How one 26-year-old turned $500 into $2 million online

Story highlights

  • Anyadiegwu connects African-inspired designers with potential customers online
  • She started her business two years ago with a clear vision and tech expertise

(CNN)What started with a compliment turned one young woman's idea into a million dollar business.

When Kelechi Anyadiegwu started her online African clothing store Zuvaa with $500 two years ago, her idea was to share African-inspired designs with consumers around the world. Zuvaa is estimated to make $2 million in sales in 2016.
    After receiving a compliment on her outfit, the tech savvy 24-year-old bought a domain name and started social media accounts.
    "I didn't really know what I was getting into, I just had a vision and I was excited about where that would take me," New York-based Anyadiegwu told CNN in an interview.
    "As a women of Nigerian descent, I grew up with African prints and fabrics. I loved wearing African inspired designs, and whenever I did wear these pieces, people wanted to know how they could also shop African inspired prints."
    Instead of just referring these curious customers on to the designers she knew, Anyadiegwu saw a business opportunity.
    "I decided to use my skills in social media marketing and online community building, to create a platform that would provide more exposure for the talented African-inspired fashion designers I knew existed around the world," she said.
    Her success has already landed her on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

    Passion x expertise = a winning formula

    While the path of a tech entrepreneur is not an easy one, Anyadiegwu's education set her up for success.
    After studying User Experience Design in the U.S., she combined her passion for representing Africa on the world stage, her keen eye for design and tech expertise.
    "I've always been a techie. I'm very interested in how technology and design could be used to change lives.
    "Zuvaa brought together everything I was ever interested in. My love for Africa, my interest in fashion and my skills in technology."

    The life of a young entrepreneur

    Anyadiegwu has been very vocal about the fact that she did not want a traditional 9 to 5 job.
    And she's not alone, according to research by Bentley University, 77% of millennials say flexible work hours make them more productive.
    "My days are a lot longer than 9-5!" says Anyadiegwu. "From when I wake up to when I go to sleep, I'm working on Zuvaa. If I'm not directly working on Zuvaa, I'm definitely thinking about it."
    Anyadiegwu predicts Zuvaa is on track to make $2 million in gross sales this year, she said having a clear vision is key.
    "My biggest piece of advice is to trust your vision. Your vision for your life and company are really going to be what makes you stand out.
    "No one is going to be able to see this vision, that's what makes it so special, that what will set you apart from others, that's what will make get every morning exciting to work and build your company."

    A photo posted by Zuvaa Marketplace (@shopzuvaa) on

    The name 'Zuvaa' comes from 'Zuva' which means sun or sunshine in the language of the Shona people from Zimbabwe. Anyadiegwu's vision for the company is clear;
    "We are building a movement of artisans, consumers and people around the world who want to know the stories behind their garments. Where they come from and who made them."
    "People are excited that their traditional prints are going global and it's driven by people from their communities. Many are fascinated with the market that exists outside of Africa and how the global interest is trickling down to their local communities," added the young entrepreneur.