HOW WE MADE OUR FIRST MILLION: KEZIAH AND CHRISTINE
|From left, Keziah Nyaga, owns Kezdelight Planners and a Mitumba Clothes Wholesale Shop Christine Mulwa is an indipendent distributor with a global Network Marketing Company in Nairobi Kenya|
Keziah Nyaga, owns Kezdelight Planners and a mitumba clothes wholesale shop.
Just over five years ago, Keziah Nyaga was a cyber cafe attendant at the Care Connect Cyber Cafe along Wabera Street in Nairobi. Her daily work routine was pretty simple. “I cleaned the cyber cafe, charged customers and printed documents,” she says. At the end of the month, she would earn Ksh8,000. But Keziah felt restrained and unfulfilled. “It made me feel stuck. I wanted more; I wanted to be like my employer. I wanted to make my own money, perhaps even make a million!” she says.
She was convinced that entrepreneurship would be her ticket to riches. However, she couldn’t think of any business that her meager savings could afford to set up in the Nairobi CBD. “Setting up a business in the CBD would be too costly. Rent was too high,” she says. And further, she didn’t have a business idea. Nevertheless, she was determined to break free from the chain of employment and a hand-to-mouth monthly income.
After saving some money over the course of a year, Keziah opened a stall at Gikomba Market and began to sell kids’ mitumba (second-hand) clothes. “I bought several bales of second-hand clothes which I would sell wholesale to retailers from upcountry.”
LOTS OF MONEY
By 2012, her mitumba business had picked up so well that she’d make a gross of between Ksh.200,000 to Ksh.300,000 in a good month. “In a bad month, though, I’d make Ksh.50,000!” she says. However, most of her income went back into the business. “I had a lot of cash passing through my hands, but my income was little. I could transact combined sales worth a million or more within a few months, yet my worth was nowhere near the Ksh 1 million,” says Keziah. “At the end of every month, I found myself wondering how I could be transacting and making so much money, yet earning so little profit. It was very frustrating! “Whenever my mitumba business appeared to pick up, something awful would happen. If it was not fire razing down the market, it was theft and grenades. I had to change tack.” In early 2013, Keziah opted to try her hand at a new business. With Ksh.200,000, she set up an events company, Kezdelights Planners. “I was cautious (because) I wanted to get things right from the beginning. At the back of mind, I knew this was what would propel me to millionaire status.
She enrolled for a short course at Samantha Bridals WMBA while interning with an established events planner to gain exposure. To get acquainted with the event planning skills she needed, she started off organizing small birthday parties, and began to market it through word of mouth. “It looked like an effort in vain at first. Clients were hard to come by and I feared that I’d fail. But I stuck to my guns.”
Soon, her patience and efforts began to bear fruit. “I would get one customer per month. Many of those I approached seeking business were hesitant because I was not an established name.” Her planning business finally caught on and she was contracted to set up events for Village Market and State House. “I made my first million from these two events last year,” she says, adding that their success cleared a pathway for more business opportunities. “I still run my mitumba business but it has gone slow since I started Kezdelights. I do not have regrets as I believe in growing. I am now working towards crossing the Ksh. 2 million mark.”
Looking back at her journey, Keziah says that she would not be where she is today had she not put her mind to it. “Hard work and back-breaking determination have been my secret. I’ve found that there is nothing a woman cannot achieve if she puts her full mind into it.” She adds that although she would have wished to start a business uptown where quick money seems readily available, she had no resources to do so, but chose to be content with what she could do and build on it.
“I’ve seen many women despise a certain kind of work, yet the enterprise they desire is totally out of reach. This is a booby trap in which I nearly fell. Kazi ni kazi as long as it holds tangible potential for growth or is to be your stepping stone to financial freedom and success rather than your yoke!” she says. “Women trying to make it in business should also understand that their goods or services alone cannot take them far. But people will. People are the money and I’ve learned to spread my social tentacles through communication. It always works.”
Christine Mulwa, owner of a Network Marketing Business
In 2004, Christine Mulwa took a Ksh.30,000 loan and started a supplies and printing business. She rented a shop and bought stationery worth Ksh.6,700 and set off. “I searched for tenders to supply stationery and printing services while offering typesetting and printing services from my shop. I would have wished for (more), but I didn’t have the capacity to get big supply tenders.” Nevertheless, she hoped that her supply business would be the fuel to her first million. Little did she know that nearly a decade later, she would be almost as far from making her first million as she had been when she started out.
While she hoped to make her first million in the business, bank loans, operating capital and delayed payments would be major hurdles. The business appeared profitable on the surface but it carried many liabilities that ate into its profits. “I would see a huge turnover that disappeared into liabilities. It was disappointing,” Christine says. “Sometimes I would supply only for my clients to say they’d pay in 90 days, yet I had more tenders to meet and loans to service.” In a good month, Christine would make between Ksh.50,000 and Ksh.100,000. In a bad month, her profits would dip to Ksh.20,000.
While she had the option of looking for employment and depending on the safety of a monthly salary, Christine was determined to remain her own boss. Although I am a certified computer programmer, the thought of looking for an IT programming job did not cross my mind. I wanted the freedom to chart my own business and financial path.”
Towards the end of 2010, the mother of two began to contemplate closing her supplies and printing shop and venture into a new business. “The business had been struggling to break even; I had to accept it wasn’t going to make me a millionaire and move on to something new,” she says.
In January 2011, she decided to jump ship and start a network marketing business. “It was not easy to recommend and convince consumers to buy goods directly from the company I was working with. But I managed to build a small network and by the end of the month, I was paid Ksh.21,000,” she says. “Whenever consumers followed my recommendation and bought consumable products from the company, I’d earn a percentage in the five to 43 per cent range.” The following month, she made Ksh.32,000. In the third month, her income climbed to Ksh.46,000. Soon, she began to earn between Ksh.82,000 and Ksh.150,000 per month. “I sometimes doubted my income. In my previous business, I had never made such money with no liabilities to offset,” she says.
Four months after starting her new business, Christine shut down her supplies and printing business. “The two could neither compare nor work side by side. I had no doubt that network marketing would be my takeoff and felt convinced that the supplies business was a monkey I needed to get off my back.” Eighteen months after venturing into network marketing, she made her first million. However, crossing the one-million mark was not a walk in the park. “It took a gigantic effort to get the Ksh. 1 million. My business had grown into Uganda and South Sudan in 2013 and I had established small shopping circles in United Kingdom. This was my biggest break and the coupon that made me a millionaire.” Currently, Christine has a marketing network in seven countries. So far her biggest challenge has been convincing consumers to take on her products. “I’ve found that money doesn’t really sleep and I have to constantly keep marketing my business and bringing in new consumers even as I maintain the already existing ones.” To keep her high income running, Christine says that she researches and offers what consumers need. “A business that doesn’t meet and fulfill a need is as good as dead. I must offer what is needed in the market if I want to keep rising.”
In her journey to making her first million, Christine says she learned to never lose focus of her goal. “I wanted to make my own million. And although my businesses changed, my goal remained the same.” She adds that many other women fail in their attempts to becoming millionaires due to their own poverty mentality. “Many of us are driven by the ‘What if I fail?’ fear factor! We hardly stop to take a look at the other side and ask ourselves, ‘What if I succeed? What do I need to do to succeed?’ Look out for opportunities. Attend empowerment workshops that will open up your mind and broaden your scope. Don’t sit back and be content with a few thousands while a million sits somewhere waiting for you!”