The Woman Redefining Fashion For Nursing Mothers: Talks Taking Risks And Working On Self To Build A Successful Brand
Beatrice Mwihaki may not be a household name but I can bet that you have come across her brand, “Nursing Mama.” Although, you may have seen her on your screens as she kick-started KCB’s Lion’s den season four.
Mwihaki used her killer negotiation skills to walk away with two lions as her investors.
She is the brains behind reinventing fashion for pregnant and nursing mothers.
For the longest time, women have tried to normalize breastfeeding with no luck. There are the weird looks they get in public and the discomfort they feel nursing around strangers. One woman is playing her part in giving women confidence as they feed their babies one outfit after another, providing style and privacy.
As a new Mum, Beatrice, like other women had to choose comfort over fashion while nursing her newborn. It wasn’t until she missed a big moment in her life that she decided to take a step in changing nursing mothers’ lives.
Her business story starts with adversity and letting tough times act as inspiration. A tragedy hit her family when her brother died in an accident minutes after leaving her home. She wanted a photo with him but that meant an outfit change from her ‘dera’. That took long and in the end she never got her last photo with him.
She missed a moment hence her business mantra, “never miss a moment.”
I had a chance to have a conversation with Beatrice as we enjoyed the cool breeze at Watamu, at the coastal region. Beatrice talks her journey starting nursing mama, her challenges in one year and her success. A business started to honor her brother’s legacy and to change a nursing mothers’ style.
“My intention was to make nursing comfortable, convenient and still maintain style. A new mum needs to feel good after sleepless nights and when taking care of a new born. I want them to be confident as they go about being a mom.”
Beatrice has always viewed herself as a problem solver hence her entrepreneurial spirit.
She can also attribute that to her previous experiences. Being in a sales job opens you up to a new world. It’s a people business and winning them over. It’s entrepreneurship.
Like most of us-who didn’t study what we wanted-she didn’t get to study entrepreneurship in University. She tried following what was marketable as sold to us by parents and relatives but couldn’t hack it. She found herself enjoying language and communications. She would go ahead and excel in sales and public speaking.
“Everything I have done, jobs, business ad school work prepared me for who I am now.” She confesses.
Starting the Nursing Mama journey
The fear of taking a leap especially into the unknown would have become Mwihaki’s barrier to success.
When planning to get started on Nursing Mama she had made a conscious decision to pursue it full time. Not without fear but despite her fears.
“I did a lot of research, adjusted my own clothes to see if it worked and trying out different designs. I knew there was a problem that needed a solution. I love fashion and have always styled myself by exploring second hand clothes and new ones too. The challenge came when I was pregnant. It wasn’t easy to get clothes that looked good on me.
It isn’t fair to mothers that we have to adjust our style when pregnant and when breastfeeding. I wanted to look good.”
With passion and a need to fulfill Beatrice went ahead to start her company with whatever she had in her hands.
She launched her company in October 2018 with two products to begin with. She received massive feedback online and had clients ordering in. She went ahead to book a stand at the baby Banda pregnancy and baby fair, where the feedback was encouraging.
Nursing mama has gone ahead to launch more clothes for pregnant and nursing mothers.
“This is my calling and though purpose can change, at this point this feels right. I am always looking for fashion inspiration. I am always out to make nice clothes for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
I am particularly excited meeting my clients when I do deliveries. I love the satisfaction on their faces. When I go for clinics and meet mothers in my design I am happy that it actually works for them.
I love to collect feedback; we call our clients to find out how they like the design ad what they would like to see from us. We are always improving because we are out to meet the client’s needs.
Nursing Mama is customer-centric and that has led to our success. We have a lot of repeat customer. We have thank you cards for our new and repeat clients to show our appreciation for their support. I train my team on customer service and how to focus on clients.
The Nursing mama Team
Mwihaki has a team she hand selected and with whom she works closely with at her home office.
“When starting a business, don’t stress much on a team. Start with what you can do and then only add people who see your vision. They don’t have to have experience, skills and habits, because you can build that.
If need be outsource and have consultants to cut the cost of employing.
Your focus should be on getting clients and keeping them happy. That way you get repeat clients and referrals.
Our source of getting clients at this point is social media. We don’t have a physical shop; we are taking advantage of social media where everybody is. My team is hands on, on social media and I give them targets when it comes to getting clients.”
On Importance of Mentorship in Entrepreneurship
A mentor is important at all aspects in life. They have gone before us and we can learn from their life experiences.
“You don’t get to walk blindly when you have a mentor. If your mentor is in your industry it helps you avoid the mistakes they made when starting. A mentor also encourages you and cheers you on as business can be hard at times.
Being driven by passion and excitement can cause you to make haste decisions, a mentor will help you to sober up.”
From Employment to Entrepreneurship
People have talked about knowing when it was time to leave employment. Some have talked about getting fired, while others prepared for years. Others like mwihaki woke up one day and decided it was time to take a chance on them.
“I was afraid at first. I wondered if I could make it but decided to jump into the deep end.
There wasn’t much preparation. I felt tired and decided to put in the effort I was putting in as an employee to my passion project.
I realized that I let fear lead me with my previous business (a catering business) and held on to my job for safety. If I risked and put in effort in it I would have excelled but I am using those lessons to make this business a success now.”
Biggest challenge in one year in Business
“It was finding a way to cut costs and getting a reliable supplier. When you have to import a few supplies there are always delays at the port and I had to face that.
There has also been the challenge of working with people who don’t get my vision.
I wish I did more research on the suppliers when starting, that’s the one thing I wish I knew. That has taught me to do research before I get somebody to provide certain products or services. I don’t jump on the first person; I do more research on others.”
The work on self
As an entrepreneur one has to find ways to stay sane. I ask Beatrice this question as she enjoys a four days holiday in Watamu, at the coast region. A holiday meant to relax as she sets her personal and business goals.
“I am preparing myself for success. I read a lot of books now, listen to business and personal podcasts and videos. I have also done two short courses on entrepreneurship and managing money. I try to be fit mentally before everything else.
I am working on finding balance with being a mum and a business lady. I am blessed to be working from home at the moment and getting to see my kid more.
I have grown. I am more positive and see no limit to what I can achieve. I am building a strong muscle and changing my habits to become a better leader and a team player.
I don’t attract bad things to my life so I am conscious of my thoughts and what I say. I do have bad days but I will have a moment and then bounce back. Life isn’t always easy so I try to not stay in the low because the high moments are coming.”
Her two cents on starting a business
“Most people want to follow the in thing now despite not being good at it.
Look at what you enjoy doing effortlessly and don’t fix yourself in one thing. Keep redefining and you will find that, one thing leads to another. All the jobs I have taken have led me here, to doing what I am doing.
When the idea pops in your mind, don’t overthink it, do it. Research, look at your competitors and see how well you can do it yourself. There is always a better way to do it.”