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How Sh2,400 mobile loan kicked off a business empire

BUSINESS NEWS
By Sara Okuoro | February 23rd 2021
John Brian Jura founder of Home_254.

Six years ago, John Brian Jura, better known as JB, founded one of Nairobi’s most visible clothing brands, Home_254.

The casual wear brand has made a name for itself not just in Kenya but abroad, in several countries including Dubai, the US, Canada and Germany. It specializes in custom-made hoodies, T-shirts, sweatshirts, vests and caps among other clothing items.

The idea came to JB when he was a fourth-year electronics and computer engineering student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).

“The idea of Home_254 started in June 2015. I created the designs myself. A lot of clothing lines to show patriotism exist, so I had to come up with something different that still celebrates our country,” he says.

"One of our values is quality, and then diversity. We want everyone to feel like they belong, that's us!"

The fashionpreneur JB started his business around the time Safaricom launched Mshwari. He took a loan of Sh2,400 through the platform and topped up with the Sh2,400 he already had. The Sh4,800 catered for rent and materials that he needed to get the business going.

“I used the cash to buy plain hoodies, sweat shirts and T-shirts, and then hired a heat-press vinyl to print the Home_254 logo,” he says.

His first products had no takers and stayed shelved for the first two weeks.

“This was really heartbreaking because I thought that my classmates would be my clients and make orders, but none of them made a single one.”

The clothes soon caught the attention of his neighbours, who made referrals and, the orders started streaming in.

Home_254 has grown into a busy production outfit, going beyond fashion trends by adding new designs and creating employment.

JB says a fast and reliable source of internet is essential to keep the cogwheels running at Home_254.

“For internet, we use Safaricom Home Fiber. Having a reliable internet is really a plus. Video calling is key because have status meetings everyday so we need that fast internet. We chat all the time and not only on WhatsApp, in a day we could do like six video calls,” says JB.

For most of its marketing, the company is riding the Internet revolution - using Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok, WhatsApp and their website to market and connect with their customers. They use Mpesa for payment. It’s that simple.

“For us to communicate between our workshop and retail store, we need the internet fulltime… To update our status, Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook, we need to be connected all the time. I can't imagine how it would be without the internet," he says.

Safaricom is supporting entrepreneurs to start and run their businesses through multiple platforms including Mshwari, M-PESA and Safaricom Home Fiber among others; allowing them to communicate, connect, transact and take their businesses to the next level.

"We think of really going beyond. For example, there's a day we stayed here (the shop) for two days without going anywhere just making sure we come through for people, because that smile is priceless. For me to inspire my team to go the extra mile, I have to be willing to go an extra mile. It actually works if everyone is working beyond their means, giving 120 per cent,” says JB.

His ingenuity and passion for his craft is the true embodiment of the spirit of Twende Tukiuke.  

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