Entrepreneur Profile: Isibella, Founder of Isy Fashion

Isibella with Isy Fashion staff

Isibella with Isy Fashion staff

Isibella Wangari Gituru has been a clothes designer and seamstress in Nairobi, Kenya for the past 30 years.

Within a year of graduating from university, Isibella began her clothing business, Isy Fashion. She has slowly but consistently grown her business and improved her products, claiming to be as enthusiastic today as she was at the outset. With the recent ThriiveCapital loan from Thriive, an organization that helps small businesses create jobs and donate basic necessities to their communities, Isy has increased her company’s production and staffing at an unprecedented level. 

3rd Creek Foundation has supported Thriive entrepreneurs in Kenya since 2014. This past June, my husband, Dave and I, cofounders of 3CF, visited with Isibella at Isy Fashions in Nairobi. There we met with some of her daytime staff and saw them busy at work using the new equipment provided through Thriive.  The equipment included an industrial button-holer, two-seam and single stitch machines, steam irons, and a cutting machine.

 
Isibella with new machine from ThriiveCapital Loan

Isibella with new machine from ThriiveCapital Loan

With these advanced machines and the increased production they facilitate, Isibella has been able to increase her staff from 8 employees to 12 employees. She also managed to schedule a night shift. These changes have reduced production time from 3 days to just half a day. She can now cut 200 shirts and 400 overalls per day with a specialist she could finally hire. Orders that previously took 3 weeks now take just 10 days to complete! 

Following Thriive's model, Isibella does not reimburse Thriive for the cost of the machines but instead "pays it forward." She currently offers training in clothing design and tailoring to two women, which she hopes to increase to eight over two years, and will supply uniforms valued at ksh500,000 to a children's home. Dave and I were pleased to meet one of the two current trainees, Gloria, who has been delivering sewing and tailoring trainings to women striving to leave the sex trade in a nearby slum.

Isibella demonstrated to me that success in small enterprise takes more than just money and luck. It takes expertise, talent, and experience; perseverance; solid relationships, collaboration, and a lot of heart. The collaboration between 3CF and Thriive is proving that relatively small amounts funding coupled with business consulting support to outstanding entrepreneurs can have a major, multi-layered, and lasting impact.


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Pam Straley is a founder and board member of 3rd Creek Foundation. She is an M.S., R.N., and Family Nurse Practitioner with a diverse background in nursing and health care administration. Her international career took off in 1974, when she joined the Peace Corps in Nicaragua as a community health volunteer. Recognizing her passion for global health, Pam continued to work with medical centers in Costa Rica and Indonesia. She has also consulted for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as its HIV/AIDS Prevention Project Manager in Zambia, as well as for the American Public Health Association, and Peace Corps. On the local front, Pam served as Manager of a clinic in Incline Village serving low income, uninsured residents of Northern Nevada. She currently serves on the board of Oral Health Nevada. Pamela earned her B.S.N. at California State Long Beach (1970), and M.S.N./F.N.P at the University of California, San Francisco (1985). She has published a health education manual and guide to general health services for foreigners in Indonesia.