What is Ankara? Also known as Africa wax prints or Holland wax, this is a unique type of versatile fabric used to portray the African culture, art, tradition, and history from the textile and fashion industry. The conspicuous fabric is made from 100% cotton, usually colorful with a variant of tribal-like patterns uniformly distributed. This particular African texture is known as ‘Kitenge’ in East Africa and ‘Ankara’ in West Africa.
One distinct feature of the Ankara print is the layout and design printed on the textiles that are resistant to fading thanks to the wax techniques used while printing the textile that is deeply affiliated with African style and clothing. Across the world, thousands of people are proudly rocking the beautifully tailored Ankara fabrics that are extremely versatile when customized to various styles that can still be achieved with western-made fabrics.
If you are considering venturing into the Ankara business in Kenya, you might want to learn the basics of importing, selling, and distributing Ankara fabric and African prints; you are in the right place! Through the years, the Ankara Fabric has gained immense identity and popularity, and gone are the days where Africans exclusively wore ready-made clothes or second-hand clothes from overseas.
In Africa, Nigeria reportedly has the best quality of Ankara/ Kitenge Fabrics and if you are planning to start the business in Kenya, we have gathered some useful information in starting the Ankara business where you can earn up to 50% profits depending on your niche, marketing style, and products.
Steps involved in starting the Ankara Business in Kenya
- Learning the ropes of the business
- Formulating a business plan
- Deciding on a product niche
- Promoting and marketing
- Is the Ankara business profitable?
- How the business has been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Understanding the Ankara Business
Even though the business seems saturated in the Kenyan market presently, there is extensive room for creativity and innovation as the fabric can be used in sewing, event planning, decorations, craftsmanship, and styling. Creativity is key in this business and while shopping, you often come across Ankara shoes, bags, wallets, and even jewelry. Be different, your uniqueness is what will attract customers to you.
In this kind of business, it is important to launch your venture in up markets and urban centers where you can form a strong client base with producers, sewers, suppliers, and other creatives in the textile industry. Since the Ankara market trends and consumer demands are subject to change at any time, it is advisable to start small even if you possess the financial muscle to open a physical location for a shop.
In essence, do not wait for a big break to start the Ankara business, get knowledge, do some extensive research and continue learning on the job with the help of internet resources and advice from already established individuals. Production of the African fabric is done through a process called batik whereby designs are transferred to the cotton material using wax before coloring with dye. The outcome of the labor-intensive form of art is unique designs and if you come across the “crackling effect” (seeping color) on the textile, it was caused by a deliberate wax-resistant dyeing procedure.
Ankara prints are usually designed with the help of a computer before getting processed to different colorways through large industrial machines that are used to incorporate colors before or after the wax is added. Additionally, certain fabrics are finished with a shiny look depending on the desired outcome which weans off after the first initial washes. The price points for each Ankara material are influenced by the type of finish applied to the cloth and some can be very costly.
Business plan for the Ankara Fabric
As the demand for Ankara textiles surges across different parts of the country, you ought to know where to source the materials wholesale, the price points of Ankara in your local area, and how to yield maximum profits as a startup.
Acquiring the skills
Since you are deciding to specialize in selling unique and fashionable Ankara clothing, it will naturally yield profits only if you have certain skills that can be acquired from a reputable fabric & textile center or a talented tailor for apprentice training.
Material sourcing and prices
Since best quality fabrics are sourced from West Africa, a standard breakdown of 30 pieces landing in Kenya has an estimated cost of ksh.1500 per 6 yards and if multiplied by 30 the goods will cost about Ksh. 45,000. Exclusive of shipping charges. Shipping expenses are primarily affected by the weight of the unique textiles; freight delivery is fairly more expensive.
Each selected fabric can weigh up to 800 grams and the total weight of the merchandise can roughly weigh 25 kg. In this case, the best idea is shipping the beautiful Ankara textiles from Nigeria, which reportedly has a top-notch quality of Ankara/Kitenge fabrics on the continent.
Daviva and Vilsco are the most popular Ankara wholesale suppliers in Nigeria and by connecting with major distributors from the region, you get the leverage to explore various designs and textile finishings to choose from. Depending on your target market, there is low-grade Ankara and high-grade Ankara fabrics. Low grade is mostly shopped by lower-income earners while a higher grade of Ankara is majorly bought by high-income earners.
Targeting your niche
With a solid business plan, ask yourself who your main clients are and what is their average income? Having a business niche sets the tone on the particular group of people you are selling your items to. Some of the nitty-gritty you should be aware of is the type of fabric or texture as the main goal is attracting potential customers; are you selling ready-made Ankara clothing? Ankara fabric or Ankara craft work?
To increase the productivity of your business, learn the utilization techniques of Ankara textiles in the market and then pick a specialty to solely concentrate on until the business thrives for upgrades. It is ideal to have Ankara merchandise to be identified with at first as opposed to venturing into everything all at once.
