It has been a challenging period for businesses. Some have sunk while others have opted to ride the wave to the nearest shore. Then there are courageous entrepreneurs who have defied naysayers and opened businesses in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each one tells their story of how they intend to grow their businesses despite the odds.
Layoffs from the newsroom led me to entrepreneurship
Carol Njenga, entrepreneur at Nimz Auto Spares, importers of vehicle spare parts
Straight after college, I joined Kenya Broadcasting Corporation as an intern in the radio department before transitioning to the editorial department as a business reporter. I worked with KBC for five years – three years as a reporter and two as an anchor, and sometimes in both roles. In November 2018, I was offered an opportunity to work with Mediamax in the same capacity until the recent purge on its employees.
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I have been in business for a month though it took three months to set up. Starting an auto spare parts business has always been my dream. I have always loved the art of assembling and disassembling cars. However, I didn’t have the capital to start it off apart from some personal savings. I had to partner with a friend, and together, we were able to ship spare parts from Dubai before the lockdown. I know a spare parts business may look way off for a media personality but a girl has to do what a girl got to do to put food on the table.
The Covid-19 challenge
The business relies heavily on imports but travel restrictions and lock-downs in some countries have made it hectic to import. The clearance period has also become longer. Therefore, I have not managed to stock up but I have been in contact with my suppliers in Dubai and a new shipment is on the way. In any case, all businesses will have some challenges at some point.
Why start a business in the middle of a pandemic?
Basically, there is no ideal time to start a business especially if you are passionate about it. For long I have been hesitant to start the business. Issues always came up that made me lose focus. It is never too late to start.
How we are growing the business...
Currently, I am using social media to try and reach a wider clientele besides intensive networking and referrals. After surveying the market, we want to offer specialist products that are difficult to obtain elsewhere. This, coupled with faster service delivery will help me build stronger, long-term relationships with my customers.
Potential financiers put off financing till later
Santos Okottah, founder, The Brand, an AI based communication and branding app that helps businesses and individuals create instant content for online and social media. The Brand has been in operation for six months but took three years to develop.
How I started my business...
My business idea was borne out of a technical hitch at a local media house where I was working as an ICT expert.
One Sunday morning, my boss called me to go and rectify a hitch that was affecting the customers. I had forgot to hit the date button in the system that updates the logo on the website to read ‘Sunday’ instead of ‘Saturday’ despite the change in the site content. Our readers thought everything in the site was stale, a very sensitive matter since this was a popular news site.
The hitch had all to do with a small line of coding that would have helped in the automatic change of date and the logo.
After leaving employment, I decided to enlarge on my ICT skills and create a product that would enable a person or business create compelling content and visuals almost instantaneously.
We are able to use a cloud-based platform for fast processing of photos using Artificial Intelligence, integration with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Google Drive, and Dropbox.
What takes a professional designer two hours now takes three seconds on The Brand app. Since 2017 to date, we have invested Sh1.2 million on product development.
The Covid-19 challenge
We were just about to launch the app in March this year when Covid-19 hit and threw our plans into disarray. With that, two serious venture capitalists interested in the innovation held off their engagement till a later time.
How we are growing the business
We have taken advantage of the growing online business presence presented by Covid-19 pandemic to showcase our business solutions.
With most meetings conducted through webinars, the app has the capacity to automatically document talks and capture comments from social forums such as Twitter and Facebook.
As a result, over 4,000 users are exploring the application with some companies and non-governmental organizations boosting engagements by up to 40 per cent.