Wilkings Fadhili, Fashion Torch Africa’ founder and CEO talks about fashion and his desire to make fashion and other creative brands grow into sustainability. Jenny Nyawira puts his story into perspective. The following is an excerpt of the conversation, edited for length and clarity.
At just 25 years, Wilkings is the founder of not one but two fast growing companies. One of them, Fashion Torch Africa, has gained global recognition that saw him land a Sh16.5 million investment dealership from a US based firm. He is indeed an inspiration to many young people that with a powerful vision, anything is achievable.
DA: Who is Wilkings Fadhili?
Wilkings: Wilkings is this entrepreneur with deep passion in creating solutions to top problems faced in Africa and making the world better than the way he found it.
DA: Having studied Mass Communication and Public Relations, how did you find yourself in the fashion industry?
Wilkings: Well, after school, I worked in a local media station. I was also a model. However, I realised there were a lot of things I could do apart from just being a model and a news writer. So I quit my job. I thought of the value I could add in the fashion industry, and pap! The idea of Fashion Torch Incubation Hub was born.
DA: Tell us more about Fashion Torch Africa? How was it born?
Wilkings: Fashion Torch Africa Incubation was born from the desire to see fashion and creative brands grow into sustainability, something that’s really money making. It is also one of the activities that contribute to the growth of the Kenyan economy.
DA: What inspired you to start Fashion Torch?
Wilkings: I realised fashion and creative brands can be handled and nurtured into a real business entity just like any other. Therefore, I thought why not create a brand that helps and nurtures these fashionistas and creatives?
DA: What about the incubation hub?
Wilkings: Fashion Torch Incubation hub is a rebrand of Fashion Torch Africa. Fashion Torch Africa started as a public relations, events and Modelling agency. But then again, I realized I wanted to do more than just that. I then brought in the incubation hub aspects and operations. Currently, we are just Fashion Torch Incubation Hub connecting fashion and creative brands to mentors, trainers, investors as well as business development.
DA: Recently you were awarded a grant of Sh16.5 million by a US-based company. Tell us more about it?
Wilkings: I inked a deal worth Sh16.5 million from a US based investment firm, which is specifically intended to grow the business and help other businesses under us grow.
DA: Highlights of your experiences as a speaker at the Blaze and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit?
Wilkings: It was such an honor being a speaker and mentor at Blaze. My best feeling was having the opportunity to inspire youth, teaching them how to start and grow a business.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit came when I was just scaling up in business. It was an honor learning from top business leaders from all over the world and of course sharing a platform with them especially the former President of United States Barack Obama.
DA: Tells us more about StartUpNow?
Wilkings: StartUpNow is a management company which I started in November 2016. The vision is to equip entrepreneurs, connect them with investors through our monthly StartUpNow Entrepreneurs Hangout and our main summit and help brands grow into businesses that solve top problems faced in Africa.
DA: What are your other key milestones?
Wilkings: I was named Top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs in 2015 by the Business Daily Africa survey.
Fashion Torch was also named as one of top fast growing midsized companies in East and Central Africa.
DA: Have you faced challenges?
Wilkings: First, it was people failing to believe in our vision and concept. However, I learned one should keep doing what you think you are pretty good at.
DA: What advice can you give to young people who are interested in joining the fashion industry?
Wilkings: Aspiring fashion entrepreneurs must have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and the value they want to add in the industry. They must be authentic.
DA: Current trends in the industry?
Wilkings: ‘Pharell Williams hats’ are now a fashion trend.
DA: Going forward, what should we expect from you?
Wilkings: I hope to create more jobs and help brands grow through Fashion Torch Incubation and StartUpNow.