My name is Erick Kivuva, commonly known as Ryk Mchoraji. I am a free-style fashion artist. I design and make hand-painted, airbrushed and embroidery art T-shirts and polo shirts. I wanted to own the kind of tees I make when I was young but they were too expensive. This is partly why I got into this business. I am naturally conservative but I find expression in my work which is mainly inspired by Africa but also by color, women, family, music and street life. I started designing tees back in high school and sold them in exchange for loaves of bread.
When I was in campus, I started getting a bit of cash from selling the t-shirts and business was good especially during campaigns. But the turning point was when I was featured in a TV show where my work was highlighted. My phone could not stop ringing after that. Life changed for the better since that day.
I think I am business-minded first before an artist. I somehow naturally understand that money counts and it’s the bottom-line. As an artist, you can easily be engrossed by the beauty you create and forget to transform your art into a business. I studied Economics and Sociology in University and I have used some principles taught in class especially in human behavior to my advantage in converting contacts to business. In this industry, you need money to buy paint, pay for photo shoots, hire editors and upgrade your equipment. So you need to run it like a professional business otherwise you can’t keep your artistic passion burning.
Reputation in business is very important. I build my brand over time by ensuring every piece is of the highest quality possible: 100 percent cotton, acrylic paints and good stitch workmanship. I ensure my products are unique and better than what is available in the market. For a band to grow it requires the potential consumers to be aware that it exists. Luckily, in this age of social media, spreading the word is a bit cheaper and faster. Once you set the high standard, and maintain it, customers will come back and refer their friends to your products or services.
I have not been strong on the event scene since 2010 – partly my fault and partly the business’ fault too …. Lately it’s had to be a part time job while I focus on growing the other projects I’m involved in, but I plan to refocus my attention on it soon.
I dress nearly 90 percent of the DJs in Kenya and a relatively large percentage of international ones. My biggest sales in 2012 were international exports. People in the Diasporas appreciate the lengths I go to make my Tees differently. I also get orders from tourism firms, entertainment firms, company casual friday outfits and many Kenyans on the street who have seen my products on their pals and family.