If you live in Nairobi – Kenya, you might have noticed a “Me I love Kenya” or “Me I love Nairobi” brand range of apparel. What started out as a “side-hustle” is now a full-time business for Wangari Nyanjui. She is the CEO and Founder of Peperuka, the company behind the unique lifestyle brand that produces apparel gift items and home décor celebrating the essence of Africans. Peperuka is currently part of the Kenya cohort in our Acceleration Programme, 2018. What you might not know is that Wangari’s drive to run this business is drawn from her undeniable appreciation for the African heroines, her favourite one being the late environmental conservation veteran, Kenya’s Professor Wangari Maathai. Wangari, a trained designer by profession has chosen to continue with her icon’s legacy of tree planting through Peperuka. How is she doing this? Let’s find out.
Meet Wangari Nyanjui
When you first meet Wangari Nyanjui, you will notice her impeccable taste for unique design combination right from her outfit to her accessories. Wangari’s background in graphic design is attributed to her schooling at Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked in a design agency in San Francisco as a junior designer and this where she discovered that she wanted to create design campaigns around social issues. Peperuka was officially registered in 2010 but actively started operations in 2017. Previously, Wangari ran Peperuka as a side business but today she runs it on a full-time basis. Before fully venturing into Peperuka, she was running a creative design agency for a period of 10 years. The creative agency was heavily involved in graphic design with SMEs and large corporations as its major clients.
What inspired Peperuka?
Being a t-shirt and jeans kind of person, Wangari who had lived in America for a while before coming back to Kenya was looking for unique t-shirts that could best describe her personality but to her disappointment she couldn’t find any. With her extensive design training she began designing her own t-shirts. Over time, she resolved to design a t-shirt line that celebrated women including Rita Marley, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Mandela and Wangari Maathai. The passing on of Professor Wangari Maathai in 2011 steered Wangari to push the “Wangari Maathai” line to keep her role model’s memory alive.
Peperuka’s involvement in environmental conservation
To this day, Wangari considers the professor a trail blazer who was able to use environmental conservation as a driving force for change. Wangari, in ensuring that the late professor’s work remains relevant not only has a line in her honour but also for any item designed under that line, they plant a tree. So, in collaboration with Miti Alliance, they planted 500 trees a fortnight ago in Mucharage village, located at the Aberdare ranges. Young children aged between 6 -10 years participated in the tree planting exercise and 20-30 years from today they will see the benefits of their efforts. They have also partnered with Kilimani Project Foundation who are running a greening campaign within Kilimani area, Nairobi.
“I believe that businesses can be a force for good” Wangari stated. “Young businesses should consider the impact of their businesses on the world in which they live, she added.