I have loved art since I was a child and every time dad took to me his office, I would ask for a piece of paper so that I could draw my little cartons” recalls Sylvia Mwashunguti a 23-year-old designer.
Born on October 15th 1996, Sylvia is the first born child in a family of five. She did her primary education at K.A.M and later went to Nelson Mandela basic school where she did her junior secondary. Sylvia completed her secondary education from Matero girls’ secondary school.
Sylvia explained that she was very active in art at all schools she attended and so she served as entertainment prefect and represented the schools at the different arts festivals.
I was not only interested in drawing but poetry as well as acting and from grade 8-12, I was part of the Drama group directed by the late Darius Lombe who really taught me a lot and I am always grateful to him” she explained.
While most pupils take art as a subject, the case was totally different for Sylvia as she took it more than just an academic subject. It was this passion that led to her being called “artist” amongst her friends while in school because she was always the best pupil when it came to art.
My passion for art gave me an opportunity to represent my school at different exhibitions and I once did a painting of an elephant in with an infant- a painting that made it to the provincial level due its authenticity” with a wide smile, Sylvia explained.
She added that after completing her senior secondary in 2014, she never thought that she would continue with art worse off make money out of it as all Sylvia wanted at this point was to focus on pursing a Law career.
It was in 2016 though when her sister reminded her how creative she was and that she could make money out of it. This was a turning point in Sylvia’s life as she was now going to take her art passion a little more serious.
I went to COMESA with just a k100 in my purse, bought some beads and few materials, went back home and made a set of earrings, a necklace and bracelets” Sylvia said.
Sylvia explained that her parents were amazed with the handmade jewelry she had created and so they encouraged her to make a lot of them. Despite her parents’ encouragement, Sylvia had no plans to grow her business and as a results she would the other for other things after making a few sales instead of reinvesting it.
In 2017 she enrolled at Livingston University to realize her dream of becoming a lawyer but because law school can be demanding at times, Sylvia found it to balance between academics and her business and so she only started making jewelry on orders only when school closed.
Looking at how bad the economy was getting, Sylvia later on in 2018 learnt how to manage to her and she got back on her feet doing both business and school at the same time.
Sylvia explained “Future search a government program that trains young entrepreneurs gave me an opportunity to exhibit at the 2018 agriculture and commercial show under them and the response from people was so overwhelming and encouraging”.
They say you will never learn and grow if you do not move out of your comfort zone and that is exactly what Sylvia did at the beginning of 2019- she moved out of her comfort zone of making traditional jewelry and started making chitenge jewelry as well as adding chitenge to shoes.
Asked how she learns all these skills, Sylvia’s answer was that in this era of technology things are very simple as people post a lot of videos on you tube were she learns a lot of things and draws some inspiration from there.
I may not be where I want to be but I want to inspire other young designers that big dreams start with one small step- I started with a k100 and here I am a little better in my business that how I started” she said.
She further said business cannot be predicated; on some days she makes as high as k500 and on some days she makes less but what is important is to keep a positive mind and always thinking of ways to strategically advertise so that you can make more.
Sylvia plans on; opening a jewelry shop next year because currently her business is done online, divert to making clothes as she does not want to limit her capabilities, have a boutique where she can sell her clothes and in the next five years her plan is to have her own T.V show on arts.
She has designed for a lot of people including Cosmas Ng’andu who plays logic in Mphali a local series that comes on DSTV’s Zambezi magic.
Everyone is gifted differently what is important is to discover what you are good at- you don’t have to look outside you to gather courage, the courage we all need is within us.