A bubbly and witty lady who juggles school and business to acquire financial freedom
By Catherine Kuria
People waste a lot of time searching endlessly for magic shortcuts to entrepreneurial success and fulfillment when the only real trick is getting started. It’s hard and a lot of work which requires constant input but such is life. Besides, look on the bright side: You get to do what you want and you get to do it your way. There’s just one catch, you’ve got to start somewhere. Ideas and opportunities don’t just materialize out of thin air. The only way to get started is by learning a marketable skill and getting to work. That is where the ideas, opportunities, partners, and finances come from. Sure, it also takes an enormous amount of hard work, but that just comes with the territory.
Self reliance is great and even better, if you start at an early age. Parents encourage their kids to make independent decisions, dream and start working towards achieving their dreams. Dreams come in small and big packages but, one Lupita Nyong’o once said, “Your dreams are valid.” Njeri Kimata is a student at Kenyatta University pursuing a Bachelor in Education Arts majoring in English and Literature. She hails from Gatundu and is the 1st born in a family of four. Njeri realized that she had a lot of time in her hands considering her classes only take up to 21 hours per week and decided to start selling lady hand bags as a side hustle.
Inspiration behind her entrepreneurial journey
When she first joined campus, she encountered a guy friend who used to sell data bundles around campus. The guy encouraged her to help him market his bundles to her fellow freshmen. She also used to market bags for a lady friend of her in exchange for commission on each bag sold. Through marketing bundles and bags for her friends, Njeri realized she had a knack for business and decided to start her own business instead. Her starting capital came from the savings she had made from her job as a marketer around campus.
She started her business with 5, 000 shillings and which turned out to be the best investment in her life. She has never injected any more capital from outside of the business since what she makes is enough to keep it running smoothly. She uses the money earned to add stock and the rest goes to her saving. Her first business venture was selling lady inner wears. She used to get her stock from Eastleigh and used to hawk around the campus hostels and door to door selling in her neighborhood. After doing rounds she finally saved up enough money to purchase bags and transitioned her business fully. Currently, she gets her products from Kamukunji market in Nairobi where she has made contacts with specifics stores who sell to her at a relatively fair price.
Are dreams valid?
Njeri is a firm believer that, where there is a will there is a way. Making it big is not an overnight thing; one must put effort into it. Her short term goal is that, in the next 2 years her business will have gained more recognition and will start to bring in more income. Her end term goal is to be able to grow from a small retail enterprise to a whole sale enterprise that will be distributing lady bags around the country. She is crazy about cars and hopes that by the time she is done with school; she will be able to afford a ride.
Her target market is mostly students from around the campus. When you look at the population in Kenyatta University it is huge and therefore her market is quite diverse. “I’m really gearing towards expanding my market outside of the campus because I believe I can soar to greater tides. The population of ladies in our country is huge and my business aims at appealing to all ladies. I there pride in the fact that my bags come in different styles to suit different moods,” she adds.
She says that the secret to making it is thinking outside of the box. When you are youth under your parents care, nothing really stresses you but the moment reality dawns and you have to be self reliant, then life becomes hard. Njeri says that she works to gain financial freedom. She is a member of two chamas where they contribute a certain amount of money that goes to savings. She hopes to grow and someday invest the money in real estate.
Achievements and Hurdles
She credits her self confidence to her business. Some may wonder how? Njeri used to be a shy person who would not look anyone in the face. When she started marketing goods around campus, her shell broke and that boosted her confidence. Now, she is this bubbly lady who can strike a conversation with anybody. Through her business venture, she meets a lot of people and ends up making new friends who in turn spread the word about her business hence making more sales.
When she was just a newbie who did not know about the ropes in the business, she was looking for money to join a marketing network formerly called Social Bizz but now they go by Global Internet Fortunes. She joined network and injected 7, 920 shillings. She never got any clients and had no down line and she ended up losing allher money. That was a big setback for her young business but that did not deter her from rising up and forging ahead.
Her course requires her to attend 3 lessons per day which amounts to 21 hours a week. She has a lot of time in her hands which she positively takes advantage of. She gives her studies and business equal attention and ensures that on is not suffering because of the other. When hanging out with friends, she uses that opportunity to market her goods. She has lessened the burden of spending on her parents since she uses the money she makes for her upkeep instead of relying on her parents. She further affirms that, “People see you living a good life and they think that a rich man is paying for your upkeep. I really hate relying on another person’s sweat and work hard to earn for the comforts that I yearn for. Parents will not do everything for you and it is upon us as youth to work hard and secure a good future for ourselves.”
Advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs
Njeri believes that everything minus God is nothing. To anybody out there aspiring to make it in business, her advice is to put God first before everything. She adds that, giving up is the worst thing you could ever do. Challenges will always e there but what one does to overcome those challenges is what counts. Setbacks will be there in plenty but let them serve as a lesson and strengthen you to do more.Business is like a game of chess, you either gain profit or losses. Play your cards right and always trust your instincts. She concludes by saying that, “You will find people who are unfriendly and straight up mean to you but don’t let their negativity deter you from going for what you want.”
A day in the life of Njeri
She wakes up at 5:30 am and says a short prayer. She gets ready and makes sure by 7 she is in class ready for her first lesson. After classes are over, she goes to the library to do extra studying for awhile. Then afterwards she hangs out with friends and at the same time promoting her business from one corner of the campus to another. Her strategy is “tells a friend to tell a friend”. In the evening she is online promoting her business on the various social media platforms. She says her phone is her best friend. Her favorite meal is Ugali with milk
and adds that she is a poor sport.