Daphine Okonji, the CEO of Elle Interior Designers Ltd has become a superstar entrepreneur, one of the Kenya’s foremost interior design experts.
She is one of the few young youth who foresaw the untapped potential in Kenya’s interior design industry. Daphine’s urge to explore in the sector has been driven by her passion in the interior designs. Once she talks interiors, she hardly pauses for breath. In 2012, just 28 years of age, she was awarded third place position for Young Enterprise Africa at the Fifth Annual Africa SMME Awards.
Business Mirror recently had an inclusive interview with her to get her thoughts on Kenya interior design sector and how young entrepreneurs should react to the still untapped potential in the industry.
Business Mirror: When did you venture into interior design industry?
Daphine: I registered Elle Interior Designers in 2008 as a sole proprietor, but turned it to Limited in 2010. Comprising 2 ladies and a humble corner office, a seed was planted which eventually grew to become the enterprise whose mission is not only to beautify the spaces we reside in but more importantly, positively and productively add value to customer lifestyle in the process.
Business Mirror: Can you share with your readers what was the main aim of starting Elle Interior Designers?
Daphine: The main aim for setting up the company was to furniture homes with glossy and appealing interior designs which would provide calm and comfortable environment for people. We also aimed at creating quality customized living and working spaces.
Business Mirror: Can you tell us which position you hold in Kenya’s interior market?
Daphine: We have emerged so far as the leading interior designers and decorators in Kenya, something we are proud off. The company has made a milestone by accomplishing mega interior designs in the country starting with Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho etc. Elle Interior Designers is currently having customers for residential areas, executive offices, schools, museums, hospitals, banks etc just to mention a few. I am looking forward to be a leading interior designers and decorators in whole of Africa.
Business Mirror: What are some of the ways you can define success of the company?
Daphine: The major achievement I can describe is the birth of other three companies apart from Elle Interior Designers. These companies include:
Elle Landscape Designers, which offer landscaping projects designed with aesthetics and functionality in mind. While designing either commercial or residential landscapes, our landscape architects will be keen to merge your ideas and our creativity in order to bring your vision to life.
Elle Decor Design Company is entitled with interior design products like paints, mirrors etcs.
Elle College of Design (ECD) which was begun to empower aspiring designers with the knowledge and skill set to develop their own designs and further, grow a business out of this talent. Through our interior design college, hundreds of creative individuals has had their talent nurtured and grown appropriately.
Business Mirror: Can you tell us a little bit of some of the awards you have bagged?
Daphine: I have bagged several awards related to interior design. In 2012, Elle Interior Designers Ltd was awarded the third place position for Young Enterprise Africa at the Fifth Annual Africa SMME Awards held at the Spier Wine Estate in Cape Town, South Africa.
I have also won the Africa property award following a successful interior fit out and construction of Japanese based company.
I cannot forget to mention that in 2013, I was awarded an award of the outstanding young female entrepreneur at Strathmore University.
Recently, in 2014, I was recognized by Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) as a top leading interior design company in the country.
Business Mirror: Can you share some of the challenges you are facing in line with your business?
Daphine: The major obstacle I have faced a young entrepreneur is not being seriously by some clients because of my age.
I have also been facing a challenge of getting mega interior project due the corruption in the industry. You will find some interior design tenders you are expected to bribe so that you win, and if you don’t do so you loss to someone else.
I have not been able to finish the registration of Elle College of Design (ECD) due to the delayed processes in the Ministry of Education.
Business Mirror: Where do you see your company in the next ten years?
Daphine: Elle Interior Designers will be over Africa offering quality services to our clients. We are looking forward at expanding our territories in countries like Rwanda, Uganda etc by setting up interior design shops.
Business Mirror: Can you share what is your education background?
Daphine: Ihold degree in Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) from Strathmore University and diploma in Human Resource.
Business Mirror: What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
Daphine: Ask yourself why you are venturing into any business and why you want to be an entrepreneur. Your business should be in a position to provide solution, and opportunity to the large audience you are targeting.