University art turns into clothing business

Laban Totona, owner of Savannah Apparel [Courtesy]

While in his third year at Kenya Multimedia University studying electrical and telecommunications engineering, Laban Totona started a clothing business.

The Savannah Apparel brand sells hoodies, jackets, t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants and headwear.

It started as a self-fulfilling activity where Totona, then 20 years old, branded his own clothes. But around 2018, friends started to take an interest in her skills and also wanted their clothes branded.

“Between 2019 and 2020, I seriously thought about making it a business,” he says, and took the idea to social media.

Totona – who says his ability to make new friends who “naturally turn out to be my customers and followers” is his best business trait – was joined by his current business partner, Naserian Kimorgo, later in the business.

Customer subscribers

The two jointly run Savannah Apparel, whose following on Instagram and Facebook often results in sales.

“Instagram and Facebook push traffic to our business WhatsApp account, where we receive most of our orders,” Totona explains.

“We also have a website that clearly describes us, the products we sell and also directs customers to our physical store on Accra Road in Nairobi’s central business district.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic held the economy by the neck and threatened livelihoods, e-commerce was touted as the solution. But it didn’t work for everyone.

Business people have tried to harness the power of social media to make sales and while some have been successful, others have found little refuge in it. Totona was one of the lucky ones.

Nonetheless, customer traffic has been affected by the pandemic as declining profits hurt sales.

“The pandemic had a drastic effect on sales as they dropped to 30% of normal numbers (before the pandemic),” he says.

When he was drawn into the fashion industry, first as a simple enthusiast and then as a businessman, Totona didn’t expect to be as immersed in art as he was. ‘is today.


But how did he come up with the name Savannah and what effect does that have on the business?

“The savannah is a culture, an atmosphere, a movement,” he says. “Our beloved country Kenya is in the savannah region. Savannah is home to our famous wildlife and Kenya is our home, which means Savannah is our home.

“We should wear Savannah at all times, no apologies! ”

Savannah Apparel has three professional tailors, two graphic designers and three employees in the branding shop, a photographer and more than 20 salespeople working on commission.

Totona claims the company is dedicated to providing quality service while providing prompt delivery and offers.

He talks about success in the online business, and many would love to give it a try. But how difficult is it to operate online stores?

While the biggest complaint about online marketplaces comes from buyers, who claim they aren’t getting what they’re ordering or that they’ve been duped in other ways, sellers have their concerns too.

E-commerce vs physical purchases

Globally, after what seemed like the start of a transition to e-commerce, many people have returned to buying in person. This is for different reasons, the least of which is the refusal to accept the change.

“I prefer to do it myself, because when I have been shopping online there are cases where I did not receive what I ordered,” Michelle Atieno, a student, told recently. Enterprise.

“I ordered air pods but when I received the package there was only one. And it wasn’t working properly, I couldn’t charge it.

Lucy Ngina was not yet ready to buy online, especially since she cannot buy without haggling over the price.

“You cannot trade online. There, it is settled. That’s why it’s always easier to buy in person. The price drops most of the time, ”she said.

Others mentioned the link they have with the merchant who can grant them credit at any time.

But sellers also have their own issues with e-commerce.

“Most customers are not sure about their size,” Totona explains. “Then they’ll complain when they place orders for clothes that don’t fit. ”

“Others place orders but don’t pick up their products. ”

But e-commerce, says the young managing director, will be a complete market for literally everything in the years to come, and “is easy and efficient to monitor compared to physical selling.”

Customer base

Most clients in Savannah are adults, with 70% of clients being women. It is estimated that 80 percent of clients are working class while the rest are students.

In a month, Savannah Apparel sells up to 80 hoodies, 100 t-shirts, 70 sweatpants, 80 sweatpants, 100 caps, 80 polo shirts, 50 custom, 30 jackets and 30 varsity jackets.

Clothing prices range from Sh 500 for headgear to Sh 2500 for hoodie. With a loyal online customer base at the start of the business and a consistent quality offering, referrals continue to flow.

“Online tracking primarily results in sales through social influence. The sales volume also depends on how often we publish, ”Totona explains.

“Most of our clients are referrals. Our quality products tend to attract more customers who refer us to other customers to try our products and the cycle continues.

“We also strive to retain our original customers through various incentives such as discounts and free professional photographs. ”

He wants to make Savannah the number one local fashion spot, “a favorite place to shop while naturally infiltrating markets outside Kenya.”

After all, getting into selling online is all about making friends, earning their loyalty by offering quality, and being consistent.

Totona feels he has found a way to do it.

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