Hawkers strike gold with curios
By PATRICK KIBET
A long the busy Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town, Joram Wangai and Joseph Kimani hang around the popular Maasai market hawking attractively designed necklaces, bangles and rings.
The busy Maasai market hosts traders selling wood carvings, necklaces among other artifacts. The market is popular with tourists visiting Nakuru town, which is home to the largest flamingos sanctuary in Africa.
The duo, both in their 30s, is well known within Nakuru town, sell necklaces, bangles and rings made from different materials. Business Unusual got up with the two young men, and had an interview about their business experience.
Kimani’s story begins with the post elections violence of 2008. The battle saw Kimani lose his small business and displaced from Kericho. He ended up in Nakuru showground with other IDPs from parts of Rift valley.
"In Kericho, I used to sell watches around town and for many years it was my source of livelihood. When the disputed elections brought the worst nightmare in my life, we relocated to Nakuru," Kimani narrates.
"When we arrived at the showground in Nakuru the conditions were generally bad. I opted to rent a house for my family in Maili Sita before moving to Bondeni area," Kimani adds.
At the end of 2008, Kimani started hawking watches and necklaces in Nakuru streets. It is during his hawking business where he met with Joram who was also selling sunglasses around Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town.
A lot in common
"I met Joram 2008 when we were both hawkers. He was selling necklaces and after a brief chat I realised we had a lot in common. With time, our friendship developed into a strong bond and a business partnership." Kimani says.
Joram was born and brought up in Nakuru. And just like Kimani, his education ended in primary school. He was forced to do menial jobs in Nakuru town to earn a living.
"When I moved to Nakuru town I started working at some hotel as a gardener. Their pay was meager as I earned only 1,500 per month," says Joram. "After working for some time I moved to Nairobi Ndogo within Nakuru town and started selling wares."
Kimani admits that even in primary school, he was good in art and craft classes. The two then teamed up and mastered the art of making appealing designs of necklaces, bangles and rings, which tickles many customers interest.
"Before we started making these necklaces, we were selling necklaces imported from China. We slowly started getting raw materials which we obtained from Nairobi and making necklaces," Kimani says.
Kimani says once they got the necklaces to the streets, the demand was overwhelming and this eventually got the two men to pursue with passion.
"We have recognised that women appreciate our products and we introduced quality beads that have improved the appeal from majority of ladies," says Kimani.
Established a clientele
"We sell these necklaces at around Sh400 to Sh1,200 depending on the design and materials in a particular piece," says Joram. "Most of these materials are often wood, glass, bones and beads that we obtain from Nairobi, and assorted necklaces."
"We now make necklaces which we take to Kisumu and Eldoret where we have established clientele who regularly make orders," He adds.
Just like any other business, challenges range from dishonest businessmen to customers who thrive in deceit.
"We sacrifice every time we extend trust to a fellow businessman. But at times even after putting our efforts to meet their orders they disappoint us," says Kimani
"We have come to prefer dealing with individuals who are ready to pay cash on delivery. It is the only way we keep the business running," Kimani adds.
The duo also say they have had a hard time accessing funds needed for expansion.
"We have had difficulty in accessing youth fund loans due to the stringent conditions. We have a business of two people and meeting the 15-people requirement has been a stiff challenge," Kimani avers.
But Kimani says he is happy with the sector, since foreign tourists always pay up front especially when they want large orders unlike Kenyans.
He also points out that the business has enabled them live comfortable lives and support their families without resorting to bank loans.
Kimani says the joint business has also enabled him to get some closuee, after the post-election clashes in 2008 that drove him out of his hometown, and killed his business.
The two plan to expand their business to other towns in the country and even introduce more young people into this paying business.
"When I look back at where we have come from the future is bright. Despite the challenges, we have received accolades from many people who appreciate art," Kimani concludes.
Former juice seller, chef cooks concepts for hoteliersHe has seen it all in the hospitality industry from being a waiter, chef, to at one point hawked food.
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