How Mercy Kyallo Turned Failure to Multi-Million Fashion Brand

Employment opportunities are not always available and when a person gets one, they do their best to retain it at all costs.

However, this was not the case for Mercy Kyallo, sister to popular K24 anchor Betty Kyallo. Driven by a long term passion she ventured into a field she knew little of.

In a past interview by the Standard, Mercy revealed that she made the decision to venture into the leather products forming business hence startingYallo Leather Company due to her desire to deal with leather from when she was young.

A photo of a product made by Yallo Leather Company

Kyallo started off by identifying a trader in Nairobi’s Kariokor Market to make leather shoes that she started to sell.

However, the quality, kept customers away leading to her decision to up her game in terms of top quality products.

“Some of my first customers bought the products just to reward my efforts, not because I was giving them quality,” remarked Mercy.

After a short while, Mercy quit her job at a prestigious advertising firm to concentrate fully on leather products unaware of the hurdles that awaited her.

What followed were numerous trips to tanneries in Thika, Sagana and Athi River to understand the different types of leather, pricing and labour market dynamics. She also made an effort to read about the industry and visited other producers.

“There were these two huge documents done by the World Bank Group and Economic and Transformation Group for the Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development that I had to read,” remarked Mercy.

Trouble started brewing in February 2014 when Mercy procured 23 leather bags from a businessman in Thika anticipating to make great profits from them where she spent Ksh50,000 on the product.

The purchase was just a loss infliction as the returns turned south.

“I sold only four bags over a period of two years. In fact, one was returned because it had design defects. This was my reality check. I felt like the leather business was not for me. I even contemplated quitting altogether,” she remarked.

However, the disappointment would just serve as a turning point for her, where she changed her mind from manufacturing ladies products and turned to executive men’s products.

Upon her new realisation, Mercy turned to a mentor known as Kelvin, who eventually helped bring a paradigm shift in her thinking on business development.

The two sat down together and came up with an imaginary persona that would represent their client where they assessed his needs and figured out how leather products would serve as a solution.

“We decided to manufacture a leather bag for ‘Richard’ – that director, executive or manager in Nairobi who spends his time going from one business meeting to another. We also had to anticipate Richard’s travel habits and create a product that resonates with him. Richard is a man on the move.”

This was a defining decision that eventually grew to become Yallo Leather, a corporate brand that manufactures all types of leather bags and accessories for male executives.

To make it a fully authentic Kenyan brand, the naming of the products had to be unique, Mercy opting to use names from her native Ukambani areas such as Kitui, Migwani, Ngii and Kiluti.

The prices for her bags range between Ksh11,000 and Ksh25,000.

A photo of a product made by Yallo Leather Company
A photo of a product made by Yallo Leather Company
A photo of a product made by Yallo Leather Company
A photo of a product made by Yallo Leather Company