The online space is a gold mine opportunity for entrepreneurs to run their business even without owning a physical store. Common platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are widely being used in Kenya just like across the world to open and run online businesses.
Carol is one among thousands of small business entrepreneurs in Kenya whose business operates mostly online. She runs Karols Apparel, an online clothing retail shop on Instagram and Facebook that offers trendy wears for both men and women.
Carol is a Community Development graduate from Egerton University and her love for fashion drove her towards the fashion business.
“I started my business in 2019 after I lost my job at Carrefour. It took me 6 months to get another job and I lost it in March this year due to COVID. That’s when I decided to start the business officially and concentrate on it.
I didn’t have money or a set capital when I started. My business started with 3000 bob borrowed from a friend.
I just started posting randomly on WhatsApp and someone in Nakuru ordered an item and I had no idea where I was going to get the item. That’s when I borrowed 3000 bob from a friend, went to Eastleigh and after a long search I got the item at a wholesale price.
I then sent the item as a parcel to the customer, got some profit and that’s how my business started.
My business started making sales I think a month into the business. I had a few supportive friends here and there who would buy from me and also refer me to people they know and that’s how I started getting more orders.”
Supplies and delivery
A physical clothing retail store obviously has stock piling up in shelves or in racks. Most of the online clothing retail shops have physical stores that are already stocked up. On the other hand, a good number of those who don’t have physical stores have stocked up their houses,
Carol among other businesses however do their business differently. She gets her items from her suppliers on order and has a next day delivery system.
“I don’t have a physical store at the moment. What I do is post items on all my social media pages mainly Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and get clients from all over.
I have a few suppliers in town and Eastleigh. Once I get an order for an item I posted online, I go to one of my suppliers and get the item. I do next day delivery for my customers and that gives me enough time to look for the items.
After acquiring the item, I send it to my customer through a parcel if they are far. If they are in town or within Nairobi I either do the delivery myself or use a rider.
At the moment, I have good suppliers and I know where to get whatever I need. I know where to get good jeans, shirts, etc. at a good price.
It was really difficult at the beginning before they got to know me but now they know me. Even if am getting one piece they sell to me at a wholesale price.”
“Since I started my business, I have served both men and women in the market. But, I want to major mainly on men’s clothing from early next year.
However, I always had the notion that ladies will always buy clothes come rain come sunshine. They love nice clothes and looking good and stylish. I always knew I would have many lady clients but it reached a point and realized dealing with women can be stressful.
It’s only a few months ago when I discovered I would do better specializing in men’s clothing compared to women’s.
And, honestly, men are easy to deal with compared to women. They don’t bargain so much. You will rarely hear issues of it didn’t fit well among other issues.
Most men are always busy at work and prefer you to deliver at their workplace or at home. They don’t like the hustle of shopping for clothes and I have nice stuff for them.
Men make the business process much easier. They make an order, give you a specific time and place and all you need to do is show up, they pay and that’s it.”
“Sometimes a client orders an item, for example, a pair of jeans and when I go to supplier, I don’t get the exact size. The customer has probably already paid for the item and I have to delay them. Some of them are nice enough to wait while others don’t take that kindly.
This business is tiring especially when it comes to looking for items in town or Eastleigh. Again, doing the deliveries is also draining especially if I am the one doing the delivery. You find that I sometimes have to send several parcels to different areas in the country on the same day and the process is stressful.
Another challenge is the disappointment you experience regularly or occasionally. A client orders six pairs of jeans but will not pay for the items. Delivery day comes, they don’t pay for the items and you have to keep them in the house.
“Doing business online is very stress-free, convenient and affordable. One, you are not paying rent. If I had to pay rent while I started my business, I would have had to spend more than what I used.
Two, money is online because that’s where people are. Social media harbors so many people and it’s easier to get clients compared to a physical store. I would want to have a store in the future but that’s after I have grown my customer base.”
“I use paid promotions to advertise and promote my business. Facebook is cheaper compared to Instagram and you could pay 1000 bob for 5 days promotion. However, I didn’t like Facebook and I felt it was not effective for my business and I was not getting the results I wanted. I would get one or two clients from Facebook in a week and that was not working for me.
Instagram on the other side is better but a little bit more expensive. You could pay 700 bob to 1000 bob a day but it’s great to grow your following.
When I started, my followers were less than 800 but now, I am almost at 2000. Also, I met someone who made my page grow to some extent. Andrew Kibe had posted randomly on his Instagram saying he needed two pairs of jeans for an event the next day and I texted saying I could deliver. We met, took a picture, tagged my business page in a post and there was a boost.”
Do something you love – Carol
“If you are getting into business, do something you love and have a passion about. Personally, I love fashion a lot. So, even though I don’t make a sale, it won’t hit too hard, it’s something am doing out of passion.
Therefore, love what you want to get into, be committed, and be ready to make sacrifices. The profits you make, take them back into the business. Buy stock or do something that will grow your business.
For example, I have now started putting stock in my house and if a customer orders five pairs of jeans I have them. If I don’t have the five but I have three, I can easily get the two and if I have extra cash, I can stock up some more.”
“This is a good business to venture into and I am planning keep doing it.
For someone doing such a business, you would even get a profit of as low as 5000 bob a week or even more. So in a consistent month, you would make so much.
Unless I get a job in Community Development, I am not dropping my business for anything else. And even when I do get a job in Community Development, I would still run my business because I love it.”