African-inspired accessories.Their other option was interior design. “I used to do jewellery a long time ago and Patience loves fashion and accessorising with African-inspired items. She would go to Maasai Market every weekend to shop,” said Rachel.

A section of Nini's Afrique Boutique shop at the Rex Shopping Village in Hurligham along Argwings Kodhek. Photo\Mwikali Lati
A section of Nini’s Afrique Boutique shop at the Rex Shopping Village in Hurligham along Argwings Kodhek. Photo\Mwikali Lati

They opened their shop in the CBD and stocked it with products from Maasai Market. They started with the khangas and sandals and later added beaded baskets from Malindi.

Their unique products earned them an invitation to their first exhibition a year later at the Westgate Mall. They later had a cart in the same mall for a year eventually moving to Rex Shopping Village, on Argwings Kodhek road.

Attending Nairobi craft fairs gave them good feedback and made them change their way of doing business.

They started designing and making leather bags about two years ago, and so they looked for suppliers who could do beading for sandals they wanted to design. “As you grow, you meet customers who want different things every time they come to your shop.

We found that the mark-up of the products we sold was not bringing as much profit as when making your own. We also wanted to have a say in the quality we were getting,” she added.

However, getting the right people was an uphill task. Since they wanted the sandals to be unique, the beaders were not receptive to their ideas of intricate and bigger designs.

Not giving up, Rachel found some people at Ongata Rongai and a sandal maker at Dagoretti Corner. Juggling between the two workshops was difficult but eventually they found a lady who could do want they wanted and so they opened their own workshop in Kibera.

Nini’s makes leather accessories; sandals and bags for women only. No jewellery though. Another unique product is the beaded basket from Malindi with a pair of matching sandals.

Making intricate designs is what has kept them ahead of their competitors. It is easy for people to copy designs, but if something is complex, the copycats will not try. Rachel said such people want something easy that they can make, sell fast and cheap.

For example, Nini’s has been selling Malindi baskets for the past five years. The beader behind these baskets is a henna artist who designs large, intricate designs.

“Nini’s sells African accessories to those who want to be Afrocentric,” says Rachel. Hence our slogan ‘Get your Afrocentric on!”