Meet Rosemary Kathambi’s of clothing business famous of plastic dummies

By Milliam Murigi
Wednesday, September 30th, 2020
Rossemary Kathambi, the founder of Display Material ke. TOP: Some mannequins she sells. Photo/PD/MILLIAM MURIGI
In summary
    • She was born and brought up in Tigania East constituency in Meru.
    • Her father was a farmer and used to delegate managerial duties to her and that is where she got her entrepreneurial skills.
    • She is the fourth  born in a family of six and the only daughters.
    • She attended Mikinduri Primary and  Muthambi Girls High schools.

A mention of Rosemary Kathambi’s name to anyone in the clothing business reveals to you how famous she is with the plastic dummies from which she has created a niche.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

“I ventured into this business by default. When I was growing up I always wanted to be in the corporate world.

That is why immediately after school I secured a job in that sector,” starts Kathambi.

She attended Kenyatta University, where she earned a degree in financial economics.

She was lucky enough to secure a job immediately upon graduation as an accountant and later transitioned to sales and marketing a position which acted as an eye-opener.

Kathambi’s love for a well-organised space made her, in January last year, go to the market looking for hangers for her closet.

Armed with Sh2,000 she bumped into some unique hangers and she couldn’t resist posting them on a certain Facebook group under a tagline “aren’t they beautiful?”.

People who came across the post thought she was selling the hangers and orders started flowing in.

She couldn’t let the opportunity pass; that is how she started her business while she was still employed.

After a while, the demand was so high and she had to turn one of her rooms into a store.

“I was buying those hangers for my own use, but when orders started flowing I grabbed that opportunity and started supplying hangers.

Since I was doing it as a side hustle I was selling purely online,” says Kathambi.

Opportunity gap

In April the same year, she lost her job and by the next month her side hustle became her main hustle.

She had mastered the business so well such that she was able to satisfy all clients who came her way.

She even expanded to other display materials and that is how Display Material ke was born— a business that deals with all products needed for visual aesthetics in a boutique or shop. Her target market is people in the clothing and cosmetic industries.

“At first I thought that the business couldn’t pay my bills, but I was wrong. I kept applying for a new job, but I never got another opportunity.

As a result, I decided to concentrate on my business fully and unleash its full potential.

By July I was fully convinced I needed not to be employed again,” she explains.

One day, Kathambi came across a Facebook post where someone was looking for mannequins.

After going through the replies she learned that there was a gap in this front; nobody was selling them and most people were following to know where to get them.

“I did my research and learned that very few people were selling mannequins, and the available ones were a bit costly.

I decided to incorporate them into my business with an aim of bringing the cost down,” she explains.

For a start she bought 10 mannequins and sold all of them. She ploughed back the profit and increased her stock.

She even got a physical shop at the OTC, Nairobi because most customers don’t trust online sellers.

She also started outsourcing locally produced mannequins because they are cheaper compared to the imported ones.

“There are different types of mannequins such as kids, adults, maternity, swimwear, lingerie, athletic, with head and without, etc.

If you want your business to be successful you need all these because you will be getting different customers,” she adds.

Her pricing has given her a competitive edge in the market. She has been able to change the type of display materials in Kenya.

Her dream is to have her own mannequin-manufacturing plant since it will drastically lower the price of these products not fully embraced in the business world.

“Price has been the main reason most people aren’t willing to invest in mannequins.

But now that we have locally produced and cheaper options, the trend is changing and many businesses have now embracing mannequins.”

Relevant content

To her, the future of mannequins is bright because they act as a one-off model and people have started embracing the products and are willing to invest in them. 

Mannequins help a business in pricing their clothes, improve the aesthetics, especially in a boutique, and help customers to get to know how the pieces look like when worn.

And to ensure that she caters for both high end and low-end customers, the prices range from Sh200 to Sh20,000. She is also planning to expand her business to other counties.

Though she gets most of her clients through social media she advises entrepreneur to avoid trying to be on all platforms at once. 

It can be overwhelming to differentiate between them and to post relevant content consistently. 

They should pick one outlet their audience is likely on and master it before adding another one.

“Over time, you will see which outlets are most relevant to you,” she says.