PASSION FOR CLEANING LANDS YOUNGSTER INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Beryl Ochieng, founder, MCB cleaning services.
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In a stroke of courage, MCB’s Beryl Ochieng plunges into cleaning business while in school

By Joseph Macharia

Opportunities for starting a business are many. Nevertheless, it takes an entrepreneurial eye to spot them. Most people wait until they are well through with their education to give entrepreneurship a try. This is not the case with Beryl Ochieng, a fourth-year economics student at Catholic University of Africa in Karen, Nairobi.Ochieng runs MCB ; a  firm that provides professional cleaning services. MCB is an abbreviation for Madam CEO Beryl.

While in her second year, she could not help but notice that students needed services of a laundress (a lady who does laundry) who were few. Having a passion for cleaning, she braved herself and plunged into cleaning business. “I thought I could do some washing to at least get some pocket money,” she recalls. “That’s how I started washing for students within the hostel where I was staying,” she adds.

Initially,  she used to do laundry using her own hands. She would go around the neighbourhood to look for customers.  After seeing how profitable it was, she developed interest and immediately started thinking of how to scale up. Harbouring big dreams, she joined a savings and credit co-operative (Sacco) with the goal  of securing a loan.

Hurdles

Starting off as a laundress using her hands to wash clothes was constricting. One major challenge was getting capital; she had to acquire washing machines. Getting funding as a youth proved to be an uphill task. When she requested people to act as guarantors for a loan that she had applied, she was turned downon account of not being employed. With her hopes almost dashed, she turned to a friend who was impressed with what she was doing. The friend  agreed to loan her half the amount she needed.

By this time,  she had saved a substantial amount of  money   which enabled her to buy her first washing machine. The machine cost her about Kshs. 70,000. Now her services became professional. “So that was my first achievement, the first major development in my business,” she shares with excitement. Once with a machine, she increased her clientele as it   dispensed most of the washing.

Some clients would delay or refuse to pay their charges.  That was another challenge. “ It was disheartening,”  she says. However with time,  she has learnt to deal with such clients. To remedy the challenge  of payment, she requires  individuals    to  pay in advance for  her  services. So far, she hasn’t had issues with businesses because they pay once the service is rendered.

Growth

In a matter of time, business started flowing .  At times, it would overwhelm the machine. As a way to meet the growing demand, she started hiring machines to handle extra work.   Consequently,   she was able to extend her services to washing seats, mattresses, carpet cleaning, car interior cleaning, pest control and fumigation among others.

In late 2023,  she imported a brand new dryer cum washing   machine with a bigger capacity. It cost her Kshs. 180,000. She sees the equipment as assets that will generate income for her. As a start up with no budget for marketing,  she advertises her services on social media platforms. Most of her clientele are students and established businesses like hotels.

Ochieng   lives  an up-market neighbourhood which  has    other players  offering  services similar to hers hence  heightening  competition.   She therefore strives to offer her customers a delightful experience in order to stand out. “Effective service delivery; we simply deliver the best,” she says. “Cleaning is our thing and we do it with excellence,” she adds.

Beryl doing a pro-sofa cleaning on a couch.

Lessons learnt

Ochieng is quick to acknowledge that business is not for the faint-hearted. “It’s not easy setting a business. It is not a walk in the park. You need to persevere and be disciplined,” she notes. She says it took her discipline to save for her first machine, a quality that is lacking with most young fellows. Being in university, she would have decided to splurge the money on frivolous luxuries, but instead chose to stick to her plan of buying a machine.

“ Bringing a business idea to life requires a lot of sacrifice,”  she says adding  that one  has  to sacrifice short term pleasures for a long term gain. In her case it is (and was) waking up early and having courage to do what she loves doing: cleaning. While her peers are busy sleeping , she is up at three in the morning to make money. Not many can do it.

“You need to work smart. Everyone is working hard. What makes a business or a person unique is how smart they work in their given field,” she observes. Competition is real in the business world and it can get messy. To get a customer base and keep it, you need to differentiate your services from the competition. She attributes her growth to effective service delivery and meeting deadlines.

Ochieng has experienced first-hand the importance of having mentors. At the beginning beset by difficulties, she was about to throw in the towel. Nevertheless, one of her mentors nudged her to keep going and even provided financial support. Many successful people claim to be  self-made  but if you look closely into their lives there are people behind the scenes that play an active role in guiding them through their journeys. Her advice to young entrepreneurs is that they should not   walk alone. However caution should be exercised in choosing mentors.

Future plans

“My future plan is to grow MCB  into one of the best cleaning services firm  in Kenya. I have a dream of opening a branch here in Karen first, before  spreading   to other parts of  the country,” she shares adding that her target market is residents and businesses in  Karen and its neighbourhood. Once through with her studies, she intends to pour all her energy into building MCB into a reputable cleaning company.

Already as a fourth year student,  she has managed   to employ people on contractual basis depending on the size of work she gets. Some works like cleaning of hundred of seats, tents and a compound of an upcoming event requires a group of people. Normally, in such occasions she will hire  ten to fifteen  people. On board, she has two professional cleaners who work with her throughout.

Final word

“People don’t love struggling story. People love happy endings. When you are struggling to build your brand, no one will be there for you, but once you have made it, everyone will want to associate with you,” Ochieng observes. “  No one is going to clap for you when you are   creating something from scratch, help will come often when don’t need it,” she adds.

She advises fellow youths to get their hands dirty and earn clean money from the sweat of  their  brow. “Start with whatever you have in your hands, don’t wait until you get a lot of money. Even if you have a degree you can go back to school and learn a technical skill. There are many blue-collar jobs, take one and get going,”she ends.

Beryl at a glance

Typical day: Wakes up at 3 am on weekdays to do laundry for clients. Attends her classes during the day afterwards goes to the gym. In the evening,  she returns to her place to deliver clothes to her clients.

Hobbies: Likes to adventure, road trips and going out

Favourite book: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Favourite dish: Fish with garlic and ugali

Dream car: Lexus LX570

Philosophy: “Whenever you wake up, it’s another day but the same God. Keep trying. Your time will come.”

Marital status: Single

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