Cecilia Mwangi, 36, is a former Miss Kenya who is now the owner and founder of Pet Pawfection Kenya, which provides essentials to small pet owners.
The mother of one girl and three pets (one cat and two dogs) tells Maria Nene how she started the business
I am an IT professional, and I have had a rewarding career in the IT sector as a computer technician and network specialist. I have a degree in IT from JKUAT and a Masters in the same course from the same institution. I was the 2005 Miss Kenya and a model. I have been part of the anti-jigger campaign in Kenya for the past 13 years. I am a passionate lover of animals, and I am a “mother” to two dogs and a cat.
I travel a lot thanks to my IT career and my role as Miss Kenya. Since I love pets, I always return home with exciting pet stuff, supplies, attires, and utilities for my pets. My pet-loving friends would see them and would adore them. They would send me to bring some back for them when I travelled again. Some would even try to persuade me to sell them the ones I had bought for my pets.
Gradually, I found myself arriving in the country with a suitcase full of supplies. When the orders became too much, I carried out market research, and I realised that there’s a gap in this market. Several people have pets, and they would like to dress them in suitable attire, have toys for them, and provide nutritious meals for them.
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They desire to have their pets dressed in cute sweaters, shoes, diapers, and wash them in sweet shampoo. Yet they didn’t have a one-stop-shop where they could purchase these goods. I saw this as an opportunity to supply the same to other pet lovers in Kenya.
What happened next
I did some more research on pricing, various suppliers of pet utilities, and bulk providers of pet products and got inspired to open a pet shop and settled on the name Pet Pawfection. I decided that the business would make a difference by selling cost-effective and quality goods.
Before I set up the shop, I found out how much capital I needed, what I needed in terms of government licenses and directives. Additionally, I looked for an ideal location that would be easily accessible for my pet loving clients.
I settled for Lavington’s Valley Arcade as the first physical location for the shop. I live in the Lavington area so this was a convenient location for me. In fact, my neighbours were some of my first clients. My family and friends also provided a significant clientele base. Soon enough, other people were walking into the shop and purchasing the stuff.
I was working in the IT department for an NGO called German International Corporation (GIZ). When my contract ended, I felt I was done with formal employment. My main task was training small business owners in entrepreneurship tech. After going through the motions of taking so many entrepreneurs through successful training, I felt I was ready to run my own business. I got my initial capital through my savings and bootstraps from my family.
My former job was also a perfect learning ground. The exposure I got provided immeasurable guidance to various business systems. I usually run the jigger campaign during weekends, so it was easy to navigate the business and The Jigger Campaign.
Due to my love of pets, I already had several local suppliers and dealers in mind. Some of the pet food is also locally manufactured. However, I decided to have a diverse variety of pet products. Therefore, I started to outsource some of the accessories from Dubai and China.
Running a startup
Right now, with the social distancing restrictions and the pandemic in general, I have had to make numerous adjustments. These include carrying out home deliveries and efficient online services. We have a significant online presence through our website and our social media pages. We respond promptly to inquiries, and we are always eager to fulfill our clients’ orders through these internet channels. I am happy that the business has had a good foundation, and I have numerous clients who appreciate what we do.
Although we have been able to beat client supply and distribution through online services, we haven’t been able to access some of our supplies abroad. Therefore, the exceptional variety in our stock is limited. Also, the traffic flow to the shop has been affected.
Where I am now?
Our clients have been our advocates and ambassadors. Through word of mouth and various media, Pet Pawfection Kenya has been able to spread widely.
Pet Pawfection isn’t only about pet supplies and products; we also work with a variety of experts to provide professional information to pet owners and lovers. These experts include veterinary doctors and clinics, pet boarding facilities, key industry players, pet groomers, networks of breeders, and pet supply chains. This is because we noticed that some of our clients needed additional information to look after their pets effectively.
I noticed that we have a significant client base in Naivasha. Due to this, we opened another physical outlet in the area in March this year. Soon after we launched it, the government announced the partial county lockdown. It was a huge challenge running the shop. I plan to open more outlets in locations such as Nanyuki, Eldoret, and Kisumu. These are the sites where I noticed that our products have demand.
Currently, Pet Pawfection only caters to household pets such as dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, among others. However, we plan to expand our horizons to other animals like horses and reptiles. I believe that all animal lovers should benefit from our services.
Entrepreneurs should venture into businesses that they understand well. Study the market, carry out market research, and find out all the relevant information that is associated with it. For you to run a successful business, you must be hands-on and be present at all times during its formation. Make sure you put up strong systems in place which will later be followed by your employees.
Before starting Pet Pawfection, I had attempted to run a salon and a shop in different locations. I couldn’t sustain these ventures because I had opened them after observing some of my friends being successful in them. Never start a business because other people have been successful in it. I am a former beauty queen and a model, so automatically, I assumed that I would succeed in the beauty business, but I was wrong.
Never be afraid to venture into any business simply because it is an untapped area. Carry out sufficient market research so that it doesn’t become challenging when it starts running. I had to do an MBA and a bookkeeping course so that I could run my business more efficiently. As long as you’re running a niche business, there will always be people who will be interested in it. Have a passion for your business, and build an effective network of industry players who will propel you in it.
My policy has always been build, measure, learn. Build what you want, measure its outcome, and learn from it. If you have not found what you’re looking for, keep seeking for it, and be relentless in your search. Eventually, you will find the best choice for you.
More about Cecilia’s business:
LAUNCHED: October 2019
STARTUP COSTS: Sh3 million