Olive Gachara has accomplished more than most people will in their entire lives — and she’s not yet 30 years old. She’s opened a modeling agency, earned a business degree, built her own consultancy, advised fashion publications, and published a magazine.
Gachara may make it look easy, but she’s encountered her fair share of setbacks like any good entrepreneur. In 2004, at only 17, she signed up for Miss Malaika Kenya. She didn’t win. In fact, she wasn’t even a finalist. She says she was too thin and too young at the time. Still, the experience proved instructive. Her early foray into pageantry paved the way for a career in “fashionpreneurship”, as she likes to refer to it.
One year after her stint in Miss Malaika, Gachara started KINKEY Modeling and Talent Agency. Gachara’s youthful exuberance had her knocking on every door she deemed business worthy. After two years of running her modeling agency, she was approached to be a magazine fashion stylist. She has since run fashion editorials for local and regional magazines ranging from African Womanand Kenya Yetu to Prestige Signature and mSafiri. She’s now the publisher of COUTURE Africamagazine.
At 21, Gachara knew she wasn’t going to be, “running around backstage at 50”, touching up models’ makeup. A friend of hers introduced her to image consulting, where consultants help clients look their best; the field fused all of the things she loved into one career. And with that, Gachara was off to the Swiss Management Academy, where she earned a business management degree in entrepreneurship. She went even further and earned a professional certification in image consultancy from ImageAsia.
In July 2011, at age 25, Gachara launched Image with Olive, an image consultancy. Her business offers services on personal branding, communication skills, professional image, and etiquette. Gachara now counts multinational corporations among her cilents, including Barclays, CFC Stanbic Bank, Farmer’s Choice, and KPMG.
How are you able to balance running Image with Olive and COUTURE Africa?
It is a delicate balance that requires 100% commitment. I am generally married to my work — lucky for me, I love what I do. The only routine I have is our weekly status meetings, which dictate how the rest of my week will flow.
As an image consultant, 90% of my workshops and seminars are scheduled well over one month in advance. This helps me plan for and work around my sessions. I also have great teams at the magazine and image consultancy that keep everything running smoothly.
Do you get intimidated at times approaching clients?
I used to, but not anymore. I remember saying over and over again how bad I am at sales. But I quickly realized I had to change that monologue if I wanted to achieve my goals. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be a great salesperson. I am definitely putting myself out there more. If you ask, there is a 50 to 80% chance you will get a “no”, but if you do not ask, you have guaranteed yourself a 100% “no”.
I remember saying over and over again how bad I am at sales. But I quickly realized I had to change that monologue if I wanted to achieve my goals. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be a great salesperson.
Did you ever feel like giving up? How did you persevere?
When things are hard, or business is tough, I try to take time away — remove myself from the situation and regroup mentally. That prevents panic and unnecessary heartache. I remove myself for two hours or two days, depending on the situation and how much time I have before “everything falls apart”. That goes a long way in giving me clarity and focus.
I open up to mentors, business partners, and family, especially in tough situations. They see things from different perspectives and help figure out a way through, over, or under.
I have wanted to give up twice in my life; it was very difficult to go through. But it only took a teeny, tiny speck of “hanging in there”, and everything looked better than before.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Should capital be a huge concern?
You have to love what you do. Don’t do it for money, fame, or recognition; do it because you believe with every speck of your being that that is what you are meant to be doing. Everything else will fall into place.
When it comes to capital, only look for it if you really need it. If you are able to get things done without a bank loan or outside investment, start. Then plough back all the profits into growing the business. If you absolutely need capital to get started, there are lots of ways to get funding from banks, individual investors, and investment groups. You may find it easier to get money for expansion rather than start up. So wherever you are, whatever your situation, just start!
What life mantra keeps you going?
I have three:
- Fake it till you become it; life is all about creating yourself.
- It’s never that serious. (It really never is.)
- I also follow the Kaizen approach, the Japanese practice of continuous improvement.