Online marketer embarks on a journey of faith; it is paying off
By Catherine Kuria
The recent survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) clearly depicts that seven million Kenyans are unemployed. Out of these, 1.4 million have been desperately looking for employment opportunities. The bigger bracket of the unemployed individuals falls on the youth. The negative mindset among the youth that the so-called blue collar jobs are a sign of low social status is slowly killing productivity in the country.
Go to college, secure yourself a career to commit to for 40 years then retire. Take your child through the same process and the cycle continues. A good college education does not come cheaply. Even for the lucky few, it is not a guarantee for a good ‘respectable’ job. White collar jobs cannot be enough for all the job seekers. Wahu Kariithi is a journalist by profession who dubs as an entrepreneur, trainer and a mentor. She is currently working with Pro Mentor Africa.
While still in college, an idea struck her mind. Being a social media enthusiast with a huge following, she decided to commercialize her online presence. Consequently, she ventured into online marketing where she sells male and female shoes. Online marketing is an inexpensive way to reach your target market, regardless of the size of your business. Reasearch has it that by 2019, online marketing is set to be an industry worth 313 billion pounds. 91 percent of businesses have already adopted it as an essential tool in their marketing campaigns.
Her entrepreneurial journey
College life is not a walk in the park especially if one is extravagant; you are bound to go broke. Wahu is one of those ladies who are crazy about keeping up with the latest fashion trends. In order to quench her thirst for that extra coin, she decided to start making her own money. “I dread being broke. I love it when I’m able to pay my bills and ease the burden of my upkeep on my parents,” she says.
Growing up, she used to look up to the smart, beautiful and independent ladies on billboards, magazines and TVs and vowed to be like them. She endeavours to be financially independent as opposed to relying on relatives or friends for material support. She is currently based in Nairobi and offers free delivery service to her customers within the central business district (CBD). By the same token, she charges a modest transport fee for delivery outside the CBD.
Wahu is enthusiastic that her business is finally picking up the pace after being in the market for roughly over two years. “I’m an outgoing lady and I always wear my signature smile while delivering so that I can create a good impression on customers,” she says. The young entrepreneur has been riding high on the referrals she gets from satisfied customers. She buys her stock from Kamukunji market in Nairobi where she is a favourite of vendors who offer her large discounts on purchases.
Albert Schweitzer once said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” This quote is what keeps Wahu going. She may have gone to college to be a journalist but business is her passion. She is happy with the little money she makes and she is still soldiering on hoping that one day, her business will grow into an empire. “I will have my breakthrough in the market, I feel it, I believe it because I know it,” she heartily says. She wants to upgrade and get her stock directly from China because the prices there are pocket friendly.
Successful entrepreneurs take time to plan for the growth and expansion of their businesses. It can never happen by chance. In that breath, Wahu has created a road map to guide her and reduce the risk as she grows her enterprise.
The road map will help her find more growth opportunities and avoid costly mistakes. She has started by committing time to outlining a plan for her growth. Her growth plan is an informal sketch that includes her vision and mission statement, scenario planning and financial forecasts in order to leverage on the existing customers. She says that her customers are the best path to expansion and success. It’s usually much easier to find new business from current customers than to start afresh with untested ones. “It’s not just about growth, it’s about smart growth,” she quips.
Her greatest challenge has been that some people don’t take her online marketing job seriously. They are wary of con artists, which is rightfully justifiable. The challenge comes when as a marketer, customers think you are trying to con them when you request for a down payment before delivery. This hurdle has been hard to overcome for many online marketers.
In addition, the market is not predictable – one item may be trendy today, but tomorrow something trendier comes out. She has had to deal with the burden of old stock that is deemed “old fashioned”. Being a prayerful lady, she credits her strong willed persona to God. She says: “I pray for my customers to believe in me and that seems to be working.” She is not one to be fazed by challenges and has vowed to never quit even when there seems to be no way out.
She borrows a quote from Dave Thomas; the founder of Wendy’s that goes: “Knowing your customer is one of the three keys to success. Know those you serve better than anyone else, and you’ll be able to deliver the solutions they need.”