Elite Interviews: Founder of Bora Wear
Bora Wear is a men's wear company helping to employ HIV+ women in the slums of Nairobi. The founder of Bora Wear is Cornell graduate, Mugo Muna, who is the perfect example of how Gen-Y can take action in support of global causes.
Can you tell us a little more about the brand Bora Wear and what your main goal is?
Bora Wear is a men's wear company that employs HIV+ women in the slums of Nairobi. We believe it is better to employ someone for a wage than to simply give them that money. We focus on employing women because research shows that women will spend more of their income to better the lives of their family, giving future generations an opportunity to better their own lives.
How did the idea of creating this line come about to help people who are HIV+?
I am originally from Kenya. I moved to the States when I was eleven, but I always knew that I would come back to Kenya and make it a better place in some way. While at Cornell, I tried a couple of different majors all with the intent of using those acquired skills to do something in Kenya.
While in Kenya interning over a summer, I noticed some of my relatives were running businesses, employing people, and having direct and visible impact on average people's lives. So that was really the point where I started formulating the idea for Bora Wear.
What were you doing before you started Bora Wear?
Originally my cousin and I were working on an idea called The Noticed. It was a graphic t-shirt company, and we wanted to get different artists to show a side of Africa that wasn't war, famine, AIDS, and child soldiers.
For a large variety of reasons, it didn't work out, but it let me know that whatever I wanted to do it had to be a physical product because that meant that I had to hire someone to make it. On top of that, I knew we had to do something unique plus African. So The Noticed definitely influenced where I am today.
What is the inspiration behind the designs for the line?
We want to be that go to brand when someone is looking to stand out and look at differently. We want to infuse some color back into menswear. We want to give you a chance to wear clothes that stands for something.
We want to give you a chance to make a difference. We want you to experience new and exciting fabrics that you wouldn't normally get a chance to experience. We want you to carry a little piece of Africa everywhere you go.
How do you plan on improving the lives of current and future generations?
Due to the economic situation in Kenya, people often are forced into dangerous situations not because they want to but because they see no other options. By giving work to the groups of women, we enable them to avoid turning to brewing illegal alcohol or even prostitution. We give them an income that helps them send their children to school and maintain their households.
As we grow, we want to partner with orphanages for HIV+ children here in Kenya because these are places with so much need. The government made primary school education free at public schools only a few years ago which means that school fees are required for anything past sixth grade. On top of school fees, there are issues of accommodating, clothing, and feeding these young children.
Who are some people you look up to in terms of philanthropic success or who motivate you to continue your work?
I definitely look up to my friends working on Enzi footwear. It's always great to swap stories with other entrepreneurs who are working on making things happen here in Africa plus their shoes are fantastic. Naadam Cashmere is a brand that combines a great mission with amazing products, and those guys make me want to work harder to catch up with them.
Charity:water tackles one of the most difficult problem that people face all over the world, finding a clean, consistent water source. I mean these guys are having an immediate and HUGE impact on people's lives as soon as a new water source is created. Their work is so commendable and makes me always think that I could and should be doing more.
At Elite we believe it's important to give back and contribute to society, how important is it to you that younger generations become involved and aware of global issues?
If not us, then who? If we don't use the tools at our disposal to fight global ills then who will? I think it is impossible as a young person to be unaware of the many issues all around the world. But the torrent of information makes it easy to feel overwhelmed by these problems.
Yet, the world isn't just going to magically turn into a fair place where good is rewarded and evil is punished. We have to shape and make the world into our own vision. And if we don't do something, somebody else will and you may not like the results.
What would be some advice you'd like to give for those who wish to become involved with philanthropic projects, but are not sure how?
Stop making excuses why this isn't the right time or opportunity. Maybe the volunteer experience will suck or maybe you will find an organization or cause that you want to support.Get out there and make a difference.
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