Today, Afri-love is 10 years old.
What originally began as a blog has come to be so much more.
I started Afri-love to celebrate African creativity and remind us how much we have to be proud of. I knew I wanted it to one day be more than just a blog but, at the time, I didn’t realise how much it would be a platform for my own self-discovery as an individual, as a creative and as a business owner.
I’m reminded of the 10,000 hours theory, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, contested as it is. I started my creative business, not long after I started this blog. It appears it’s taken me 10,000 hours – 10 years – to experiment, establish and refine my creative voice and align with my purpose.
Part of that purpose is to share everything I learn! In that spirit, I invite you to look back at the journey with me, as I share
The biggest takeaways from the past 10 years.
2010: plant seeds
I craft an Afri-love philosophy that still rings true today. An excerpt:
“Imagine all starting by looking inside themselves. Self-discovery, self-awareness, self-love and self-respect. And then true learning, understanding, love and respect of the other. Harnessing the power of emotion to influence great positive change.”
I launch Asilia – a limited creative company, in partnership with Andrew Mugoya.
In the year since leaving employment, I read voraciously. Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant: Guide to Financial Freedom, taught me about the need to stop trading time for money. I learned that, as a freelancer, I simply owned a job. I was still trading my time for money.
Owning a business is a path to owning a system that can run without you, giving you the freedom to live and work how you wish.
For me, the seeds were planted and the mission began.
2011: stand for something
I’ve always been political, in my own way and (a little-known fact about me is that my Master’s Degree major was governance and politics!). Representation and activism through the arts is something that I’ve always been interested in and part of Afri-love’s existence was to demonstrate the value of investing in creativity, as a society. Which includes, encouraging young people to be professional creatives!
In 2011, I share ”5 reasons why design matters: an argument for African parents, businesses & other skeptics” and make a decision to be more overtly vocal about this message.
The more I discover, experience and write on Afri-love – and the more feedback I receive – the more I am affirmed that my voice matters!
A blog – or any outlet for consistently sharing content (e.g. newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel etc.) can be amazing that way. It can connect you to like-minds and communities that reinforce you, as well as reach people who need to hear and possibly even be challenged by your message.
2012: power in community
My love of the internet and fascination with online communities, began years prior, while I was in university. Running Afri-love – and constantly seeking out content to curate – simply built on it.
In March 2012, I’m invited to present at the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World festival. I talk about digital tapestries – women leveraging technology to continue to tell stories that build community and resilience.
It’s important to belong to a community that nourishes you.
For me, the power of sisterhood is summed up in this excerpt from my “Digital Tapestries” post:
“You know how it feels to be in the company of amazing, positive, resilient, smart, funny women. It’s one of the best feelings I know. The online space gives us an opportunity to recreate this feeling whenever we want to, whenever we need… it’s good to know that sisterhood can be just a click away.”
2013: make wellness a priority
By 2013, my business, Asilia, has expanded significantly. We have a team with members in London and Nairobi and, a lot of my time is spent, not only on creative work but, on managing everybody too. I’m not taking good care of myself and soon, my body begins to complain. I start to get debilitating headaches which, I’ve never experienced before.
When the strain starts to show in my chronic health condition, I know it’s time to get serious about my health. I begin to learn about food as medicine and to experiment with paleo, with amazing results, beyond my expectations.
Health has to come first! Wellness has long been an interest but, I’m even more determined to make it a focus. In my own life but also, in my message, everywhere I’m sharing messages!
There is a way to work that is in harmony with your wellbeing.
2014: make time for what the heart wants
For years now, I’ve been wanting to create products with my designs. My hand-drawn aesthetic has been developing and has been resonating with the kinds of clients that I want to work with. I want to create more and with nobody’s brief but my own.
I stop the excuses and make some time to create a few designs (for example), which I then showcase at the Southbank Centre’s first Africa Utopia festival. People like them and they sell! This marks the beginning of a new income stream for my creative business.
You can always make time for the things that have been trying to get your soul’s attention – you just have to decide and do it. When you do, beautiful journeys await!
2015: there’s value in starting again
These beautiful new journeys assert that they need to travel in different ways. In being true to our insistence on following our hearts, the business partnership dissolves.
I get to start again which, is both exciting and scary. By this point, I’ve met business coach Danielle Anderson and I work with her to get some clarity around how I move forward.
After much deliberation, I decide to call my new business, Lulu Kitololo Studio.
- Trust yourself – when something just isn’t working, it’s a call to action. Listen and heed the call.
- Get help – coaching can help you gain so much clarity, confidence and a framework to move forward with.
- Don’t underestimate the power of side projects to move your business forward.
2016: it pays to keep showing up
I land a dream project – creating the visual identity for an museum exhibition that will be on for more than a year, Fashion Cities Africa, at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.
I am selected for this project because of the creative voice I’ve been honing in these past few years and the profile I’ve built as a voice for African creativity, thanks to the Afri-love blog.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together!
Share your passions and show your work!
2017: your tribe is out there waiting for you
I launch an online community of my own – the personal and professional growth space that I want for myself but cannot find. I name it Afri-love Women.
A little over a month later, I launch my first online course, the Soulful Branding Challenge. At this point, I’ve been helping clients with branding for over 10 years. I put all of that experience, knowledge and personal perspective on what works best, into the course. And so, a new income stream is born.
(A month later, my son is also born :).
There are people out there who will resonate with your unique viewpoint and experience. All you need to do is package it and invite them.
2018: stare down fear
The birthing continues!
In May, I launch the Afri-love Connection Club (ALCC), with my friend and business BFF, Danielle Anderson, who I mentioned before. ALCC is membership club for female founders in Nairobi and Mombasa, to transform their businesses and their lives.
I start offering graphic recording services. Initially, an existing client asks if I can do this for a conference they’re holding. I throw myself into learning about the craft and end up loving the experience of doing it. Yet another income stream is born.
In November, we hold our first ever Afri-love Fest – a festival celebrating creativity, involving a programme of creative workshops and a marketplace featuring some of East Africa’s most innovative creatives. An idea that’s been brewing for several years sees the light of day and is a great success.
This is also the year I do something I’d never have expected to do: go on national television to pitch my business on KCB Lion’s Den.
Every now and then, leap outside your comfort zone!
All these 4 highlights from 2018 were very much outside my comfort zone. With all of them, I was doing something I had never done before, and in a very public way! I don’t regret them one bit. Each of them helped me make important strides in my business, in my self-esteem and also in terms of establishing amazing professional (and personal) relationships.
A transformational year. A year of tough love and letting go of things that are not serving me.
I start Soulful Branding Live with Lulu – video episodes talking about matters to do with soulful branding and business.
As much as you may have multiple passions, it’s just impossible to sustain so much at a high and meaningful level. Add to the challenge of also sustaining yourself – financially, physically, mentally etc.
It’s essential to focus on doing less, but better.
2020 begins with such focus and momentum and then we’re all hit by a huge and most unexpected global pandemic.
Somehow though, this results in even more clarity and focus for me. I get even more clear and confident about my audience and how best I can serve them.
I launch Free to Create* – an online membership and community, to help creatives thrive. A vehicle to share all these things I’ve learned from the past 10 years and more.
As for my biggest takeaway? I’ll leave that for December – stay tuned!
Free to Create later evolved to become SHINE, a program designed to equip creative business owners in building a profitable, sustainable and joyful business. Putting together the systems, tools and inspiration that have helped me, in my journey towards my creative dreams.
Photo: me at a graphic recording assignment for Fashion Revolution Kenya, by Wamwiri Kimachia