December 5, 2008
We interview Thomas of Uhuru Clothing Co.
TM: What does your label name, ‘Uhuru’, mean?
UC: Uhuru is a Swahili word meaning ‘freedom’. Uhuru Clothing Co. represents a call to all of Africa to stand up and claim their freedom from illiteracy, poverty and disease. It is time for the African people to be emancipated from the chains that bind them economically and socially and this can only be achieved through a unified continent-wide effort.
TM: When did you decide that t-shirts was your thing?
UC: Well I was in the mall during Christmas in 2007 trying to find a shirt that had an African theme or image and every store I went to I was surprised to see that there was no item that had anything that represented Africa. So I made one myself and everywhere I went my friends kept asking me where I bought my shirt thus the ideas was born. Next couple of weeks I printed about 36 shirts and sold out with a week.
TM: How long have you been in the t-shirt biz? And what have you learned?
UC: We have been in the t shirt biz since Dec 2007. One the most important things I have leant is one has to be consistent, in both quality and promise of delivery and to always accept feedback from the people who purchase your merchandise.
TM: How did you decide to make your line of t-shirts based around Kenya?
UC: Both my girlfriend and I were born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and even though we have lived in the United States for close to 10 years now, we are still strongly influenced by our Kenyan heritage. It is important to note that even though many of our shirts are centered on Kenya, Uhuru Clothing Co. considers itself an African t-shirt company and would like its message to ring true not just for Kenyans but for all Africans.
TM: Which of your shirts has been a customer favorite?
UC: I would have to say it’s a 2 way tie. One is the ‘UC classic’ which is the white shirt with the black map of Africa on the front and the Uhuru Clothing name across the bottom has been by far the customer favorite. I think this is because even though it is simple in design, it is a great representation of the Uhuru Clothing’s core values. The ‘dark continent’ as it has often been referred to is standing out from the rest of the world as a force to be reckoned with. The second is the ‘One Nation One People’ this is one that has the Kenya coat of arms at the front. This design was inspired by the post election violence that took place in January this year, after a month of fighting in Kenya I felt we all wanted to feel as one nation and one people.
TM: Do your run your label alone or do you have a team?
UC: I have been fortunate enough to have friends who share my vision and believe in the brand as much as I do. My girlfriend, Naomi is instrumental in all design development and her opinion is greatly valued. Also enough cannot be said about Rosslyn W, Ced N, Natasha N, Vanessa K, Peter M and Moses T. Who all push me to develop a better product then the last, their advice, criticism and encouragement has been a big factor in achieving success.
TM: What has been your best marketing vehicle in attracting customers?
UC: Our best marketing tool has been a combination of online marketing tools as well as word of mouth. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have played a pivotal role in getting the word out but I have also heavily relied on my customers returning to buy more t-shirts and more importantly telling their friends about them. My greatest asset has been indeed the people who buy the shirts.
TM: What’s in the works for the future of Uhuru Clothing?
UC: We are looking to expand to showcase our designs on shorts and later in the year to include hoodies and sweaters. We are also in talks with a certain high end clothing store in Kenya to eventually have a store front where our product may be sold in Kenya as we have received numerous requests to have the shirts in Africa. We feel diversity is very important and we are also looking into doing soccer and rugby jerseys by years end.
TM: What tips could you give to others trying to get into the t-shirt business?
UC: I would have to say believe in your brand and don’t give up, surround yourself with positive people who share your vision as these are people you will need when things get tough. David Brinkley once said “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him” Also last but not least don’t sacrifice quality of the product for a bigger profit because at the end of the day people will always choose quality over price.
Before I go I would like to thank you for taking the time to learn more about Uhuru Clothing and helping get a step closer to our goal of informing people about what Africa has to offer. Last but not least I would like to thank all those people who have supported us from day 1.
Check out the Uhuru Clothing Co. shop.