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How to turn your side hustle into a main gig

ENTERPRISE
By Christine Odeph | April 3rd 2019

Ruth Egesa quit her job as a trade finance specialist at an international bank for 10 years to concentrate on an eCommerce business.

She started Angie’s Baby Shop as a side hustle, and shares with Hustle her experiences so far.

What got you into business?

One day over lunch with two friends, we started a casual conversation on ways we could supplement our job incomes.

We agreed to start a business on the side and opened a Facebook business page for selling ladies’ handbags.

A month into the business as I delivered a handbag to a client, she asked if I sell baby diaper bags, and I said yes. I agreed to send her sample photos, indicating prices.

I went into one of the shops in town, got photos and prices and sent them to her. She ordered the bag, I delivered and was paid.

From that one client, I decided to open Angie’s Baby Shop, an online business selling diaper bags.

What is the shop’s unique selling point?

From those early days, we’ve grown to sell all sorts of products targeting children, from newborns to those aged seven. Our offerings include clothes, accessories, toys and feeding products .

We offer parents the convenience of purchasing products online. We deliver their purchases to their homes or places of work countrywide. However, we also have a physical shop in Ongata Rongai for those who want the walk-in retail store experience.

What research did you do before starting the baby shop?

From the conversation with my first client, I received more diaper bag orders and queries on other baby products, so I briefly looked into baby products.

Based on the orders I got from clients, it made more sense to focus on baby products instead of ladies’ handbags in terms of market demand. 

What were your fears?

I had a fear of not making sales. Most of the places I bought goods from had a set minimum quantity you had to purchase. For instance, I’d have to buy 24 diaper bags, and then ask myself, ‘How am I going to sell all these bags? The client only asked for one bag!’

Another big fear was that of not being able to meet clients’ needs because of a lack of capital.

What was your growth like?

I started with one product, the diaper bags, which I bought and put in my car boot. When I received an order, I’d deliver the bag to a client.

I’d do deliveries over my lunch hour or after work and on weekends. I started out alone and was only able to serve Nairobi clients.

When the orders could no longer fit in my car, I started using my sitting room for storage and got someone to help make deliveries.

When the sitting room couldn’t accommodate the goods, I converted my servant’s quarters into a shop before finally opening an outlet/pick-up point in Ongata Rongai.

How did you establish your client base?

The clients who purchased from me helped me market through word of mouth. They told their friends and families about Angie’s Baby Shop. Our goods are priced fairly and the fact that we deliver to clients countrywide helps.

We also update our page frequently with new products, and recently got onto the Masoko platform.

Have you noticed a difference after joining Masoko?

I couldn’t scale the business properly until I got onto Masoko; I didn’t have proper reach. Now we can reach clients we weren’t able to access earlier because of the trust that comes with the platform’s brand.

What workforce challenges do you face?

Currently, we’re a team of four, including myself. Most people are used to 8am to 5pm jobs, but the nature of the work we do means we have to interact with clients outside of normal working hours. Some people find that challenging.

What are the biggest business challenges you’ve faced so far?

Getting financing was difficult when we were trying to scale the business. Most financial institutions don’t want to lend money to someone who’s starting out. I was forced to re-mortgage my house to get capital.

Second, most established delivery companies are set up to cater for big establishments, so it was difficult to get a company that would deliver goods for us at a reasonable cost. With time, though, I partnered with people who share my ideals.

What do you consider your greatest success?

My major success is that the business is supporting three families. I can also see the business getting larger based on the relationship I have with Masoko now. My focus at the moment is to organically grow my online presence with support from eCommerce channels to increase my client reach and visibility.

What’s the reality of running a business online?

The advantages of eCommerce include low start-up costs – I started with one bag; flexible working hours – we’re always open for business; you can offer user-friendly service as a client can browse the online shop at any time; and you reach a customer base that’s across the country, you’re not limited to your location.

The downsides, however, include the fact that some customers don’t trust online platforms. They doubt that their goods will be delivered. It can also be difficult to get kids’ clothes sizes right. Then on the vendor’s side, you have to bear the delivery costs if a client returns a purchase.

Your advice to entrepreneurs-in-waiting?

Start with what you have. I started with one diaper bag and have established a business. Trust your gut.  

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