- The bra- It holds, covers, restrains or reveals a woman’s precious pair of jugs. The bra could be strapless, full or half cups, push-up, ‘plunge,’ or of the ‘lift and separate’ variety
- Mama Thuku’s business has been booming thanks to women’s preference for the second hand undergarments
- She started off as a hawker in Nairobi Community Area, now she makes over 100k a month, has educated her children, built a home for her family
You know what they say? A woman can never have enough of bras. Celebs like Neomi Ng’ang’a have previously told this paper that they have more bras than clothes.
What Nairobi women will not tell you is how much they love mtumba bras. And no, it is not because of a ‘tight budget’, it is a deliberate preference for second-hand undergarments which they claim are cheaper and more durable than new ones.
Linet Kamau, a Nairobi-based corporate chick says, “I like these bras because they are long-lasting and fit pretty well.”
Her supplier and of course the supplier to a host of other women is none other than Mama Thuku, the soft-spoken middle-aged woman who has been selling mtumba undergarments since 1997.
Her stall, situated somewhere in the busy city streets is popular with Nairobi women who are always waiting in line to be served.
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Their ‘list of needs’ is often long.
“Do you have breast-feeding bras?” asks one lady, “Na corset bra?” goes another. The variety here is wide and Mama Thuku seems to know her way around feminine garb pretty well. She has been doing this for over 20 years now.
“I started hawking bras in Nairobi’s Community Area and made well over Sh60,000 in my first month, which was a lot of money at the time. I have never looked back since,” She told City Biz.
At the start, Mama Thuku would sell up to 100 pieces on a good day, making Sh40 profit per bra.
She knew she had finally hit the jackpot that had seemed so elusive before.
“I had tried selling women’s clothes, chiffon and silk fabrics imported from Tanzania, but that did not work,” says the mother of four.
“So, I decided to try bras. Finally I found ‘it’. This was and remains the one entrepreneurial venture that worked well for me. Sometimes you have to burn your fingers enough times before figuring out what truly works for you. It’s okay, you will find it if you don’t give up.”
After hawking her products for a while, she decided to try her hand in bikers, corsets, panties, swim wear and lingerie.
She used chama money and loans to increase her stock, finally securing a stall at the busy Nairobi Bus Station terminus where she pays, Sh240,000 rent annually. Now she makes well over Sh100,000 every month.
She has employed one person to help her run the business.
For one to thrive in this business, they must learn to take proper stock of what they have and manage money well. Her advice to anyone willing to venture into this business is, “Start where you are and with what you have. If you don’t have enough money to rent a shop, then start by hawking and give yourself room to grow.”
With proceeds from this business, Mama Thuku has educated her four children, bought land and built a house for her family.