We had the good fortune of connecting with Nkonye Mwalilu and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nkonye, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I started New Village Braid with the ambition of providing an elevated salon experience for the local braiding community in my area, a place that serves as a community resource for hair knowledge, training and styling services. The root of the business concept is one that I placed on mute for so many years before. Perhaps I was waiting for the ‘right time’? But as you know, it’s never the ‘right time’! As it turns out, because of a change in my personal circumstances, I had to shift gears on the braiding salon idea and accelerate another component of my business concept, braiding hair extensions.

As an individual consumer, I believe that how we consume products can have very distinct impact on this earth–from what products we buy, to what we do with it when we are finished. This is how I landed on providing non-toxic braiding hair and hair recycling services to offset the ecological footprint we leave behind. Through the lens of education, New Village Braid stands to alter consumer behaviour and encourage people to make better-informed consumption decisions.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
With an MBA and a Bachelor’s degree in consumer sciences, I built a career in product development and corporate strategy. I have more than 15 years of professional experience in fashion retail and consumer goods, creating products for women who value beautiful products with great quality.

Starting out from high school and through just about all of university, I struggled to figure out ‘what I wanted to be’. But I did not let that stop me from selecting a major focus of study and just trying it out. I wasn’t sure pursuing a fashion degree was what I really wanted, but I committed to do my best and to finish.

A lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t have to know ‘what you want to be one you grow up’; and that’s because sometimes you really just don’t know! Also, you don’t have to be just one thing and whatever you do, you can always change your mind.

Here are 2 critical points of advice that I have learned to live by
#1) Make the most of and learn the most from every situation–pick up those skills!
#2) Choose a path and commit through to completion, or at least to a reasonable end–at which point you can walk away and truly know that you tried your best.

Look at me today, I never really walked away from where I began in my early college days; but I started in corporate retail fashion and now have an entrepreneurial foot in hair and beauty. Using those transferable skills! ☺️

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best trips are usually the ones that I get to experience together with someone I care about! I imagine a trip to a tropical area, somewhere in Africa. I’ve loved every visit I’ve taken to Nigeria and Tanzania. Highly recommended for their historical sites, live city scenes, and nature safaris! ☺️

Day 1 highlight: Flight touch down. Feeling the heat rushing over to baptize you on arrival after stepping out of the plane. Eat good food.

Day 2 highlight: Waking up in a local lodging spot (or even the home of friends or family) to the sound of roosters crowing at dawn and feeling the warm sun peeking through the curtains. Eat more good food.

Day 3 highlight: Evening drinks and barbecue meat, fish and roasted plantain at an outdoor spot with a live local band performing — hold the mosquitoes please!

Day 4 highlight: Visit local historical sites and museums for a refill on the cultural greatness of the place. Eat more good food.

Day 5 highlight: Visit with any new friends we may have made during our trip over good food and fresh juices!

Day 6 highlight: Calm local lunch as we get ready for our departing flight and begin planning our next trip back!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Over the years, I’ve found the best mentorship through individual relationships as well as seemingly-random encounters that were never officially structured as ‘mentorship’ or ‘support’. So here goes my shoutouts:

my siblings who are always there to call me out and let me know that I can do better
my girlfriends who are amazing across the many professional and entrepreneurial disciplines they choose
my guyfriends who [despite the many societal odds against them] are making big things happen
my husband who’s a genius with focused ambition
my parents who’ve sacrificed and withstood quite a bit to set the foundation that I live off today
my extended family who has found ways to be there for me when I needed it most
the young(er) ones in my community that don’t realize that I’m the one ‘looking up’ to them for their freshness, energy and fearlessness

Website: http://www.newvillagebraid.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/newvillagebraid/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/new-village-braid

Twitter: https://twitter.com/newvillagebraid

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newvillagebraid/

Image Credits
Evans Njuguna (product photos) Kristine Logan (personal photos)

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