For many graduate students it’s impossible to do anything besides study for school—but for Kelechi Anyadiegwu school didn’t stand in the way from the opportunity to launch her own business.
Combining her talents and passion in 2013, she began Zuvaa (which means “sunshine” in the Shona language from Zimbabwe) when she saw an unmet demand in the market for African textile prints and fashion. In the three years since she founded the online marketplace, Kelechi has been named on a the Forbes 30 under 30 list for retail and ecommerce. She recently spoke with ESSENCE to share her background, passion for African fashion and what it’s really like to be an black female entrepreneur.
Name: Kelechi Edozie-Anyadiegwu
Title: CEO + Founder, Zuvaa
Location: Atlanta, GA + NYC
Hometown: Sayreville, NJ
The gig: Zuvaa is an online marketplace for African Fashion and Design. We work with talented designers from the African continent or who source from the African continent and give them a platform to sell and showcase their pieces. I’m always so inspired by the talent and creativity of the designers. When they send me samples or show me their looks books, I’m always so excited to help them reach their potentials.
The journey: So African prints and designs were always an integral part of my culture. When I was in grad school, studying user experience design, I decided to use these skills along with my skills in marketing to create an African Fashion and Design platform. Creating Zuvaa married my skills in marketing and web design, with my love for Fashion and passion for the African continent.
At the beginning: I used to work as a social media manager for social enterprise digital undivided. Working for digital undivided, I was exposed to so many amazing entrepreneurs. I learned the ins and outs of startups.
Day-to-day duties: My typical workday consists of lots of conversations with designers and feedback from our customers. I’m constantly trying to improve the platform from a buyer and seller perspective.
Her top industry tip: Have a unique vision. When I first started Zuvaa, there were a lot of other players in the field. I was confident in my vision and that is what kept me motivated to continue to grow it.
Confessions of a black woman in fashion: I feel like we often come across people who don’t understand the value of our companies.Because they don’t come from these experiences, they don’t realize how big some of these opportunities can be.
Her biggest lesson learned: At the beginning I don’t think I was diligent enough with building my team. I was doing a lot of things on my own and that caused my to burn out and not be as productive as I could have been.
Her biggest accomplishment: It has been incredible to see how far many of the designers I work with have come; many of them going from 10k a year to over 100k a year in revenues. What is even more amazing is watching how they invest this back into their community. That makes me feel incredibly proud, because Zuvaa helped make that happen.
The smartest advice she’s ever received: Understand the importance of balance.
Her advice to her 18-year-old self: I would tell my 18 year old self to be patient. It can be hard at 18 to know what you want to do with your life or truly understand your worth. I’d tell myself that things may get hard and confusing, but everything will fall into place.
If I could have lunch with any woman it would be _____: Shonda Rhimes. I’d want to hear about her experiences as a black women in Hollywood and her work diversifying TV.
In her downtime: I love to unwind with a glass of red wine.
Her tech fixes: Slack is great for communicating with my team.
In her beauty bag: I LOVE lashes. They just make me feel so pretty.
Her power accessory: I love a nice gold watch. It always brings my outfits together.
Her theme song: “Happy,” by Pharrell. I like to breathe positivity into my life as much as possible.