Entrepreneurial alumni couple share success story


Arabella Hau/ Iowa State Daily

Iowa State alumni couple Claire and Webster Kranto shared their entrepreneurial story and clothing line, Ark-Vayo, Monday in Morrill Hall.

Arabella, Hau

A presentation on the successes of Iowa State alumni and entrepreneurs Claire and Webster Kranto and a viewing of the fall exhibit featuring the Krantos’ work, “By Design: Process-Production-Profession,” took place in the Textiles and Clothing Museum on Monday in Morrill Hall.

The married couple shared their journey of navigating through the business world as young entrepreneurs, including the creation of their apparel line, educational program and five other self-created businesses.

The Krantos’ story exhibited the ups and downs of self-employment and investing time and money into big dreams.

“Be prepared for and embrace failure,” Webster Kranto said. “If you’re a person that breaks down easily, it’s going to get you. We did a lot of crying, collectively and individually. You’ll feel a lot of things, but you just have to have a backup plan and keep pushing; always have a backup plan.”

The Krantos overcame many obstacles in the creation of their apparel line.

Their fashion line, Ark-Vayo, provides customers with African-inspired apparel and accessories made in Africa. Purchases from the line help to sustain the African artists credited with the production of the pieces.

Claire Kranto designs and tailors pieces herself, running a custom-order program within her business for customers with specific garment desires.

Throughout the presentation, the couple discussed their struggles with the beginning stages of their now-successful business. They described their difficulties with placing their first orders in Ghana, and the corruption in the process.

They also discussed their navigation of U.S. customs for the first time and other financial setbacks that made it difficult to get their business running.

On the other side of their struggles, however, came the success side of their story. The couple now owns a store in West Des Moines, “Budu/Bu,” home to the Ark-Vayo collection as well as the works of local artists and glass pieces.

The couple also operates other businesses that are constantly growing, each of them focusing on treating their employees and suppliers well.

Collectively, the Krantos said the most rewarding aspects of their recent successes are the opportunities that come with being self-employed. Having a flexible work schedule allows them to focus on what’s important to them outside of their work lives  their growing family.

“I did the whole 9-5 thing for awhile — for three years — before we branched off, and the number one reward for me is the actual time I get to spend with my kids,” Webster Kranto said. “I get to wake up to them, my alarm isn’t going off, I don’t have to rush out — it’s the greatest feeling ever. It’s a reason to keep trying things and make sure you’re keeping yourself afloat.”

The Krantos said they look forward to future projects they are already preparing for. In the meantime, their work can be viewed in the Textiles and Clothing Museum in Morrill Hall at Iowa State.