One day, a broke 24-year-old sat for days in her rented cubicle staring at a picture of baby walkers and other accessories wondering whether it was possible to sell such commodities by 0 herself and make money.
Armed with only her stipend for rent and photos of baby products, Mercy Karimi set out to find an answer to this question, a move that was to later propel her into entrepreneurship.
She says that for a single lady living in Nairobi and surviving on a Sh20,000 stipend from her mother in the village, something had to give, since she also wanted to look good and be the part like everyone else.
“You see, I am born again and the idea of a ‘sponsor’ or some of the other easy means girls use to make money while in campus do not arise,” says Mercy who is currently undertaking her Masters in Communication course at Moi University’s Nairobi Campus.
She says she proved wrong the adage “Googling is cheap” and hit the internet for answers. Mercy who is a Sunday school teacher, due to her soft spot for children, asked Google two questions.
The first one was how to make money while still in school and the second one was top 10 fast growing businesses.
For the first question, Google advised her that selling stuff online was cool, and secondly, that she would not go wrong with kids stuff. For the love of children, she did not think twice but registered Tash Baby Store. She did not have a shop and cash to open one and to date, she still doesn’t have a shop but leverages online retailers to sell her products.
It was never a walk in the park though.
The then 23-year-old started updating photos of baby products particularly baby walkers and baby car seats on her Facebook page and Olx seeking buyers.
The first order came in fast. However, she did not have any cash to buy the baby walker and service the order. What could she do? She quickly came up with a plan and borrowed cash from her brother since her mother was already burdened with her school fees and the fact that she did not understand the business. She wasn’t even an option.
The good news is that she paid back the cash within a week and in the process, at which point she says, she got introduced to Jumia as an alternative to Olx.
She got another order which was unfortunately cancelled forcing her to delay paying back the brother, but the orders flair started coming in steadily.
“I suddenly started getting bigger orders and the one that really scared the hell out of me had a value of Sh120,000. I decided to get the cash from a shylock,” she says.
“I painfully paid back the cash after two weeks but thanked them for the help. I then focused majorly on Jumia which had started bringing me better offers.” Soon her single bedroom house was full of kids’ accessories as she turned it into a miniature store for her company. But Mercy credits technology for the convenience it brought to her operations and business.
“Selling online is very easy. Given the huge number of smartphones around, many people visit these online stores and place orders even from home. Depending on the demand of your products you can sell as many as you want daily, any time of the day,” she says.
The products are then delivered with the help of the online companies who also try to help safeguard payments.
Mercy who says she services an average of 30 products daily adds that her business has grown steadily in one year and she sometimes has about Sh5 million worth of products online.
She says she even gets orders from the popular kids shops along Biashara Street in a move that has emboldened her to thinking of expanding services by importing containers so that she can start meeting demand which is increasing beyond the Kenyan boundaries.
Mercy advises youths to think out of the box and credits her mothers positive influence for her focus and determination.