This CEO quit her career as a UN business advisor to launch one of Kenya’s top fashion brands

Dollita Okine June 27, 2023
Since its inception, Vivo Activewear has developed into one of Kenya's top fashion brands, with 14 locations throughout the nation and a reputation for chic, yet reasonably priced clothing. Photo Credit: Instagram, Wandia Gichuru

CEO and co-founder of Vivo Activewear, Wandia Gichuru worked as an international business advisor for the UK government, the United Nations, and the World Bank prior to founding the business, according to Africa Middle East News.

According to Wandia, moving from one nation to another wasn’t as exciting and exhilarating as it used to be. She also had two daughters, whose lives she couldn’t completely keep track of because of the demands of her hectic corporate life. Each time she relocated to a new country, she had to move with them.

She had been unsure of her career goals for about a year and had experienced what appeared to be a typical midlife crisis in her mid-40s – she spent her days engaging in dance, exercise, and yoga.

In 2011, she eventually teamed up with her friend and business partner, Anne Marie Burugu, to launch Vivo Activewear, a retail clothing business that would provide stylish, casual clothing for sporty women, and business attires for professional women.

In an interview with The East African, Wandia said “Vivo came at a time when I was in transition in my personal life,” noting that the first shop was a modest area that fortunately, was well-placed and crucial to the brand’s introduction.

The partners had originally thought of Vivo as an online brand shop to compete with well-known domestic and international brands that occupy the majority of space in malls, but they lacked a clear business plan, strategy, or funding for it. Regardless, they jumped in headfirst without pausing.

Vivo, which is Latin for “in the living,” was established out of a passion for dancing and physical fitness. The name was chosen to reflect this and to directly relate to the brand.

Since its inception, the company has developed into one of Kenya’s top fashion brands, with 14 locations throughout the nation and a reputation for chic, yet reasonably priced clothing. It has established a reputation for creating designs that are bold, colorful, and frequently edgy.

The business also owns e-commerce platform, Shop Zetu, which it uses to sell both its own designs and products from independent manufacturers and retailers.

“We did not have a plan of what it would become or imagine Vivo would be what it is now,” Wandia told The East African. However, her strong business background has immensely contributed to the development of the brand.

Born to a Kenyan father and a Canadian mother, Wandia frequently traveled back and forth between the two nations to go to school in her early years. She later completed her graduate studies in business administration at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

In addition to juggling the daily demands of managing a prosperous fashion chain, she also finds time to work as a life coach, frequently invest in Kenya’s version of Dragon’s Den – called Lion’s Den, and also serve as a trustee for the Charles & Rita Field-Marsham and Mbugua Rosemary Foundations.

Wandia Gichuru firmly believes that women play a crucial role in realizing the potential of the continent and in the strength of African trade. In accordance with this belief, she strives to change lives; empowering women through training, employment, and the support of small, independent businesses run by women.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 27, 2023


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