Jiamini = African Fashion with US Know-How

Women weavers in Kitui, Kenya constructing baskets destined for Walmart.
Women weavers in Kitui, Kenya, construct baskets destined for Walmart.
Katchy Kollections
Clothing line reaches wider market, empowers women
“As women entrepreneurs, we face many of the same challenges. We can learn a lot from each other.”

Katchy Kollections Director Jennifer Mulli desires global recognition for her brand—Jiamini—Kiswahili for “believe in yourself.” It’s a bold goal for someone who has only been in business for three years. But given her current trajectory, Mulli may very well succeed.

Mulli’s family-run Kenyan business sells clothing and accessories inspired by “a deep affection for its African cultural heritage and wealth of design possibilities influenced by the Western fashion scene.” They specialize in detailing their products with high-quality beading.

The USAID East Africa Trade Hub started providing technical assistance in design and marketing to Katchy in January 2011. “The Trade Hub helped us refine our colors, design and quality for a U.S. market,” says Mulli.

At the time, Katchy had one small client in the United States with an order for 200 sandals. Now Katchy is part of the Full Circle Exchange, a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to empowering women through design partnerships. Katchy met Full Circle Exchange through another Trade Hub beneficiary, Gahaya Links.

In the first six months of 2013, Katchy sold $20,000 worth of products to Walmart through Full Circle Exchange. They are expecting to sell more to Macy’s by Christmas.

Katchy moved to Kenya’s Export Processing Zone in June 2013, doubling the firm’s staff to 50 and quadrupling their sewing machines to 40. Mulli hopes this is just the beginning. She named her brand Jiamini because she wants the socially disadvantaged women that she works with to believe in themselves and be proud of the products they create.

The U.S. market provides the consistent demand that Mulli is looking for. And, through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Katchy can take advantage of duty-free exports.

In May 2013, the U.S. State Department and USAID launched the Kenya chapter of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program, which promotes business growth and trade, and encourages African women entrepreneurs to strengthen their communities. Mulli is a passionate member.

“As women entrepreneurs, we face many of the same challenges. We can learn a lot from each other,” she says.

Since 2009, the Trade Hub has facilitated over $125 million in exports to the United States through AGOA, assisting more than 200 firms to enter or expand in the U.S. market.