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We are no longer locked out from a world we do not even know. How can we have blurred visions when the day is well lit? The sluggish, old-fashioned methods of networking are well replaced with an era of internet and new found technology.
About a decade ago, smartphones gained such popularity. With a highly portable, internet-enabled device the world would no longer be an endless expanse of land but a global village. Well, I know that has been clichéd but what I do not know is how many people actually know how to use internet constructively. How many of entrepreneurs know how to see clearly on a well-lit day! How can one spot opportunities in the middle of the fun of social media and to actively take advantage of them?
Most of us in our 20’s dream of starting businesses and become successful, these dreams get threatened when the thought of lacking enough capital and other resources needed. Well, that was not the case with the then 24 years old Wilkings Fadhili.
Wilkings Fadhili had clearly mastered the key rule of entrepreneurship “you will never start if you wait to have all the resources needed.”
In an interview with Inversk, the self-made man recalls how he started with five hundred shillings which he used to buy a modem and Ksh 50 internet bundles. With this, the self-driven man would constructively use Facebook to get the word out and contact key people who would later contribute to making his dream come true. A desire to make his parents proud and be a great person in the society burnt deep within him and he would not stop at any challenge, not even capital!
“The other challenge was funding but I stopped looking for that when I released I can use what I had to make my dreams come true.”
The Hawk-Eyed Problem Solver
The idea of a platform that would incubate ideas in fashion and transform them into viable businesses dawned on Wilkings one day at a fashion event where he was a model. The hawk-eyed problem solver could not help but notice how backward the fashion and style of his own people was.
Being a model was not at all going to fulfil the vision Wilkings had for East Africa. He was determined to resign from modelling and go convince the people that he had such a game-changing dream for East Africa.
During his resignation, about two months down the line, Wilkings was invited to a fashion show at the French Embassy. While every other model socialized with each other and talking about how good they felt being models, our man was busy trying to make quality connections with key people at the fashion show in case something good came out of any of them.
During the networking session, he met the wife of the French Ambassador to Kenya, Celine Merachaux. Amidst their talk, Wilkings spoke to her about his vision of an incubation hub that would bring creative people with an interest in fashion together, offer training and mentorship and prepare them with ideas to fully exploit the many opportunities he had seen in the industry.
According to Wilkings, what was lacking in the local fashion industry was a place that would allow people to meet, share their ideas and network, something his idea was set to provide. The well-presented idea had Celine Merachaux offer him Ksh. 150,000 to start on his vision; Fashiontorch Africa.
“When we have an idea, we are at times afraid to share it with someone else with the fear that they could steal it from us, well, there are people who just want to listen to your brilliant idea and help you start out.”
While everyone sat waiting to party on weekends, Wilkings worked so hard to prove his idea to an audience who could hardly believe it. This was his major challenge.
“My idea was so unique that people doubted if it would ever work out, I had to work so hard to prove that my idea can work.”
In October 2016, Fashiontorch lab met her breakthrough. A time had come and headlines telling about how a 24 year-old bagged 16.5 million from U.S firm flooded the internet. This was to help scale up the company. With the new-found investor, things would never be the same again for Fashiontorch Africa. He had believed in himself enough, and now it was time for others to believe in him and this was going to be the game-changer for Fashiontorch.
This grant came after he caught the attention of a U.S based firm, 1608 Creatives. Wilkings was speaking at Safaricom`s Blaze Mentorship Summit. The C.E.O of 1608 creatives was streaming the event live on Facebook. Having identified Wilkings, the C.E.O made a move and sent an inbox to Wilkings.
When he received a message that the C.E.O 1608 Creatives wanted to meet him, Wilkings never thought it was serious. He finished his talk and headed to his seat.
However, Wilkings agreed and left to a meeting that would be the turning point for his big dream. And with the opportunity, the story of Fashiontorch would not be written the same again. Each door opened with a master key to unlock the next, and with this, the story of a proud son of Kenya had reached the most coveted climax.
“This grant made me realize that the secret is to work hard, be the best version of yourself and God will send an angel to faithfully hold your hand through.”
1608 Creatives also partnered with Fashiontorch in enabling entrepreneurs to do internship in the United States.
The Bigger Picture
Wilkings is keen on taking big risks and venturing in unknown pastures:
“Fashiontorch has been doing quite well, we just rebranded to StartupNow to make sure we are working with entrepreneurs from almost all sectors. We have only focused on public relations, marketing, concepts creation and creative events management and production. With StartupNow lab, everyone is covered.” Wilkings says. StartupNow lab launched early this month.
His idea to rebrand came not only from the desire to help startup founders in building globally sustainable brands but also to address the problems that Africa faces.
The passionate gentleman has big plans and target for his new brand. In the first year, Wilkings targets to help around 100 startups grow and become viable while successfully competing with other high profile companies in Africa at large.
“StartupNow is an innovative space that will give startups and entrepreneurs access to training, brand design, product development, investors and funding.”
Being the first company of its kind in the region, both Fashiontorch and its rebrand are predicted to grow really big and bring such change to the region.
With a team of 10 able team mates, Wilkings is looking into truly living his dream of serving and making proud the society from which he hails. He likes to work with people who learns fast like me and you. Apart from that, our man likes a person with great capability to innovate and passionate about what they do.
To him, travelling around the country sharing his story and inspiring youths is the best part of the tour. He loves to inspire young people and show them how possible it is to live their dream at such a tender age. This enabled him to be selected to be amongst Blaze by Safaricom mentors. “I was approached by Safaricom based on the platform I create in helping young people design their ideas to businesses.”
At the age of 25, Wilkings has lived most of a young ambitious man`s dreams: Founder and CEO of his own company, a number of startups he is currently incubating at the new rebrand of Fashiontorch, StartupNow lab.
As they traverse the country inspiring the youths with a story so captivating, Wilkings recalls his campus days when he never thought he would ever venture into entrepreneurship. As a journalism student at Daystar University, he absolutely had no plans to change his course or career just yet.
Despite the pressure that comes with challenges, Wilkings loves challenges as they come with progress. He feels he is the person to usher Kenya`s Fashion industry to international Standards and he will stop at nothing less.
This Feature Story and Article appeared on Issue 011 of Inversk Magazine. Click here to download your copy.