You’ve probably heard it before. Business is simply identifying a need in your environment and filling it with a suitable easy to use product. Well, that’s exactly what Kenyan entrepreneur WANJIRU WAWERU did with her start-up, Funkidz.
Just as the mother of two was about to give birth to her first born, she ran into a problem. She could not find suitable furniture for young babies and toddlers, not in the Kenyan market. Instead of lamenting how hard it is to find quality on the continent, she decided to provide that quality herself and in 2010, the then 41-year-old opened up her business in Nairobi.
They specialise in a wide range of furniture designs for children from ages 0-16 including cots, change units, junior beds, bunk beds, tables, chairs, storage units and much more. However, Waweru’s interests do not stop with the manufacture of these high quality products. Funkidz sponsors the Kidz Go Tech sessions, a club offering exposure to robotics and other engineering concepts, including the opportunity to learn, create, apply and produce technology in a stimulating and informal environment. The focus here is children’s ‘edutainment’ for home and school. She is able to let the children have fun while they learn new things through augmented reality.
But she’s not done yet. The latest Funkidz brand is Funtreatz, a confectionery unit that specialises in cupcakes and cookies for baby showers, birthdays and special days. This is an excellent example of how starting with one idea can lead to a complex web of better ideas while uplifting your community.
Her dreams stretch far and wide; she wants to create a global brand such as IKEA, renowned Scandinavian modern style furniture and accessories shop.
It’s not been smooth sailing all through, though. With her technology based designs, Waweru found a gap in the skills market. She did not despair though, and took the few technicians working at her outfit for retraining at a German agency based in the city.
Another thing she has encountered is nay-sayers doubting the lack of ‘authentic African feel’ to her products. To this, her stand is clear: “We need to stop putting things in a label, in a box, and saying this isn’t African enough… What does that even mean? Through our design and products, we hope to bridge that stereotype gap… where you look African and therefore your furniture must also look African,” she told Face2Face Africa.
She’s not all talk though. The architecture graduate enrolled at the Lutheran Church’s carpentry training facility to learn first-hand, before venturing into the business.
Check out her kid-friendly furniture here.