Gladys Kingoo And The Rise of Urembo Gallery

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Urembo Gallery, a renowned apparel dealer in Nairobi has been trending in the fashion industry since 2015. As an outlet that is well known, Urembo Gallery offers Ladies’ khaki pants and marching tops, jeans and leggings, shoes ranging from boots, heels and sandals all at very affordable prices.

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Apart from being up-to-date in the fashion world, the firm boasts of its customer policy which includes integrity, reliability, timeliness and customer friendly service. This approach has seen the firm gain trust from its wide clientele base evidenced by the myriad referrals and repeat visits.

Banker Turned Entrepreneur

Gladys, the founder of Urembo Gallery, left her administrative position at an NGO in uncertainty and walked into the path of entrepreneurship. Marked with the chills of starting a venture she had very little experience on, Gladys began a journey to providing all ladies with their wardrobe solutions. She set out to start Urembo Gallery.

As banker by profession, it never occurred to Gladys that she could at one point leave the banking industry to start her own business. She pursued banking at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) and later Business Administration and Management at Africa Nazarene University (ANU).

On finishing her banking course, Gladys landed her first job at a bank where she worked for slightly over one year. Fresh as she was from campus, she was mandated with marketing of kids’ accounts that the bank had launched.

During her stay at the bank, Gladys banked every lesson she leant and later moved on to work at an NGO. It was during this time that she pursued her Business Management course. She dedicatedly offered her services to the NGO for close to five years.

At the NGO her colleagues admired Gladys for her sense of fashion. She was cautious on the clothes and the kind of jewellery she put on. On this particular day, a lady friend of hers inquired about a neck piece she was wearing.

“Where did you get this neck piece? How much did it cost? Can I get it as well?” Multiple questions at once! Gladys with patience answered all these questions. The lady colleague was impressed with how careful Gladys selected her jewelry. It was always different and very unique.

Would you get me such? And by the way, have you thought of starting a jewellery business? Gladys’ colleague suggested over their lunch time ladies’ talk.

This got the Gladys thinking. She realized she could actually begin a business in this line. The next time she went shopping for her neck pieces, she bought an extra 3 pieces. The following day she sold them all to her colleagues. She was amazed.

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Gladys decided to take her now budding business to the next level. She went again and got   the unique jewellery pieces that her colleagues demanded so highly.  This time, she invested a whole Ksh 10,000 in buying the neck pieces and this time some earrings also.

At this point, Gladys opened Facebook and Instagram accounts for her now online jewellery shop as she was still working and doing evening classes. She had now established relations with her clients. With the new stock now, her already found clients bought several of these including her fellow students at the university. They referred their friends to her where they would get the beautiful jewellery pieces. In just three days, the whole stock of Ksh 10,000 was no more! From this, Gladys was more than convinced that she really had the entrepreneur’s mind. The fire in her had been ignited and she was not going to stop.

In early 2016, the fashion detailed woman officially left employment. Many thought she was kidding but she still went on with her plans. In spite of the many negative stories about business from some friends, Gladys was convinced that she could successfully venture into business.

While still a student at Africa Nazarene, a certain lecturer had encouraged them to register a company. Obediently, Gladys went ahead and registered hers. It took a bit of time that she had even forgotten to pick her company’s certificate. So now, she needed to pick it up. She was formally getting into entrepreneurship. She needed to comply with the rules of establishing a company.

The making of Urembo Gallery

Dedicated to starting a brand of her own, Gladys knew that the name was very important. She sat with her laptop almost daily on internet trying to coin a name. She needed a name that many of her clients could resonate with. She had various options. It took effort and consultations with her website designer to settle down on Urembo Gallery.

She finally went to pick her certificate which now had Urembo Gallery as the company name. She was fortunate that no such name had been registered with the registrar of companies. That marked the legal inception of what we all know as Urembo Gallery. With the legal compliance now in place, she decided to include ladies shoes and clothes along with the jewellery.

Selling the brand

Gladys marketed on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She did this mostly on Facebook sales groups like Kilimani Mums Market Place. She continued to popularise her products on social media like WhatsApp and Twitter, this saw her get more clients. The customers could request for their clothes and Gladys delivered them all. All this while, all her stock was in the house, she longed to expand as her dreams were getting broader by the day.

