Who Is Dorothy And What Is House of Dotty?

Dorothy Kimweli is half of House of Dotty. The Couple-Owned company, run together by her husband Alfred Kimweli, is one of the most sought wedding planning companies in Kenya. “We are passionate about weddings, but we also do other events that are not related to weddings.” Working together makes it easier for them to maintain balance in their lives, especially their family with their two daughters, Jasmine and Kanya.

House of Dotty’s passion has always been in planning. However, many years ago, planning was insufficient and thus, they had to offer other services to boost their revenue. This included having hardware supplies such as tents, furniture, chairs, tables, etc. 

What Happened During Covid?

Dorothy recalls that the first Covid case was made public the day before a wedding. Fortunately, the lockdown had not yet been announced, allowing the wedding to go on despite anxiety among the guests and planners. The safety precautions were soon announced the following week which meant that no events were scheduled. International customers make up 90% of House of Dotty’s clientele and as a result of the travel restrictions, which included the closure of airports, clients of House of Dotty began contacting to postpone. In an effort to determine the best course of action, Dorothy also began reaching out to her contacts in the events sector. Unfortunately, there was no simple solution; all that could be done was to take each day as it came.

Dorothy and Alfred were resilient – They did not panic and they did not want to give up, but reality hit in April. Clients who paid deposits for events started requesting a refund of their payments. Furthermore, there were staff who needed to be paid, and the money needed to do so was nowhere to be found. They decided to maintain part of the employees on a need-to-need basis, and thankfully, they were quite helpful and understood the circumstance. The situation then took an interesting turn when the House of Dotty was forced to shut down its stores and move all of its hardware supplies into Dorothy and Aldred’s house. 

Graciously, Dorothy and Alfred held each other’s hand, they talked through their circumstances and they balanced each other out on the challenges they faced. After closing all of their stores, the first priority was to ensure that their basic needs were met. Following that, the couple would take care of their debts as needed whenever money came into the business.

House of Dotty Is Still Busy. What Is Their Secret?

Through the months of March and August 2020, House of Dotty was silent. But the first event they held in August 2020 was a wedding, which received approval under the condition that just 15 guests would attend. Since then, House of Dotty has made a significant comeback, and their use of social media was a factor in their success. House of Dotty’s social media presence was lacking before Covid. However, they were frequently in touch with young people who offered them suggestions on how to make their pages more active. This worked out well during Covid because they produced quality content for the business and increased their web visibility. 

Wedding planning is a service, and it can be challenging to describe your offering on social media so that people can understand what you do. Even though the majority of the company’s business comes through referrals, customers can still access the company’s sites and access its material, making it simple for them to get in touch with House of Dotty. This has increased the company’s customer base significantly.

However, the majority of their customers were repeat customers who had rescheduled their weddings. The majority of their overseas clientele are still waiting to see how the scenario will play out because they are countries that are still in the red.

Lessons Learned

  • Relationships Matter: Dorothy expresses her gratitude to God for the numerous people in her life, some of whom she reached out to through difficult times, some even sent the family food. A few of her previous clients also generously provided the family with financial help. Isn’t that fantastic? Long-term client connections are something that House of Dotty takes pride in, and it is evidently worthwhile. “Keep good relationships. Don’t refuse to pick up a call,” Dorothy counsels. Due to the positive relationships, they maintained with their suppliers, banks, and other places where they took out loans, they were able to give House of Dotty a little leeway. However, it still was not simple.
  • Diversity: What else can you do and how else can you do it? This is a difficult lesson to learn particularly for those in the events space. Being passionate about what you already do can prevent you from thinking creatively. However, Covid has shown us that not everything is constant. Be adaptable.
  • Plan: Especially your finances. Don’t be caught empty-handed. 
  • Reach Out: We often hesitate to do so out of concern for others’ opinions, although connecting with others can be beneficial in times of need. 

Advice To Couple-Owned Businesses

“I find it hard to give advice to that because couple dynamics are so different”. One thing Dorothy would say is she is friends with her husband. However, this might be difficult at times because it’s challenging to distinguish between family and business. She would advise you to:

  • Stick together.
  • Pray together.
  • Talk about everything: Don’t be afraid to open up to your spouse. What are your fears, concerns, and annoyances? What would you like to do besides what you are doing now?
  • Your successes and failures are shared as well.

“For those in the events industry – we are survivors. Even with the lockdowns, and challenges of Covid, we are still passionate and moving – it is a good industry to be in. Keep strong, don’t give up, and think outside the box”.