Harriet James @harriet86jim
The words ‘smokies and boiled eggs vendor’ leaves one with a mental image of a shabbily dressed man, probably with a cloud of smoke swirling around him. But a 25-year-old Paul Majani Njeri aka Lusher Paulo is going against the grain and hits his smokie business spotting a suit, complete with a tie.
In a country where the youth are desperately looking for jobs, this style of dressing has not only earned him a lot of curious customers, but also inspired many young people, who are impressed by his zeal.
“I wanted to do something different that would make me stand out from the rest. People always iassociate certain jobs with certain modes of dressing, I wanted to change the narrative, because I see my trade as any other profession,” he narrates.
This change of style might as well earn him the title of the only man in Africa, who dons suits while selling smokies.
Paul’s childhood was not a bed of roses. The first born in a family of two, Paul was raised in Lunga Lunga slum, Nairobi, where life was tough making it difficult to find school fees for his secondary school studies.
He dropped out in 2008, and his pastor, Gabriel Ng’anga of Wonders of Tabernacle Church took over the role of paying for his school fees in 2009.
Sadly, his mother passed on in 2010 making life for him and his sister unbearable. They would often go hungry because they lacked food to eat. It is living under such conditions that forced Majani to consequently think of a way of making ends meet.
Being a dancer since his primary school years, he started making a living through dancing. It is while doing a video shoot for another gospel artist that he met renowned gospel artist, Gloria Muliro, who offered to make him one of her official dancers.
“I saved the money I received from dancing and with that, I bought luggage trolleys which I hired at Sh50 per day,” he says. But he still needed to increase his cash flow so he began learning how to sell and cook smokies from his friends.
“I chose Gwa Kairu, Ruiru, because previously, there was no competition. This place is also around Kenyatta University, Ruiru campus, which I saw was a potential market for this roadside delicacies,” he explains
He says wearing suits to work was not a planned move. He was late for work one evening after attending a wedding in which he had won a suit, so he decided not to change into his usual work clothes. It is the reaction from his clients that made him settle on suits as his dress code.
“My clients were awed by my smartness that day and that is when the idea of dressing in suits came about,” he says. Paul’s customer base has been growing exponentially courtesy of his simple, but effective marketing strategy.
Armed with tomatoes, onions, dhania, charcoal, which he buys every day, Paul reports to his ‘office’ from Monday to Saturday at 4pm in the evening and works till late in the night. Sunday is his church day.
However, many people venturing into the trade has intensified competition affecting his business. His unorthodox marketing strategy of wearing suits and other techniques is what has given him an edge.
“To be competitive, I buy an extra smokie for my regular customers every week and also, if a client buys four smokies at once, I give them an extra one for free,” he reveals adding.
“Furthermore, my business premises is always clean and tidy and my bubbly nature with customers has worked for me. I try to have a conversation with them, ask about their day, something that most businessmen don’t do.”
When not in a fitting suit, Majani sports a special kitenge uniform, but the suits have become his brand.
Majani has not been able to meet all his financial needs with the smokie business, but he at least, can afford to pay his bills and sustain himself. He confesses, however, that dealing with county askaris has been one of his major nightmares.
“They tell me to find another place to do my business and the fact that I do my job dressed in a suit, makes them believe that I am rich,” he cries
And when it comes to advising those who want to venture into the smokie business, Paul believes that one should respect their hustle and that consistency is key to success.
“Don’t open a business today and close tomorrow. Dress well, be happy. Never listen to negative people who will discourage you from growing and reaching your dreams,” he advices