Students Spotlight: Lornah Mwangi, Founder L Designers Exclusive Limited
Lornah Nyambura Mwangi, is the founder of L Designers Exclusive Limited, an online clothing shop in Kenya. She shared with us her knowledge and experience from attending the One Young World (OYW) summit in Dublin, Ireland in October last year.
Tell us about yourself
I come from a family of 8 children, 3boys and 5girls am the 6th born.
I am a 4th year part-time student pursuing a degree in Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Management, taking a double major in Public Administration and Management of Non-Profit Organizations, at Strathmore University.
Tell us about One Young World
The organization was founded in 2009 by David Jones, Kate Robertson and Founding Corporate Partner Havas. It is a UK-based not-for-profit organization that empowers young bright individuals from across the world, through making lasting connections that create positive change in their respective countries. They conduct annual summits where the most valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGO’s, universities and other organizations are joined by world leaders, acting as the OYW Counsellors. At the summit, delegates debate, formulate and share innovative solutions for the pressing issues the world faces.
Some of the delegates involved with sharing their experiences at the summits included Mary Robinson Former Ireland President, Kofi Annan seventh Secretary General UN, Muhammad Yunus Founder Grameen bank and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Sir Richard Branson Virgin Group, President Bill Clinton, Sir Bob Geldof Musician and Activist, Paul Polman Global CEO Unilever, Caroline Mutoko Radio Africa Group, among many others.
How were you selected to attend the Summit?
I heard about this program in 2012, but it was too late to apply. In 2013, I was engaged in another project hence I was not able to attend. However during that year (2013) the idea to empower women in leadership positions who would not be able to access academic skills in order to lead effectively grew within me. Last year I began a project in PCEA church Bahati and Uhuru estate women welfare group. I used these projects to apply for the summit. The project involved; capacity building, resource development and guiding women leaders on how to manage their resources in time and funds. We also advised them on setting up proper structures such as cash flow recording systems, which work best for them and will ensure continuity and ease in transition after their tenure in office.
The application process involved giving a brief description of what one is currently doing to build there society, or what they intend to do in future and also what one is passionate about. Its at this stage that I discussed with them about my project and my vision for continuity of the social venture.
Funding was my biggest challenge. In 2013 and the previous years, Kenya Power sponsored Kenyan young leaders to attend the summit. However, last year they were not sponsoring anyone. So I had to find a sponsor from elsewhere.
Strathmore University was not able to sponsor me either, however they assisted me with cover letters confirming that am a student at the university and any assistance accorded to me will be appreciated. This added some umph to my sponsorship applications and also with getting my Irish visa.
I reached out to different companies and personalities such as; Specialized Power Systems Limited, Capital Group, Syngenta East Africa Ltd, Deloitte & Touche, Nestlé Kenya Limited, Nestlé Equatorial African Region, Equity Group Foundation etc.
Finally a local businessman agreed to sponsor me, on condition that once I finish my degree, I will work with them on a project for a minimum of six months. I was so thrilled and felt very blessed.
The funding I received catered for the summit fees, accommodation, airport transfers, food, city tours and the delegates packages however it excluded the air fare which I financed myself. It was a one week trip.
Benefits of attending this Summit
We are bestowed One Young World ambassadors titles, which one is allowed to quote as they work on initiatives or lend the power of the OYW network on existent projects of the same nature. Also if we ever need help in our projects, the organization will assist the best they can. They can even fund startups or necessities needed for projects success.
My first project was with two small groups, I hope to introduce the project to many other churches and groups who impact our society positively.
What drives your passion for entrepreneurship and excellence?
When my dad passed away in July 2012, I realized that I needed to stand up for my family and for myself. By Gods grace in the same year, I successfully closed a real estate deal that saw me get paid KSH 500,000 upfront. I used that money to start my online shop, and consequently stopped being employed because I started travelling to get more stock for sale from abroad. Luckily, since I started the business venture I have been able to fully finance my expenses, pay my school fees and now pay part of my sisters fees who is also studying fulltime a B.Com degree at Strathmore University.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years time?
Since I worked for a real estate developer, I developed a passion for real estate and I hope to start my own company and share my creative ideas with architects to develop remarkable structures.
I also hope to take up mentorship as I feel women have so much potential in our country but lack the drive, confidence and knowledge. I hope to inspire as many as I can, to do their best and stay at the top of things. The worst disaster would be to see women doing everything right, but they do not progress to greatness due to lack of skills.
Who is your Mentor?
Mrs. Mary Mugwanja, Senior Business Development Manager at Equity Supreme branch in Westlands. In her leadership position, Mrs. Mugwanja still finds time to relate with me and many young people, encouraging us and mentoring us to greatness. She has helped many find jobs and others get enrolled to secondary and primary schools. She recommended me to the real estate company where I ended up being offered the position. Her transformational leadership style is also one to admire as she inspires her team members because she expects the best from everyone and holds everyone accountable for their actions. She also encouraged me to get a facility at Equity bank for working capital in order to grow my business which am totally grateful for.
What advice would you give young ambitious students with vast ideas but do not know where to start?
Put the idea on paper, state the vision clearly then take the first step towards achieving the goals. Ultimately being responsible in the venture is an important ingredient for success as the quote says Responsibility is a test for Greatness
Please find the link to OYW Dashboard profile.
The next Summit will take place in Bangkok, Thailand 18th to 21st November 2015.