From Refugee to Mogul: The Inspiring Journey of Kanessa Muluneh, CEO of MULU LOVE

Ethiopian Born Kanessa Muluneh is the Founder and CEO of Plus-Size Fashion Brand: MULU LOVE. She also founded the first female football league in The Netherlands: The Queen’s Football League. Additionally, she is the Founder of Sporthy– a fitness platform connecting sports experts with everyday people.

Muluneh’s family had to leave Ethiopia as refugees, eventually landing in The Netherlands. Through hard work and dedication: Kanessa went from a refugee to an empire builder, selling her first company the same year she graduated from College.

Tell us about your brand MULU?
The brand started through facing my own struggles. I used to be a plus size woman and couldn’t find proper gymwear as a powerlifter. So, I began designing my own clothing while I was on maternity leave with my first pregnancy.

Back then, (6 years ago) brands in Europe only catered to bodies up to size XL. As I gained weight during my pregnancy, I knew I would be out of luck after my delivery when it comes to size. I was already wearing an XL! That’s when I started designing, offering clothing all the way up to size 7XL.

My brand, MULU, has always revolved around growth. In the past 6 years, my life has shifted and changed tremendously. Every part of the growth reflects in my brand. Why? I know that whatever I am going through is not limited to myself only. I realize there are other women out there in desperate need of the solution.

MULU is all about growth. As I grow, I want to take everyone along with me on the journey. I’ve come too far to keep my life success(es) to myself. Why would I? My life started as a hopeless immigrant from Ethiopia. Today, I’ve reached a point where I’m able to provide a dream life for my family, retire my parents, and put my children in the best private international schools. And, I believe everyone deserves that!

What made you want to start your own fashion brand?
I noticed that I wasn’t the only one having a hard time finding comfortable activewear. As I started wearing my clothes more and more, I got requests from other bigger women, asking if they could get their hands on my items as well.

In essence, that is how the brand started. I spotted an opportunity, went for it, and never looked back!

If you could use three words to describe your platform, what would it be and why?
Fearless, Risk Taking & Limitless

How did you personally prepare for the success your company has achieved?
I dreamt about the success for a long time. The reality of the success, in my head, was completely different from the success I’ve experienced, however. Back then, success to me was running a large company, giving myself all types of fancy titles, and sitting on a beach all day with a coconut or cocktail in my hand. In reality, success has been none of that! It’s more like working around the clock, being confronted with challenges all the time, and not seeing your kids as much as you would like to.

At a certain moment, you will reach a point where you have to consider if it’s all worth it? It takes quite a lot to continue when you reach difficulties or plateaus. But as your experience and knowledge grows, it will get easier. Overcoming is the real success factor in life, and the strength that comes from overcoming. That strength will make you, and those around you, automatically stronger by the day!

Do you have any tips for upcoming entrepreneurs looking to join the fashion and apparel industry?
I’m going to be honest– it’s a tough market. The competition is fierce and the current economy doesn’t make it easier. When you have a goal there are 2 things/mistakes I would like to prevent for you!

Start marketing before spending too much money. Build a brand or community of people who believe in the concept/idea/product before investing because having products without customers can be a financial burden.

Don’t worry too much about doing everything perfect! Especially when it comes to copyrights and all that nonsense that expensive lawyers advice you. We live in a world where you must prepare to be copied. If you would spend your energy, and mostly your money on trying to fight all that negativity, you will get drained and that will hurt your business. Use ‘predators’ as motivation instead of enemies. It will push you to be better, using the motivation as your advantage to become the best in your niche. You will win!

Tell us about your journey with creating the first female football league in The Netherlands?
It all started with a video that I saw of women playing American Football in the States. Instantly, I was obsessed. I said… THIS is my new bucket-list thing!

I started googling in the area where I lived—Amsterdam (Holland) and found only a men’s team. When I reached out to their Head Coach on Facebook, he told me there were Women’s Teams the United States or other countries. My only option was to play amongst the men or go to the United States. Since both were not an option for me, he offered to teach me the game if I managed to gather some girls with the same interest.

That is where it all began!

I reposted the same video that sparked my interest on Facebook to see if I could gather a group of girls. My inbox exploded! Not only the city/cities I was looking, but from all corners of the The Netherlands.

That year, I founded two teams: one in Amsterdam and another in Rotterdam. We played our first game. In the following years, I started 5-6 more teams and played many international games. Prior to COVID, we had plans to expand to other countries.

It was never the goal to get Queens Football League to this level but once I started, I couldn’t stop. Similar to what motivated me with MULU, I found a “problem” or something that people needed, and engineered the solution.

Did you always have a passion for sports?
Actually, never. I wasn’t brought up with any encouragement in sports. It was something I discovered later in life (Mid-20’s).

What do you hope women takeaway from their experience within the league?
As cliche as it sounds, you only need to believe in something to make it happen. Never would I have thought that I would be the right person to start a league, but I did.

I am super proud of what I accomplished with QFL but I also recognized my weaknesses. Leading a company with members is not easy. Dealing with so many people, at times, felt like leading a political party. Everyone had opinion’s and all feelings had to be considered in every decision. I know I was not the right person to lead that to a higher level. I was absorbing negative energy for the sake of others. In the end, it was not worth it. My decision saved both parties unnecessary hustle. I found another board that is doing a good job.

My advice is, don’t hold onto a title if you feel you are not the right person for it. Let go! For the sake of your own mental wellbeing. Don’t feel bad to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness!

What is next for you in entrepreneurship?
I think at some point, you need to acknowledge when you have done well. I’ve reached that point. I don’t need more, but I can do more. I’ve reached a point where I can decide what I want to do without having to consider any negative effects on my private life. But I’m already in the elevator to the top… so why stop?

For now, I want to see if I can help other people grow. No– I’m not a coach or whatever the fancy names are these days. Every day, I see others suffer unnecessarily. I can’t let that happen if I want my kids to live in a better world. I know my mom’s kindness might not always been good for her personally, but her good karma definitely brought us here today.

I will start sharing my knowledge through YouTube or other social media platforms and hope to save people from this pressure-filled society. Whether that’s financially, or through mindset training. I want all of us to break free from toxic mental prisons.

What is your definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles?
A woman who believes in herself but knows her boundaries! One that knows when enough is enough.

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Jakia Cheatham - Myles

CEO/Founder of Pretty Women Hustle Magazine

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