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This CEO Quit Her Career as a UN Business Advisor to Launch One of Kenya’s Popular Fashion Brands

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Wandia Gichuru, CEO and co-founder of Vivo Activewear, worked as an international business advisor for the UK government, the United Nations, and the World Bank before launching the company, according to Africa Middle East News.

Moving from one country to another, according to Wandia, is no longer as fascinating and invigorating as it once was. She also had two daughters whose lives she couldn’t keep up with due to the demands of her hectic corporate life. She had to move with them every time they moved to a new country.

She had been unsure of her job aspirations for almost a year and appeared to be going through a normal midlife crisis in her mid-40s, spending her days doing dance, exercise, and yoga.

She finally teamed up with her friend and business partner, Anne Marie Burugu, to start Vivo Activewear, a retail apparel firm that would provide trendy, casual clothing for sporty women as well as business attire for professional women, in 2011.

Wandia told The East African, “Vivo came at a time when I was in transition in my personal life,” saying that the first shop was a tiny location that was thankfully well-placed and vital to the brand’s introduction.

Vivo was conceived as an online brand shop to compete with well-known domestic and foreign brands that dominate the majority of space in malls, but it lacked a clear business plan, strategy, or finance. Regardless, they jumped in headfirst with no hesitation.

Vivo, which means “in the living,” was founded on a love of dancing and physical exercise. This was reflected in the name, which was chosen to be directly related to the brand.

Since its inception, the company has grown to become one of Kenya’s leading fashion brands, with 14 outlets around the country and a reputation for stylish yet fairly priced clothes. It has a reputation for generating designs that are bold, colorful, and often edgy.

The business also owns e-commerce platform, Shop Zetu, which it uses to sell both its own designs and products from independent manufacturers and retailers.

“We did not have a plan of what it would become or imagine Vivo would be what it is now,” Wandia told The East African. However, her strong business background has immensely contributed to the development of the brand.

Wandia, who was born in Kenya to a Kenyan father and a Canadian mother, frequently moved back and forth between the two countries to attend school in her early years. She eventually earned her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

In addition to owning a successful fashion chain, she finds time to act as a life coach, routinely invest in Kenya’s version of Dragon’s Den, Lion’s Den, and serve as a trustee for the Charles & Rita Field-Marsham and Mbugua Rosemary Foundations.

Wandia Gichuru feels that women are critical to fulfilling the continent’s potential and strengthening African trade. She works to alter lives by empowering women via training, employment, and the support of small, independent enterprises operated by women.

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