Nancy Akoth Abonyo, a Kenyan fashion guru in Thailand tells the world a mesmerizing story of the entrepreneurial wit, and resilience Kenyans possess.
Hers is an interesting story of an open-minded minded woman who never let her tribulations in life pin her down.
But, above all, she flies the Kenyan flag high in the fashion world – not forgetting she is in a foreign land. Even better, she is a chemical engineer who found her passion in fashion design.
Who is Nancy Akoth Abonyo?
Nancy Akoth Obonyo grew up in Homabay County. She attended school here all through.
She was fortunate to be accepted into the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Western Cape Province to study chemical engineering, a traditionally male-dominated field of study.
With a sense of accomplishment and confidence that she would land a job after graduation, the tables turned.
As ‘female black’ engineers in South Africa, they were regularly told getting a job wouldn’t be too hard. However, life had other surprises for her after completing her course.
Once Akoth returned to Kenya following her graduation, she was eager to start job hunting. She applied for a slew of positions.
A year later, she was still jobless and disappointed after putting so much effort into studying the course. It would later dawn on her that only 30% of her classmates back in South Africa got a job.
How Did Nancy Akoth Abonyo End Up in Thailand?
Nancy Akoth Abonyo was at her patience end, just like many other unemployed Kenyan graduates.
Frustration was her daily dose, and the tarmacking only made her despair. Then, her brother living in Thailand gave her an idea to visit him while she figured out her next move.
“I was not doing so well due to the frustration of tarmacking. Luckily, my brother was working in Thailand by then, so he suggested that I join him there for a few months just to refresh as I figured out what next,” she told Vice Versa.
As part of her plan for the future, she enrolled at Stamford International University in Bangkok for an MBA in International Business Management.
“Having an experience in a technical course, I felt I needed to study something that relates to people. My assumption was that marrying these two would give me a better chance of securing a job but sadly, that was never the case.
“After my master’s graduation equally did countless job applications to a point where I gave up. I went back to Kenya to try my luck yet again but it was all in vain I equally did countless job applications to a point where I gave up. I went back to Kenya to try my luck yet again but it was all in vain,” she says.
She returned to Thailand ready to make it in life. She already studied the culture there and realized people are friendly.
Akoth secured a job as a teacher in a government-sponsored Thailand high school.
Most schools in Thailand don’t require a teaching certificate. A bachelor’s degree is good enough. She excelled in mathematics which is what she taught.
How Did Nancy Akoth Abonyo End Up Pursuing Fashion in Thailand?
Although she enjoyed teaching, it is not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It is then she did some soul-searching and discovered her love for passion.
It was a risk she was willing to take with the money she saved from her job as a teacher. It’s common for entrepreneurs to take on more than they can handle in the hopes of swiftly figuring out how to handle it, and she did exactly that.
This was how she birthed THE NALELEK COLLECTION. ‘Nalelek’ is Maasai word meaning ‘simple’. She set up the online shop while in Thailand and she has no regrets.
For clients to purchase, Akoth models the ensembles and promotes them on her social media accounts. Her friends have been helping her to model the costumes in various sizes in an effort to help her become more confident in her abilities.
“Most of my clients are in East Africa. What I do is source the outfits here in Thailand then ship them to Nairobi. My sister-in-law, who has been very supportive, helps in sending some to Uganda and Tanzania by bus. I am really grateful because she is doing exactly what I would be doing, delivering everything on time and talking to people nicely. We have been receiving very good feedback from our clients.”
What Challenge Did Nancy Akoth Abonyo Encounter?
Her biggest challenge is making more sales, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic because people no longer buy clothes like before.
Doing business online is not a path for the fainted-hearted. She says all she wants is to have a physical store in Nairobi to expand her business.
It’s her hope to run a large physical shop in Kenya someday, so she can provide work for the country’s unemployed kids.