Jonathan Lumbila is a 25 year old born in Congo and has since moved to Kenya. He studied computer science at Daystar University. He is also a fashion designer and a co-founder of KEBA Clothing – kebaclothing.com/store. It is an online clothing store which marries functionality, swag with a touch of African. The brand created four years ago is hoping make its way into being a household name in Kenya.
How did KEBA clothing come to be?
My friend and I love clothes and we would shop locally and often feel that the clothes did not represent who we are. Sometimes we would go ahead and alter them to fit our personalities. We began printing T-shirts with patriotic messages and eventually in July 2012, KEBA clothing came to be.
Patriotic to which country exactly?
Laughs. Kenya. I am officially a Kenyan.
What kind of clothes do you design?
We started with T-shirts now we are doing jumpsuits, sweat shirts, crop tops and recently started working on clutch bags.
Do you dress both men and women?
We started off dressing men but the market has grown and more women are now buying our products so the business caters to both.
Many have previously said that starting a business in Kenya is expensive, did you face the same challenge?
Oh yes. You need a decent amount of money to start a business in Kenya. We were lucky enough to get funding from family and recently a partner came on board, so we are at a good place. Also back in 2012 we did not have Huduma Centers. We moved from one office to another with documents just to register our business. It is much easier now easier.
Is the process easier back home?
Definitely no. Kenya is way ahead in terms of technology which has made running a business way smoother.
Which leads me to ask, why start a business here and not in Congo?
The idea struck when I was living here plus we got a lot of love from Kenyans so we figured why not? Plus my business partner resides in Kenya so it was an obvious choice.
Here I was thinking it is a Kenyan lady who made you stay.
(Blushes). Let’s just say I have a lot of investments in Kenya, both financially and emotionally.
What is the future of KEBA clothing?
We would love may be in the next five years to be among the best top ten brands in Africa. It would be nice to compete with the likes of Butan Clothing line and Uzi clothing line (South Africa), Enzi Footwear Company made in Ethopia and also Morrocco who are fantastic with sweaters and the likes. All these countries . for all materials locally which is what we aim for.
Describe KEBA’s style in three words
Urban Casual Wear
Do you have another job?
Yes I.T is my day job and then when the sun goes down, I am designing clothes, managing orders and planning for deliveries.
What do you do for fun?
I am very passionate about music so during weekends you will find me making music.That is my way of unwinding.
Wait how many jobs do you have?
If you are doing what you love, it never feels like work.
Given a choice between a career in IT, KEBA and music, what would you pick?
That is a tough one but my creative side is starting to take over, probably make more music. Of course KEBA is not going anywhere.
What is the one challenge your business has faced?
There is a lack of appreciation for quality clothes by the market. We like what they see but we are not willing to pay for it. We also tried to get local stores to carry our line but they declined which was a bit demoralizing. But thank God for digital now everyone who has access to the internet can access our clothes.
Last word to anyone who wants to do business?
Keba means attention in Lingala a Bantu language spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.