By JOHN KARIUKI
When Duncan Mwangi, declared that he would start a tailoring shop at Mtwapa at the Coast, a decade ago, I thought he had gone nuts. We were newly employed teachers then, and Mwangi was itching to make an extra shilling over the long hours of idleness we had.
His idea, however, faced stiff challenge bordering on existing myth that put the sale of quality clothes as a preserve of some big boutiques in Mombasa.
Alternatively, buyers relied heavily on the ubiquitous mitumba second hand clothes dealers for their attire; there were no half measures.
In deed, all the "expert" and street advice that Mwangi got warned him against starting anything that was doomed to fail. Nobody could imagine him remotely challenging the supply chain that extended to some neighbouring and Middle Eastern countries of the big boys let alone attract any customers.
But Mwangi stuck to his guns and opened his dream shop. He specialised in Kaunda suits, a must-wear for many coastal working people.
And demystifying the prevalent myth, his modest number of customers in the early stages rapidly progressed to a huge following in just a few months.
At the crest of his business, he had employed four full time tailors. Several factors favoured his trade, chief among them the sheer guts of offering a competitively priced alternative. He had stumbled on the hitherto unseen market of the emerging middle and working classes who regard their image as everything.
Every Kenyan town is awash with myths about how to succeeding in business or otherwise. Whereas most are comical and should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve, some misconceptions are startling and may have serious repercussions on faint-hearted entrepreneurs. For they have the tenacity of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies.
Witness the firmly held belief in some towns that one cannot run a fish selling business owing to the unpopularity of this meal! In other areas, new businesses are given a life span, say, of five years because this is the duration that all ventures "always last!"
But according to business development experts, such myths can be a blessing in disguise and serve to point out where others have failed before! And they can be overcome by focusing on oneâs thoughts on what his or her business stands for. Once an entrepreneur establishes his or her business brand, he or she should never stop. He or she should constantly do "system checks" and "upgrades" on his or her business practices to ride over all myths.