ASHLEY NENANI PHIRI KNOCKING ON WOOD
Entrepreneurship is currently the hot topic of many circles nearly everywhere in the world. As challenges continue to increase in the world around us in different sectors and industries, more people are taking their careers and dreams into their own hands to build lives that best suit them through innovation and social change.
Ashley Nenani Phiri sees entrepreneurship as a matter of having foresight into what opportunities are available that can transform your life and that of others. You have to evaluate your current position in life, the avenues you can pursue and assess the economic environment and whether you will be able to live off what you’re doing or if you should venture into something else.
Having studied Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the Pentecostal Life University, Ashley’s passion for entrepreneurship is rooted in the environment in which he was raised. With both his parents as successful entrepreneurs, it seemed fitting for him to follow suit and start his own businesses, AshAfrik (a fashion company) and Jayz Wood & Fittings, a cabinet fitting business.
Before venturing into the cabinet fitting and design industry with his current business, Jayz Wood and Kitchen, Ashley was running his own fashion company, AshAfrik. His experience from running AshAfrik and his mother’s kitchen accessories business, Jayz Kitchen, prepared him for his new venture which feels more like a family business. Using the same approach he took to start up his fashion company, he funded Jayz Wood and Fittings through years of savings, investment from his parents and angel investors. His track record of establishing, building and growing the AshAfrik brand from 2013 to the present made it easier for him to secure capital for his new business venture.
With his mother having been in the kitchen and cabinet business for many years, with a showroom that displayed how their kitchen accessories would look in their clients’ kitchens, eventually the demand grew for kitchen fittings from their customers. At the time they didn’t have boards and the necessary inputs to create cabinet fittings, but this was enough to spark an idea in Ashley after he saw the gap in the market with most homes looking for quality kitchen fittings. After making calculations, he concluded the profit margins would be more and he wouldn’t have to work as many hours as he did with his fashion company where he would work long hours for less money than what his current business is making now. Loaded with lessons learnt whilst he was working in his fashion company, he says it built him up to be able to know how to make sound financial decisions and sustain wealth.
The hardest part about starting the new business was the need for heavy investment, Ashley recalls. The equipment and machinery needed to make cabinets and other wood products are expensive. Four years ago, they bought a cutting machine for Jayz Kitchen which they have been using ever since; Ashley remembers how expensive it was to acquire. It took four more years to accumulate the necessary funding to buy other machinery and equipment, and although the initial investment is heavy on the pocket, Ashley is happy to see his vision coming together. A firm believer in staying prepared for opportunities, he has granite worktops and boards, ready to use whenever he wins contracts. Thus, when the opportunity rose for him to venture into the cabinet and fittings industry, he did so confidently knowing it would be profitable.
Finding the perfect space for his business was a daunting task as Ashley discovered that most places had expensive rental rates, starting from K500,000 per month, a hefty amount for a young entrepreneur starting up. He finally found a good rental space for Jayz Wood and Fittings in a residential area in Area 15, not too far from town, with affordable rentals.
One of his greatest motivations, Ashley cites, is his family’s understanding of his vision and passion for entrepreneurship; it drives him to put in time and effort into building and growing his businesses regardless of the challenges that arise.
When it comes to expecting support from family and friends, Ashley says he has always been aware that they might not always come through and to not to take it personally. He sees it as part of business and life to be able to accept that you don’t always get help from people you expect it from. Experience has taught him that some of the biggest supporters of your business and ideas are people who don’t know you personally. He credits the growth of his business to having clients who believed in his product, bought it and shared with others their experience with it. Having people in your life who don’t believe in your dream or what you do should not stop you from achieving the goal you have in mind, he says. Viewing himself as his biggest competition, he doesn’t feel the need to prove people wrong or right about his choices; believing his quality products speak for themselves.
Ashley encourages people to learn from whatever their current position in life or job is, valuing those experiences and skills as important contributors to fulfilling their personal entrepreneurial journey. He believes the key to really making it is to have a vision and to work hard towards it through persistence, patience and boldness.