Outsourcing of Urembo Gallery products

All set as an entrepreneur, employed and still in school, the former model at Versatile Photography visited a friend of hers who had a shop around Jamia Mosque in Town. She was impressed at the confidence that her friend elicited by opening her own shop. This boosted her confidence and she realized that could also do it. This visit renewed her spirits and together with the friend they planned a business trip to Uganda. They went shopping for various types of clothes in bulk. This experience further opened her eyes. Gladys had discovered where to get beautiful and unique clothes for her lady clients. She bought pairs of ladies’ timberland and sandals. The Founder and Team Leader of Urembo Gallery has since discovered other places to get her stock. This includes importing from China thanks to cargo agents who deliver within only 10 days.

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Acquiring a shop

In December 2015, she had various designs of clothes, pairs of timberland and sandals all stocked in her house. One day as she was moving around town, along Moi Avenue, she discovered a shop that was vacant. She paid its rent, then Ksh 15,000 and moved her stock which fit so well in it. It was as if the shop had been set aside for her. She employed a girl who took care of her shop every time she was away.

When she quit her job at the NGO around Feb 2016, she decided to relieve the girl of her duties. This meant that Gladys had to do all the tasks alone. She could make her deliveries very early in the morning or late in the evening. She sometimes asked her brother to assist in the deliveries.

It was becoming difficult to handle the shop, deliveries and school at the same time; she talked to her mum about it she advised her to hire another girl. The girl was a distant cousin and it was not easy even with this girl’s assistance to achieve customer satisfaction. This broke Gladys’ heart and she had to relieve the girl of her duties yet again.

Gladys was already expanding. One day, one of her new acquired friends invited her to go and look for a better shop. Walks around the city landed them at Imenti House. Soon after, she moved to her new shop at Imenti in June 2016. The shop provided a better space for her huge stock and that it was more convenient for her growing number of clients.

Entrepreneurship Lessons

In the first few months, Gladys had one major goal in mind; to buy things and put them in the shop. She did not keep proper records. She only took note of the sales and the money that was coming in. She has however over time learnt how to keep proper financial records.

She has also learnt the virtue of patience. For her, there is no day like any other. Gladys is optimistic. She says that there are several opportunities; we only have to look keenly to identify and make use of them.

Another of her lessons has been that of accountability. After she left the NGO, she discovered the difference between being in employment and being self-employed. She now had to be answerable to herself. She knew that if she messed up she would have to close or lose the shop.

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The fourth lesson has been that of human resource. Gladys admits that this has been a huge lesson. She had to learn the hard way. She advises that it is unwise to employ a relative to run your business.

Gladys at first bought products she liked in bulk. However, she has over time learnt to listen to her customers. She pays close attention to hear what her clients demand. This way, she can retain her customers by guaranteeing their satisfaction and quality of products.

The journey has not been easy.  It has however been encouraging to have various mentors. She continues to appreciate the efforts of a lady she met through a friend from Entrepreneurs’ Spot. This lady introduced her to a huge network and as a result she is now working with a sewing factory called Myla Consultancy Limited along Thika Road. This lady who she prefers to call her mentor has truly empowered her in the journey of being a better entrepreneur.

How is Urembo Gallery Unique?

  1. Friendly customer care

Urembo Gallery offers extra ordinary customer care to its customers including attending to them with a smile and patience, listening to their ever changing needs and appreciating them just for choosing to shop with them.

  1. Own Designs

To stand out from the many ‘online boutiques we know, Gladys has gone to the extent of designing her own clothes. She is currently working with the group of tailors who are making her ladies’ tops that go well with the various pairs of Khaki pants that she sells.

  1. Quick Deliveries.

Urembo Gallery has a wide reach, all over the country. Upon orders, she delivers them in good time. Those from places as far as Turkana, Samburu, Garissa, Western, Rift Valley and the Coast get their orders by even flight. This means quick deliveries and this really impresses the clients.

  1. Gender champion

Urembo Gallery believes in empowering both men and women in the smallest ways possible starting from dressing them up elegantly. The firm strongly discourages Gender Based Violence and encourages every one to seek knowledge on GBV to avoid falling victims knowingly or unknowingly.

Urembo Gallery currently dresses dresses all its lovely customers among other high profile personalities.

Winding Up

To get that unique and beautiful look, get in touch with Urembo Gallery by visiting them at Imenti House, directly Opposite Barclays Bank, Glory Exhibition (Next to Pop Inn Mall) Upstairs, Stall M2.

You could also make your order via their online platforms:

Facebook Page: @UremboGallery

Instagram: @urembogallery

Call or Whats App: +254721234307

Gladys advises that the journey of entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. The process of growth gets you tougher and sharpens your skills every day. From the process, you learn and unlearn so many things. She however emphasizes that whatever happens ‘Challenges get you to your very core gut.’

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Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, 

New Zealand.