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How Keziah Olooh, GSC2018 Finalist is solving garbage problem in Mombasa through recycling.

At Youth Empowerment Program Initiative (YEPI), our vision is to enable economic opportunities for young people in Mombasa and Kenya as a whole. One way we do this is through the Governors Startup Challenge (GSC), YEPI's first innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem where young people compete to develop new solution to community challenges. The intense, local competition culminates with the Boot camp, where 10 finalist from the coast region compete and make connections with both seasoned entrepreneurs and their fellow competitors. We asked 2018 GSC Finalist Keziah Oloo, founder of KEZIAM Designs, about her entrepreneurial journey. Here's what she shared:

Greetings Keziah, nice to meet you. What is the story behind starting your business?

Keziam is a fashion design business that I founded in 2017 which focuses on making eco-friendly outfits such as shoes, clothes, bags, reusable diapers and sanitary towels out of waste destined to the landfill. We ensure a clean environment around us by reducing, reusing and recycling waste to produce fashionable products. The idea of starting Keziam Designs was birthed after many years of walking from one office to another looking for employment. It is one of the forums that I attended which helped me realize that entrepreneurship would help me utilize my talent to solve unemployment and environmental problems in Mombasa. Since then I decided not to look for jobs anymore but to use my talent to create jobs for myself and community. With a startup capital of 1000 Kenya shillings, I made my first pair of shoes from outgrown clothes – old jeans – that many regarded as waste. This is when the journey of KEZIAM started with the sole intention of reducing environmental pollution.

What is unique about your business and what service or solution does it offer?

Our products are authentic and originally made from local available materials. We provide a solution to the garbage problem in Mombasa, by reusing outgrown clothes to make quality products hence reducing landfill waste. Our reusable diapers and sanitary pads are affordable and reduces availability of polythene bags. At KEZIAM we also have a return after use policy which encourages responsible behavior in waste management.

What would you say has driven you to be successful in your business?

My key successful factor is that my products are affordable, environmental friendly and stand out in the market. We have managed to train and create employment to 5 vulnerable youth.

What challenges have you experienced since you started your business?

There have been several challenges especially on tools and equipment. Due to lack of adequate tools and equipment, most of our work is done manually and this slows down the production and profit. However, my success has been driven by the zeal to move on no matter the challenges.

How did you feel when you were selected to participate in GSC2018?

Am so grateful to YEPI and GSC2018 team for granting me this opportunity. It has given me the platform to grow my business, access mentorship and training that will help me achieve my goals. I can't hide how excited I was to be among the finalists. I am so humbled.

What plans do you have to expand your business?

As the business grows, I intend to expand to other regions and create employment to more youth while at the same time creating solutions to climate change. My long-term goal is to be a renowned international designer, establish a manufacturing company and start a foundation to help girls, women and youths.