Movers and Shakers | Umutoni Thuku-Benzing|
Umutoni Thuku-Benzinge is the founder of Umutoni, a luxury jewellery brand where every piece is handmade with love by the best artisans from the heart of Kenya. Celebrating empowerment, the brand champion intrinsic worth by committing to adding value within the community.
Umutoni launched the business in December 2018, as a side hustle alongside her 9-5 at the time. She went full-time in May 2020 and rebranded the business last year, (Umutoni was formally known as Kaleidoscope Beauty)
What inspired you to start your own business?
There are three parts to this:
- I used to sell jewellery when I was 15 years old to friends, family, and at various
events after some of my most memorable summer holidays in Kenya. I remember
making £100 profit from sales in one day which was very exciting. At the time
however, my teen priorities had me put my social life ahead of any business
- I supported a young girl in Kenya when I was 21 and saw the impact a little could
make which inspired me to have a philanthropic mission to my business.
- After watching the first black panther film, I was reminded of the jewellery I used to
sell as a teenager and was inspired to launch the brand due to the realisation that I
had value and the culture was really at the forefront of the creative scene. All of these experiences from different times in my life, inspired me to launch my own brand
that showcased the beauty of the African continent in an artistic creative way, while having a
purpose-led mission and that there was a demand for powerful storytelling while doing so.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
Purpose and impact keep me motivated. Knowing that the work we do is impacting
communities often overlooked in Kenya is very fulfilling. Regardless of the challenges faced which can sometimes be discouraging, knowing this is all for a bigger purpose is very motivating.
With regards to planning, this depends haha. I’m still getting the hang of things and there are mini crisis’ somewhere everyday. Sometimes, we plan months ahead, e.g. new collections, other times, opportunities present themselves last minute and it’s dealt with in real-time.
Are there any sacrifices you’ve had to make as an entrepreneur?
Of course! Are there any that haven’t? I’d say there are daily sacrifices and big ones too
from being less social with friends and family, to financial sacrifices e.g. pouring into the
business as opposed to a holiday. Time sacrifices. As a business owner, I don’t think you
ever truly switch off, I have dreams that involve my business haha.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
We were recently featured in the Sunday Times Style magazine. For context, 2022 was a
very challenging both personal and business year, we also went through a company
After the article went live, we saw sales come in at a high rate, traffic from
across the globe and our SEO hit a high without any paid ads etc. This was amazing
because it just showed that the steps taken in the challenging season are starting to pay
What has been your scariest moment?
I realised I had merged my business and personal identity into one. My emotions
were all over the place and generally speaking I’m fairly constant and mellow. I realised
that the business had become my identity and I had to separate them again (which was
ironic because I rebranded to my name ‘Umutoni’).
It was challenging but so rewarding because business is going to have ups and downs, it’s in the nature of it all so it’s important to not lose your identity as an individual as a business owner or anything in
life for that matter.
How do you work on making your business grow?
This is the golden question haha. Ultimately, always trying to grow the bottom line as
we’re a business so increasing and maximising sales is key. So driving actions that result
in this growth is a priority. Examples include growing brand awareness, pop-up events,
partnerships, and driving activity via socials.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Doing work that is fulfilling and rooted in purpose
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them
There is a lot of uncertainty and you have to get used to it. It can be a lonely journey so
I’m now more intentional about connecting with other business owners and sharing
experiences as it helps provide a network and clarity that I’m not alone.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
This is a good question. I’m inspired by Fisayo of Kai Collective. She has such a beautiful
brand rooted in community and stays very authentic to herself and her story.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
‘Just start’ from my mum. This was at the very beginning when I was going back and
forth with ideas which she was on the receiving end of, haha. Her advice gave me the
boost to go forth and launch the brand.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy, What I know for sure by
Oprah Winfrey. The last book isn’t a business book, but it’s very grounding in
reminding you about the things that really matter in life as we get caught up in the ‘rush’
of ‘making it’.