We had the good fortune of connecting with Nasozi Kakembo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nasozi, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think about risk in multifaceted ways, and most certainly beyond the monetary. That is of course important, but I also ask myself, “what is the consequence if I don’t take this risk? What might my quality of life and life goals be missing?” Of course money has to be part of the equation, but I live a relatively low-key lifestyle, and splurge on the riskier things, like starting my own business in 2011 as a single mother. I worked in the non-profit industry for 4 years prior, and my expenses were low. My job was very comfortable and I worked for an incredible organization, but I hit a glass ceiling and wanted to try what was then my hobby, on a full-time basis.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
xN Studio (“Lifestyle—Without Borders”), is a multi-disciplinary design company that I founded in 2011 in Brooklyn, NY and Kampala, Uganda. I would describe it as a design bridge between my East African heritage and my American upbringing, which also allows me to weave my studies in architecture, art history, and urban planning into my independent career. All of this is reflected in the brand aesthetic and my approach to design—global, urban, and refined.
Being an entrepreneur is the most challenging—and rewarding—professional experience I’ve ever had. I do want to nuance that though. I encountered extremely challenging and toxic work environments in the traditional job sector. So when I refer to challenges, I mean the ones that test your skill set and knowledge, not your mental health.
Over all, I’ve overcome the challenges I have faced in 10 years of entrepreneurship by being flexible. Sometimes you have to course correct along the way. Two times, that meant me getting a 9 to 5 to save money, take a break, and focus on some long-term life goals that are systemically harder for entrepreneurs to achieve, like home ownership.
If there’s one thing that I want the world to know about my brand, it’s that the studio is founded on principles of authenticity. I started my brand as a true reflection of my culture, who I am, the many places I’ve been, and what I believe a more connected way to live—through the stories that my work conveys.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Depends on the city! My best friend and I lived in Brooklyn together (my favorite city in America), so I would love to show her around Kampala, where she’s never been! There are new venues and things to do there constantly popping up, but the last time I was there right before the pandemic, I had a blast at Kush Lounge. I would love to take her there, as well as to one of the beautiful lakeside resorts on Lake Victoria. (Lake Victoria’s non-British era name is Nalubaale, which I always make sure to point out.) There’s also a new hotel resort across the main road from my home in Mukono called Kampala Nile Resort. I was planning on spending tons of time there until the most recent pandemic wave hit Uganda, but it’s definitely a place I can see my best friend and I spending a lot of time poolside in one of the cabanas!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to all of the women entrepreneurs who I founded my business alongside in Brooklyn. They took risks. They faced fears and setbacks, and they persisted. We blazed our own trails, and really served as one another’s “colleagues” even though we were all working in slightly different industries. So many to name, but a few are Hawa Hassan of Basbaas, Roachele Negron of Rayo and Honey, and Achuziam “Chuz” Maha of Peace and Riot. She mentored me when I first went out of my own and literally let me shadow her at industry events and behind the scenes of her store reopening in 2013. I can never thank her enough.
All fotos by xN Studio