On Traditional African Dress and Contemporary Embroidery: Joyce Kabwe of Munia

this spring, our theme is: synergy.

It’s time to invest in relationships, projects and people that will help us grow. It’s time to create a little synergy.

synergy (n.): the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own.

It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In life, at work and in our communities, synergy is that space where the magic happens—where things fall into place, values align and our ideas find a home.

So, what does professional and personal synergy look like? How do we reject cultures of comparison and approach collaboration? How do we protect our own energy as we navigate opportunities, success and failures? This Spring, our programs will serve as a moment to hear from and amplify women and nonbinary leaders in our community who create synergy through their work.

As we prepare for craftHER Market Spring ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways in which they create synergy through their work. Read on for a peek into their process.


about today’s featured maker:

At Munia, we rise in the face of opposition
and set where our passions lie and encourage
our customers to do the same. Inspired by
traditional African dress and modern silhouettes,
our contemporary line creates a unique style
only found in Munia designs. Click here to learn more.

Tell us the background of your business: How did you get started? How big is your business (employees, storefront, etc)? And where do you sell your work? In-person, online, only at markets?

In junior year of high school, I had an interest in learning hand embroidery after seeing the elaborate Gucci denim jackets that were highly popular a few years back. After watching tutorials on YouTube, I tackled my first project and embroidered the outline of an anatomical heart on a t-shirt. Wearing the t-shirt to school ensued the admiration of my peers, so much so that people began to buy embroidered shirts from me. The positive outcome of this experiment turned into Munia as we know it today. However, in the future I plan to design and sell contemporary, ready-to-wear clothing and eventually home decor.

Currently, I am the only individual working for my business. I work out of my home/dorm room. I sell primarily online, and have attended a few markets in recent months.




How do you balance the creative side and the business side of your work?

Honestly, I am still trying to find the balance between the creative side and the business side of running my business. As a business major at the University of Texas at Austin, I am always thinking about the business side of things, so I am trying to make more time to be creative and explore new ideas.


What resources have helped you grow your business? What resources do you need more of? As a WOB what would you like to see more of?

Social media has undoubtedly helped me grow my business, as it allows me to reach millions of people and influencers in order to grow my audience and brand. 

This resource isn’t necessarily tangible, but the support of family and friends is something that I cherish deeply. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged about something that is happening with Munia, they are always there to pick me back up and reassure me that all my hard work will pay off.

I think this is an obstacle for all small business owners, but financial resources are something that I need more of, especially considering my college student budget. I am also searching for more marketing resources, for I am looking into more ways to effectively reach my target audience.

As a woman in business, I would like to see more creative young entrepreneurs like myself actively working and chasing their dreams. From what I’ve seen, there isn’t much of a supportive community for young creative entrepreneurs, specifically from ages 14 to 20, and I would like to create that space or contribute to its formation.


How do you handle perceived failures within your work? 

When handling a perceived failure, I try to identify the root of the problem. By determining what works and what doesn’t, I can plan to take a different, more successful course of action in the future. 

I think it’s important to see failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback. Bad things can happen, but how you react to those bad things is what’s important. You can choose to let something affect you negatively or positively.



Who is your target audience for your product and how do you connect with them?

My target audience is primarily millennials and older Gen Z (18 to 30 years old). I connect  with them through social media, specifically, the content I post: I try to post entertaining, engaging, eye catching, and relatable content.


Tell us about the production process required to make a single product.

To make a Munia shirt, I first begin by drawing the design I will be embroidering on a 100% cotton t-shirt. Next, I cut a piece of felt slightly larger than the design I will be stitching, as it serves as a reinforcement for the hand embroidered piece. After the felt is placed securely behind the design, I turn on Netflix and begin stitching! Once I have finished stitching, I cut off the excess felt, secure the ends of the embroidery floss, and we have a Munia shirt, handmade with love.


What is a good leader to you?

A good leader is someone who puts others and the vision of their company or organization before themselves. They see themselves as equals with their team, thus creating a safe, supportive, and collaborative environment. Running on a growth mindset, they give their team the room they need to perform their jobs and contribute ideas while simultaneously encouraging development in their personal endeavors.


What do you wish you knew before starting your own business?

I wish I knew that a lot of people will say that they like your product and “It’s really cool!” but they won’t actually buy it. I wish I knew how to effectively grow my brand’s audience and successfully sell a product that’s supposedly “really cool.” 

Would you like to meet Joyce in-person? Come out to craftHER Market on April 14, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.