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Blaze TV show contestant who’s turning telling time into an art

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Lee Mwiti | February 21st 2017
Susan Mueni

The revered Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once wrote that if a child washes his (or her) hands, he can eat with kings.

This saying rings particularly true for Susan Mueni, a 23-year-old who is already making a splash in the vast ocean of entrepreneurship. She is barely out of campus, but has already started her own company that has set out to blaze the trail in Kenya when it comes to the art of telling time.

As if this is not enough, Ms Mueni is also a finalist of this year’s Safaricom-sponsored BLAZE TV reality show, Be Your Own Boss (BYOB).

BYOB, which airs on KTN, rounded up promising youthful entrepreneurs from across the country to participate in a show that gives them a chance to showcase their entrepreneurial skills, learn from established business leaders and compete for Sh5 million, which includes Sh3 million to grow their business, and Sh2 million in financial advice and business support.

Mueni considers herself one of the major contenders for the grand prize.

Speaking to Business Beat, Mueni said she fell into the world of entrepreneurship by chance.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to be a lawyer. My mother was also pressuring me to study law at university, but unfortunately, I fell short of qualifying for the law programme by two points. Being a Government-sponsored student, I had no choice but to change my course. I decided to study business management instead, which is what my points would allow. I joined Moi University for the course,” she said.

Despite getting immersed in the world of business, Mueni still had no plans to set up her own company. That is until her mother bought her a watch that got the attention of her peers in school.

Eventually, one of her friends convinced her to sell him the watch. She made a tidy sum from the sale. This marked her turning point.

She used the money to buy two cheaper watches, which she sold at a profit. Thus began the road to setting up her company, aptly named SUED.

“I used to get the usual Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) disbursements, but I didn’t put the money to good use until I decided to invest all the money Helb was lending me into my company as initial capital. That is what got me started,” Mueni said.

Her company now sells between 12 and 20 watches a week, with the cheapest one retailing at Sh3,500. She said she makes sure each sale gives her a 30 per cent profit margin.

The bubbly and confident entrepreneur added that she successfully completed her business studies last year, which she expects to give her more time to concentrate on building up her company. As it often happens in business, SUED’s journey has not all been rosy.

Logistics have been one of the biggest challenges plaguing the business.

“I usually use courier services to deliver watches to people who place orders from all over the country. This has seen my costs go up, since I operate from Eldoret. I hope I can establish a central place, maybe in a city like Nairobi, where clients can easily access my watches,” Mueni said.

She largely relies on social media to market her brand through her blog, sued.co.ke, and Instagram and Facebook pages.

And she has big plans should she walk away with the BYOB grand prize.

“Despite studying business management, I am not very good in understanding the financial management aspect of a complex business. If I get the money, I will first take a course in financial management to better prepare my business’ balance sheet.”

Mueni is also aware that watchmaking in Kenya is still viewed as an elitist venture. She hopes to change this mindset by studying the art of watchmaking in a more in-depth way, and making good watches that provide ordinary Kenyans with affordable accessories.

“If I win the BYOB money, I would like to attend a watchmaking school in Switzerland, where watchmaking in an established art. Then I can use the skills I get to strengthen the SUED brand,” she said.

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