Bearing in mind that African print and fabric layout is the point of inspiration while prospective clients are shopping, the fabric is extremely versatile and you can just come up with a variant of products from it. Be sure to incorporate your signature touch into your merchandise to stand out from existing competitive brands in the market. As your business grows, focus on your strongholds and later branch out to other categories.
There are several untapped Ankara business ideas in Kenya you can venture into like; ready to wear ankara clothes and accessories, ankara fabrics, ankara shoes, handbag and bracelets, ankara semi-portraits or eco- friendly ankara shopping bags, wall hangings, furniture, beddings, African print notebooks among others. Let the market trends and customer preferences be your guide whilst focusing on areas you can quickly excel in.
Once you have figured out your target niche, rent a space where customers can window shop and buy your Ankara Fabrics or products, for instance, a zone in the downtown area or a shopping complex. Settle in an area with high foot traffic and furnish the place to your interior design tastes by adding display glasses, mannequins and your merchandise will be well represented well while offering a real storage capacity.
To let your products take center stage within your shop, try a clear glass to visually lighten up the space. Keeping your merchandise safe, clean and secure, involves not overlooking your locations’ security. Be Innovate and create your own unique and secure measures to minimize cases of theft and other damages at your shop.
How to distinguish between original and fake Ankara
Notably, Ankara is considered to be the most sophisticated type of African clothing, and creative fashion brands manufactureAnkara prints on other types of fabrics like spandex, silk, chiffon not forgetting leggings and socks. Attributing Ankara to its unique Holland waxing style, there is a rise in the textile’s demand due to its beautiful appearance. However, there is a surge in fake Ankara fabric which has evoked negative publicity towards sellers, and if you are not informed or in contact with genuine suppliers. you may incur hefty losses as your customers are able to tell the difference.
To distinguish between the real and fake textiles of African heritage, the latter is rigid and crispy when touched, wrinkles easily and qualities like frayed and rough edges are noticeable most of the time. Even if given the benefit of the doubt, the process of folding fake Ankara is similar to folding paper; an outright indicator that the fabric is substandard. High quality or genuine Ankara on the other hand feels soft when touched apart from being flexible and easily foldable with neat edges.
The price range of Ankara fabrics in Kenya
Across the country, there is no definite price for Ankara materials. You should make a point of visiting the Nairobi Textile center to source wholesale Ankara fabric if you are unable to ship directly from West Africa. The price points of your business will largely be influenced by the quality, brand, and the time of year you are making the purchases.
The Ankara fabrics are usually on the higher side during festive seasons and weekend festivities and capitalizing on such celebrations can earn your business good profits. On average, however, top-quality Ankara retails between Ksh. 900 for six yards whereas others are sold Sh750 at wholesale enterprises like Kitenge house.
Take the lead and offer middle to higher price points if your physical location is quite a significant distance from town centers where prices are subsidized to a common scale for competitive advantage purposes. Even though the original Ankara materials are expensive, purchasing in bulk for reselling can lead to discounts because big Ankara bundles maximize the chances of earning bigger profits in the long haul.
Promoting and marketing
Once again, the element of creativity, quality uniqueness, and product niche go a long way in marketing your Ankara textile business across digital data-driven platforms, social media, and your physical location. Visually, a properly customized business captures the gaze of curious customers both online and offline and this creates a sense of perspective on the products your business offers as well as the price points.
Even more precise; publicize your Ankara venture via web-based marketing media, client referrals, digital marketing tools, and special offers. Additionally, distribute flyers and posters to attract other artists, sewers, etc in need of your Ankara fabric into your workstation. Creatively showcase your everyday products both online, offline, and referrals for good returns. There are plenty of well-to-do online Ankara shops that don’t own physical locations.
Is the Ankara business profitable?
Presently, Ankara materials are widely used across the African continent because the fabric has different grades and prices. Providing your customers with high-end yet affordable products will set you apart in the industry hence more profit and growth opportunities. Since the beautifully plaid textile is mostly used for special occasions and everyday wear, network with fellow industry players to boost your business and sell at full capacity when clients are shopping for particular Ankara goods.
How the business has been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic
According to industrial reports, the textile and fashion industry was adversely affected by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic to a point of canceling flights; physical shopping, and most buyers were encouraged to shop online. For African print fashion revolutionaries, these circumstances forced them to tap into their creativity given the level of Ankara overproduction that preceded the crisis whereby manufacturers, suppliers, and creatives never projected the outcome of the global crisis towards their venture.
Across the board, there was an unexpected hiatus in manufacturing Ankara textiles since special occasions and social events were canceled and many Ankara garment producers and suppliers lost their business and income as a result of the infection which limited access to social or financial safety nets. In response to the pandemic, many Ankara manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers are only selling goods that have been financially cleared in advance.
Through social media, Ankara artisan groups, local crafts-based communities, and other home-based workers are intensively marketing, selling, and delivering their products to stay afloat because of desperate economic circumstances as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.