Daphine okonji shares her journey in business

“I got in the line of Interior design by default after I was fired from my first job.  After I was fired, I got into accommodation business and really enjoyed creating a theme and furnishing places. A friend suggested that I register an interior design business.

It’s been six years since I started Elle Interior Designs. We have since branched out sell interior design accessories and products. We offer interior design services, landscaping services and the college that has a variety of courses in the creative industry.

Looking back, I realize that  I actually had an interest in  interior design ever since I was a child, I just didn’t know it. I used to rearrange my parents house and I loved color and beautiful spaces. 

I  am so glad I ventured into business, it’s s been a joy seeing the business grow from strength to strength.  The quality of our work has  won us a number of international awards as well as local recognition including: Africa SMME Young Enterprise Award – South Africa 2012, Africa Property Awards – Highly Recommended 2013-2014, Architectural Association of Kenya – Honorary recognition for my positive contribution to the interior design industry 2014 and I won Young Outstanding Female Award – Strathmore 2013.

Of all the achievements with the business, I am proud of my track record of satisfied clientele. I have also employed many people and mentored many others not forgetting to mention our growing number of awards. Our clients range from Multinational companies, NGOs, local companies, restaurants, and property developers.

Being self employed is great.  I have learnt to be everything. I remember one time when the business was relatively young, I fired almost everyone because of respect issues.  I do not compromise on quality and  I take the initiative to train my people  and foster their personal growth.

The experience has also brought me much closer to my God. Receiving awards and recognition has been very motivating especially when our own projects win international awards.

I run the business with my husband, It was not easy especially in the beginning as we were trying to map out the boundaries and divide the teams and staff members, but now its getting better by the day. We share a lot of stuff together. I learn from him and he learns from me. I must confess that the businesses have grown substantially since he joined me.

When it comes to balancing motherhood and business I wouldn’t say that I have found the perfect answer to this question but I have always looked for office space not more than 10 minutes drive from my house that way I can pop in and out at will, I also try not to carry work home and when I get home and I get into activities with my daughter like coloring which I also find very therapeutic.

Among the challenges I have faced, as a woman in business people underestimated my ability to deliver- over time with the portfolio we have and awards my work speaks for itself.

 Another challenge is staffing- hiring the right people, and keeping them on their jobs long enough to realize the benefits of continuous training and development is difficult.

In some cases it is also a challenge to deliver good quality work on a very limited budget. We try as much as possible to manage our clients’ expectations from the beginning of a project. The challenge of corruption in our government system, the challenge of unreliable suppliers etc.

In retrospect, I believe I learnt from the best, I learnt from my mum and dad. Mum is in business and dad was in the army and is a strict teacher. They also support me by attending our office’s annual end year prayers every year for the past 6 years. I also get a lot of business and moral support from my husband’s family. I read a lot of self-help and motivational material as well.

My parting short to women in business is do not listen to negative stereotypes. Also, do not expect sympathy because you are a woman. Surround yourself with like-minded women and place God at the center of your business.”


Contact details : daphine@elleinteriordesigners.com

Call:  +254 717-498981 / +254735-459139

visit www.elleinteriordesigners.com or www.elledecor.co.ke

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