Naa Kwaley (Nkay) is a Fashion Designer, Music Artist and Social Media Marketer currently living in Buffalo, New York. She has her own clothing line and is the lead vocalist and keyboardist in her band, called BANK Noise. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique, Africa as a Community Health Assistant, and has lived in three different countries and speaks three languages. Nkay loves to travel and experience new places, which keeps her motivated and inspired as a young entrepreneur.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
For a long time I was lost. I was taught that the only way to be successful was to graduate college and get a job, not to start a career in music or fashion. I kept bouncing around from job to job trying out different things, but I never felt satisfied. I felt like I was making someone else’s dreams come true instead of my own. I’ve always been a creative soul but never had the courage to really take on a business. I was doing things on the side, but didn’t commit to them full time. Then all of a sudden a light bulb went off. I went into work one day, and after having the most frustrating day I’ve ever had, I told myself I was not coming back. I cleared my desk, quit my job, and knew that was the moment to take my life seriously and invest in myself! It’s the best decision I ever made.
Tell us about your business.
NKMstyling is an urban street fashion brand that features edgy print clothing, brightly colored dashiki wear, and vintage style Tee’s. I became inspired during my first trip to Ghana, West Africa and immediately fell in love with their fabrics. Our brand is all about embracing confidence and self-empowerment. The print designs are handmade in Ghana by a group of local tailors. When a customer purchases an item of clothing, they receive a handwritten note that tells them which tailor sewed the outfit. Part of NKM’s mission is to help build our team in Ghana so they can grow their own businesses to support their families and communities. With every purchase of clothing, we give back a portion of the proceeds to our team abroad. We all work together to make it work.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Yes! For all ladybossblogger readers I am offering 10% off all our Vintage Tee’s until June 1st. Just use the code NKAY578 during checkout.
- ‘March Round Up’ feature in the blog Write.Style.Travel by Lucy Lopez
- Buffalo Bloggers feature in The Public
Where is your business based?
We are based in Buffalo, NY but also serve customers nationwide.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
A prayer, a leap of faith, and lots of planning! I started with fashion in 2013, but it wasn’t until this year that it fully blossomed. I started brainstorming, sketching my designs, and began to connect with tailors and manufacturers. I have an amazing business partner in Ghana, and he helps manage international shipping, handling of products and all my accounting. Once I figured out who my target market was, I learned to advertise to that specific audience. The last step was creating my website which I did in a couple weeks, and just went for it. Next thing I knew the site was LIVE and I was in business.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Social media. In today’s age everything has become digital. Instagram is probably my most powerful tool because it allows me to engage more with followers and create content that caters to their interests. I also find that Facebook does well for my business because it reaches a different crowd than Instagram.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
My biggest challenge so far has been balancing my time. It takes a lot of self-discipline when you are mostly working from home. When I’m not busy with fashion, I’m writing and practicing music. Both take up so much of my time, and require the same amount of attention.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I started using apps like iCalender to create a daily schedule and writing things down in my planner. (I love handwritten notes!) I use bullet journaling, which allows me to outline everything I need to do for the day. Once it’s finished, I cross off the box. Surprisingly this has been one of the most effective ways for me to stay on task.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I reach out to my inner circle! As an entrepreneur, it’s important to have people who also run their own businesses that understand what you go through. I call them when I need encouragement, and they always remind me that I can and will be successful. When you first start your business, it is hard, but there are always those moments of small victories that remind you it was all worth it.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I tend to focus on what I’m doing, instead of focusing on what my “competition” is doing. I always try and find ways to collaborate with others so that we can both learn from each other. Every designer is so unique and different, and there is room for everyone to be successful.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Be authentically you! Stay true to yourself and the right people will fall in love with you. There will always be someone who will try and bring you down, but regardless of their actions, you must rise above and continue to be the person you are. I learned not to waste time worrying about negativity; instead I focused on my growth and my work. As long as I treat everyone with kindness and respect, I have nothing else to worry about.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Before you even start your work day, take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to meditate and give yourself a pep talk. I used to wake up and the first thing I did was check my phone. That became so time consuming and pointless. Instead, I started doing exercises that energized my mind, body and soul. Start your day with a positive mindset.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I find that talking and learning from other women entrepreneurs is an important key to success. I joined Facebook and other community groups where women share ideas and network. I also started taking Instagram marketing classes that help me better utilize social media. And of course, books! There is nothing better than curling up with my cup of coffee and learning from some of the greatest business icons.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Capture Your Style” by Aimee Song. This book focuses on personal branding, and is such a good read for any lady boss, regardless of their industry.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m learning that it’s ok to ask for help when I need to. I can’t do everything on my own! A few months ago I hired an amazing intern who helps me stay organized in every way possible. She is just amazing and helps me with day to day tasks.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My biggest goal is to start finalizing my Fall 2017 Kollection. I have something new I’m working on and pretty excited about it. As far as music, I hope to finish recording my album by the start of summer, and looking forward to playing at some local spots in Buffalo!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Hashtags #nkmstyling #nkay #banknoisemusic #nkayofficial #MadeInGhana #AfricanPrint