Impact Across Continents: Kahindo Mateene of KAHINDO Shares Her Funding Story

Kahindo Mateene

“It’s about fashion and design, of course, but it’s also about working with women and creating sustainable jobs with living wages, while showing the world the beautiful work that African artisans produce,” says Kahindo Mateene, owner of KAHINDO Holdings, LLC, which is known for the eponymous fashion brand, KAHINDO. She founded the company in 2017 and soon learned a lesson that many entrepreneurs face: Self-financing can only go so far and eventually, to grow, you have to find the right funder to help you achieve your vision.

Learn how she got started, some challenges of running a fashion-design firm and how Pursuit helped her obtain essential funding to bring her closer to her goals.

A love of design and a dream to help women

While New York City is currently her home, Kahindo was born in Uganda, attended school in Kenya and has also called Ethiopia, Nigeria and Niger home, fueling her passion for the rich diversity of traditional fabrics, patterns, colors and embellishments that artisans throughout Africa produce. Her travels also opened her eyes to the many economic challenges that women face and she’s determined to make a difference by combining her love of fashion and design with opportunities for women to become more financially secure and independent.

“We’re sourcing materials, including beautiful cottons and handmade fabrics, and craftsmanship from many different countries in Africa. Soon, we’ll expand into embroidery and beading to bring even more of the diversity of skills to our U.S.-based clientele,” Kahindo says.

As with many businesses, though, design is only the first step in the process of bringing goods to market – the more challenging step for KAHINDO is manufacturing.

Upfront expenses and delayed payments challenge growth

“We’re getting steady orders from retailers like Rent the Runway – which is our largest client to date and the reason we were profitable in 2020 – and when we eventually have the volume that enables us to commit to sustainable jobs, that’s when things will really come together,” Kahindo explains. “To achieve my dream, I need to generate and fulfill larger orders and that means getting in front of more retailers, particularly department stores. But to be competitive, I have to show that KAHINDO can fund the product lines each season.”

She continues, saying, “Cash flow has always been a significant challenge. Our business has to purchase materials, have goods manufactured, deliver them to clients and then wait for payment, which is typically net-30 days. Like many small business owners, I had self-funded the business and that’s gotten us through the earliest stages, but there are limits to what we could do without additional funding.”

Kahindo learned that her business didn’t yet meet the traditional lending criteria that banks typically require, such as length of time in business, available collateral or specific debt-to-income ratios. She also considered “purchase-order financing,” which is an option sometimes available to businesses with a manufacturing component, but it can also prove to be an expensive alternative when interest charges and fees quickly add up.

She learned about Pursuit through her local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and online educational resources, including articles and webinars on Pursuit’s website.

And she says that although her business wasn’t yet showing a profit when she first approached Pursuit, her team worked with her to achieve her funding goal: Approval on an SBA Microloan that would enable her to approach larger clients and sell with confidence.

“When I went to Pursuit, I had self-funded the business for several years, so my team worked with me to strengthen our financial management and projections. They also got to know me and my vision, which they take into consideration as part of the overall loan-approval process,” she explains.

“I received my loan in spring 2021 and it’s already having a remarkable positive impact,” Kahindo says. “I purchased fabric, we’re fulfilling purchase orders from retailers and creating additional inventory for our website. I’m buying fabric now for an upcoming collection, too. And we can pay the artisans and manufacturers now, rather than delaying payment, which is so important. We’re already well ahead of where we’d typically be before the loan came through.”

Kahindo’s advice for entrepreneurs: Find resources that support your success

“When you own and run a business, you have to spend a lot of time learning as much as you can and finding the resources that will help you succeed,” says Kahindo, adding that she was just awarded a competitive and prestigious Tory Burch Fellowship for early-stage women entrepreneurs – an accomplishment achieved by only five percent of the program’s applicants.

“Pursuit has provided a funding source that’s benefitting my business now and that will help me leverage additional loans as we move forward, because it establishes a positive track record of business financing. And that ripples throughout our operation and gets KAHINDO closer to our goals: As more women wear our designs and feel beautiful in them, it’s also wonderful to know that we’re helping other women in need to become self-sufficient and empowered.”

To learn about how Pursuit can help you fund your business and fulfill your dreams, contact Pursuit today.

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