How Sheila stitched every woman’s dream dress shop

Tuesday March 14 2023

For a decade, Sheila Mwaura has been in the business of actualising women’s wedding dreams with her fashion business.

For a decade, Sheila Mwaura has been in the business of actualising women’s wedding dreams with her fashion business.

She had for long seen and heard of harrowing tales of brides brought to tears and their whole experience soured after tailors messed up their gowns.

“I have a background in fashion having studied fashion design in college and therefore thought ‘why not do something about it,’ she says of the moment she decided to start Fikira Company which sells ready-made bridal outfits.

She started small, taking a Sh100,000 loan and used some savings to buy 10 dresses. She also converted one of the rooms in her house into a showroom.

“At the time a lot of the investment was out of pocket even though I’d taken the loan to purchase the samples,” she says.

With time, however, the company has grown, expanding its product portfolio and she moved out of her home to take up prime commercial space in Nairobi’s Westlands.


A bridal gown at Fikira Company at the firm’s KenRail Towers outlet on February 28, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Today, Fikira not only deals in wedding dresses and accessories such as shoes, hair accessories, belts, and veils but also sells occasional outfits, fit for dinner, formal events, galas, and award ceremonies.

Read: How Kenyan designer stitched a fashion line fit for financiers

How did she make her company stand out in the highly competitive sector?

“We go to the supplier and make sure that everyone’s covered size and style wise because people come with different ideas of how they want their wedding to look like so we also cater to the different styles,” she says.

She adds, “I am selling convenience here, no one has to fight with the fundis,(tailors). We used to have a lot of walk-in last-minute clients who had been messed up by a fundi, and this became a solution for many brides where you’re getting what you’re seeing, you can try it on, and there is no proving of concept.

Fikira currently stocks 150 different wedding dresses and over 100 bridesmaids’ dresses.

The wedding dresses range from Sh90,000 to Sh250,000 dependent on the style preference while a bridesmaid’s can cost as much as Sh20,000.

But it is not just the dresses that are stand-outs. Sheila has made sure that Fikira stores give the image of elegance.

The 1450sq ft flagship branch at Kenrail Towers has medallion mouldings and gold accents decked in ornate chandeliers, panelling and a high ceiling, with emerald green velvet seats and eight clothes racks and mannequins artfully placed.


Gowns at Fikira Company at KenRail Towers outlet on February 28, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Sheila says, “I like for the bride to feel they have a lot of space to mill around, look at what they’re wearing, come with their families and be comfortable. I want somebody to feel we respect the money you’re spending in this business, regardless of what it is they’re purchasing because they’ve worked very hard for the money.”

She says providing this kind of environment is an investment.

“If you’re comfortable and you get great customer service, it justifies why you should give me any kind of money. As a person, I embody this. I also think I’m elegant and I resonate with these kinds of spaces.”

For marketing, Fikira leans heavily toward advertising on social media, especially on Instagram where they get most of their leads. It also has a website where customers can also make a purchase.


Fikira Company accessories at the firm’s KenRail Towers outlet on February 28, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The mother of two says her bridal experience comes from learning on the job.

“The interest was there, because I saw a need. Business-wise, if you’re opening a business that’s catering to a need then it makes sense but it ties into my fashion background because I am able to understand what silhouette goes well with what body. I can easily recommend, if a client comes to me and they’re not sure, I feel like the fashion experience is a great tool to guide somebody professionally. If you come you get expertise and I have the qualification to back it.”

She sources her dresses from different markets.

“I buy a lot from Europe, America, and bits from china. The fabrics have to be comfortable and the workmanship exceptional. When someone puts on the dress, the dimensions have to be right. What kind of details are on the dress? Have the cuttings been done according to the measurements? And that’s where fashion comes in. I can tell sizes and prove with the measurements so we get the right fit for our clients which is something you can’t get from a website. Fitting doesn’t equals tight. There’s a lot of education that comes with the customers,” she says.

How different is a bride from an occasional shopper?

When it comes to our shopping habits, Sheila says, “In Kenya, we don’t so much follow trends, we follow each other. That’s the interesting thing. So there’s a year we were selling a lot of burgundy gowns, and now they’re buying more orchid and blush although we do like to stock unusual colours for the more open bride but most of them fall for safe colours such as peach, and pink. The most surprising colour we’ve sold for bridesmaids’ dresses is white, then teal, a lot of people resist shades of blue. Most brides got for white gowns and or off-whites.”

Read: How Tedd Josiah stitched his luxury bags company

Sometimes a consultation can get difficult. “The challenge comes in when you have a very open-minded bride who comes in with a very opinionated friend. The families can also be a challenge,” Rosemary Karanja, Fikira Company operations manager says.


Sheila Mwaura, the owner of Fikira Company at KenRail Towers on February 28, 2023. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“For the very first appointment, we prefer that the bride comes alone, we walk them through the available options, we ask what they’d like and then we narrow down on that. For the second appointment, we bring in the family, and it’s most likely what she likes though not all the time. We do get families that are very supportive and others that don’t, which drains the energy out of the bride to which we say let’s try to be as supportive as possible, give her room to first of all try what she wants.”

Shiela adds, “you’re part psychologist, part referee.”