Picha Booth sat down with Franklin, Founder of Kenyan Stylista
Franklin Saiyalel – Kenyan Stylista

Social media is mostly a place to show how much you’re “prospering,” and it is perhaps why some eyebrows began to rise when Franklin Saiyalel started posting conversations on mental health. What came after is something he did not expect.

Picha Booth sat down with Franklin, founder of Kenyan Stylista, for a chat on mental health in business.

The purpose of this post is to encourage entrepreneurs having a rough time. Things can and will go wrong. Don’t be too fixated on success stories that don’t capture struggles causing anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues. Let’s begin an honest conversation about mental health with relation to entrepreneurship.

Picha Booth: Your name has been synonymous with fashion since 2011. How did it all start?

Franklin: When I was in college I began blogging. I started getting jobs in writing, fashion and styling, so I picked up that path telling myself “maybe one day I’ll end up on TV.” I was later approached by Scangroup and worked in advertising and had no social life for three years. I said to myself “let me just work because I don’t have the background so I can gain experience.” I ended up working with their client, KLM, in digital marketing. I worked with them for six months and quit. Did the same thing in another firm and quit.

Picha Booth: Why?

Franklin:  Every time I quit I was thinking about my passion for making suits. I was just scared to leave and do it until one day I said enough was enough. I was living in a one bedroom apartment, and with my last salary, I moved to a three-bedroom house because I could live and work there also. I was taking big risks. It was scary, and I couldn’t sleep for weeks because I was used to a cheque at the end of the month. Now you have to look for money every day. Till today, the first year was the best. The drive was too much. Nowadays, I don’t get excited a lot.

Bespoke Men's Suits
Bespoke Men’s Suits

Picha Booth: So how are you making your money now?

Franklin: Men’s suits. I just saw an opportunity and went for it. I got machines, and a shop … but that was before things started falling apart.

Picha Booth: Let’s talk about mental health.

Franklin:  Yea, I started posting a lot of emotional things, and guys started noticing something is wrong. Even random people I don’t even know started asking me “are you okay?” At first, I made fun of everything, but then it hit me people are starting to notice something is off. So I thought, you know what, I have nothing to lose.

Picha Booth: And what was going wrong?

Franklin: I had an investor that pulled out. We hadn’t even finished the agreement, but he had given me the money. He said he didn’t feel that we were growing and that he needed his money back. I had used the money to get assets; a car, the shop, and machines. Funny enough I had a dream about it happening. I woke my good friend [flat mate] up and told him that I had dreamt the guy had come for his money and he didn’t care – and it happened the way I saw it. I didn’t have money, but he gave me five days to communicate how I’ll give back the cash. It was a million bob.

Picha Booth: Wow.

Franklin: At that point, I started losing friends. Week after week something was happening to the point that you can’t even cry. Hata machozi haitoki. I decided to cut down on everything. I gave notice for the house, the shop; I had debts with my tailors… and moved to a smaller house near Ngong’ Road where I lived for two months.

Picha Booth: And the debt?

Franklin: I told the guy I didn’t have money, so I gave him my car- asked him to find out the value, and deduct it from the debt. The day before I gave him my car I sat in it and prayed to God, “Whatever it is you have waiting for me better be worth it!” because I was giving everything away. It reduced the value to a half. I used to send even a thousand bob a week. I was still getting orders for suits but everything I got I’d send to this guy. He was on my neck it wasn’t even funny.

Picha Booth: What was the relationship?

Franklin: This guy was my good, good friend. My mum used to tell me to stop thinking about all the nice things I had done for him because that used to make me feel bad. And there was nothing I hadn’t done for this guy.

I didn’t know I was depressed; sometimes people don’t know when they are depressed. People think you’re cursed.

Franklin’s best friend noticed his distress and offered to partially pay for a holiday to Thailand. It is during this trip that Franklin got the idea to source for tailors in Thailand. They are known for the ability to make quality suits in between eight to twelve hours. The first partnership proved to be expensive and after another trip, he was able to score tailors charging a reasonable fee. All suits are made in Thailand, but a local tailor makes small adjustments per client needs.

Picha Booth: When did you finish paying the debt?

Franklin: The same friend asked me how much I had left to finish paying the debt and decided to loan me the money so that I didn’t have to deal with the guy any longer. Now I was left dealing with her. By January [2018], I had cleared everything.

Why Franklin is vocal about mental health online

Though Franklin is debt free, depression is still a reality. The fire and motivation he had when starting his business have dwindled, and there are those days motivation lacks entirely. It doesn’t help his home has been robbed twice this year. He hopes a new location and opening a new shop will get him renewed zeal to get his business soaring.

Franklin at his studio
Franklin at his studio

There are ways, including prayer and gym, which Franklin adopts to cope with life. The challenge remains he’s yet to find free resources to help him and those who reach out to him on social media. And reach out they do. People have found a safe space in where they share their difficult stories, and he’s, for the most part, to encourage them and provide some sense of healing.

The fact remains that he’s not a professional and doesn’t always have the words or answers. The issue is he doesn’t know whom to direct people to. KES 2,000 or more for an hour’s session with a mental health practitioner is way above the average Kenyan’s budget. Just like most people, Franklin asks the question, “where can Kenyans turn to for mental health resources and services?”

Let us know in the comments section of this blog or our social pages how you have been able to cope with mental health challenges in your career or even as an entrepreneur. You taking the time to share will encourage others and potentially save lives. Below we’ve listed resources you can check out to gain clarity on mental health and emotions.

1.       MedCircle YouTube Channel

2.       Psych Central

3.       Psychology Today

4.       Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck

5.       Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman


As always, thanks for stopping by!

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