Sisterpreneur: Irene and Emily Wasonga
Love’s Hangover is the name of a boutique jewelry store in Noblesville, IN co-owned by two sisters; Emily and Irene Wasonga-Philpot. Born and raised in Kenya and living partly in Botswana; Irene and Emily’s family relocated to US after their parents won the green card. The two are now making their dreams come true with their jewelry business that started out as hobby in their teenage years.
Irene says that she started making jewelry in order to keep in fashion and because fashion can be expensive she went out of her way to make jewelry from old pieces she owned. Emily on the hand had an interest in cloth designing and says she started making jewelry by mistake when she wanted her sister to make matching pieces for her designs but Irene was not interested, so one day she took up the tools and started making jewelry.
Years later and Love’s Hangover is now a full grown business with the sisters also offering lessons to making creative pieces. Irene and Emily talked to AfroElle about their new bath and body collections, classes and the businesses’ future plans.
Who makes up the Loves Hangover Team?
Emily: My sister and I are the co-owners. Dennis Wasonga is the financial advisor for our business as well as a few others. Our bath and body line collection would not have been possible without Gina McDermott who handles Product development and creation. Isabel Kadir is out intern marketing consultant , and since we are working hard to make our creations available within Africa (and slowly but surely the rest of the world)- we have two Love’s Hangover representatives in Kenya- Eve and Cyprian.
How did you settle for the name ‘Love’s Hangover’?
Emily: My sister was going through a dark period in her life and we used to stay up until 4AM making jewelry during the summer and she said that one day when we had a business she would call it Love’s Hangover. The name stuck- and here we are today. Our products at the time were inspired by what was going on which had a lot to do with love and heartache.
What products do you sell in your store?
We sell a variety of handmade products as well the raw materials for making these items such as beads and fabric.
We do customized gift packages upon request as well. Basically we started off with jewelry and went from doing simple earrings to learning how to wrap semi-precious stones in silver wire to create pieces. Eventually we drifted into purses- then clothing and now we have a bath and body collection that is handmade by us from natural products such as oatmeal and mango butter.
Basically all that we sell has been handmade and 90% off it is created by us in the store though we do work with other designers when the opportunity presents itself
Since you recently celebrated your store being a year old, what plans do you have for 2011?
Irene: Well I am working on a collection with Gusa by Victoria. We are getting the fabric handmade in Western Kenya through the Imani Workshop. We are also working on various customized designs.
Emily is working on a contract we have with Noblesville City (where our store is based)- to start offering classes through the Parks and Rec. office. We are starting off with an Introduction to Jewelry Making as well as a Cuisine and Culture Course. We are also working on making sure our website is up and running so that people can shop with us irrespective of where they are in the world. Lastly, Gina and I are collaborating with various organizations/ charities and individuals who want to be representatives and sell our Bath and Body Collection. The charities will use us to fundraise while the individuals want a second source of income that is not too time consuming or that works with their already busy schedules.
|Model Beryl in one Love Hangover pieces. photo by Jason Tang
What makes your bath and body collection different?
It is handmade by us and we use natural ingredients.
Our collection is also more affordable in comparison to most handmade natural bath and body products- this is a goal we have always had. For instance our oatmeal exfoliating soap goes for 89c per ounce. You can also customize your order. For instance we recently had a customer request that the next batch of oatmeal soap have a little more oatmeal since his skin type needed it. We were more than glad to do this since everyone skin works differently. I imagine if you walked into your regular store and asked for your bar of soap to cater to your skin type- you most likely would not get that request fulfilled. We are trying people with the understanding that we are all different- but each of us needs customized attention.
You mentioned you started classes for Loves Hangover can you tell us more about that?
The classes start in April and will be offered by the City of Noblesville.
If you have ever had a piece of jewelry you loved that fell apart- then our jewelry class is for you. Once you are done with the four week course- you will be able to do simple repairs as well as make a few jewelry pieces for yourself and as gifts.
Our Culture and Cuisine class is an opportunity for the city dwellers to share their various heritages with each other. You not only get the chance to learn how to make dishes from various countries but also learn more about that part of the world. We are working with a local liquor store, Mr. G’s Liquors to possibly offer some Wine’s/ Beers etc from these countries we will be teaching about.
What advice would you give other women pursuing their business dreams?
Irene: Never give up- it takes a long time- but don’t give up. Also do not take no for an answer or lose hope. Network with other businesses willing to work with you and support each other.
Do you have any expansion plans of reaching the Kenyan/ African market with your products?
Reaching the Kenyan market has been a big goal but the problem is shipping the item since regular mail is unreliable- and other mailing services are expensive. Our best bet is getting pieces to our representatives which we are trying to make a constant activity.
However if you do find you are interested in our pieces do get in touch and we’ll be sure to find a way to work with you and get our creations to you.
You can check out about Loves Hangover from their Facebook Page
Photo Credits : Crystal Lenz photography