After four years as a car sales executive, Wambui Gachoki ventured out on her own as a luxury car dealer.
The founder of Motor Shop in Runda talks to Enterprise about her business journey and gives insight on what it takes to run a car dealership.
Why did you decide to get into the world of selling cars?
I actually never chose this path in life, it chose me. I started working as a sales executive eight years ago and I was that person people thought would amount to nothing because I wasn’t even that serious.
However, I soon realised that I loved interacting with customers and helping them make the right choices when purchasing a car. This is how I built my foundation.
What happened next?
After working as a salesperson for four years, I decided to branch out on my own and try my own thing. So I started with a company name, because I didn’t have a (registered) company back then.
I used to look for clients and then take them to dealers, with whom I had a trusted relationship. From there, I built my way up step by step and my clientele grew because if I had one happy client, they would go and bring me two more.
Take us through the a-z of owning and running a car dealership
We can look at it two ways - maybe you don’t have the money to start a car dealership. The first thing you do is to identify your market, customers and which type of cars you want to sell.
You have to decide if you want to deal with high-end cars or all car models. Another key thing is to source the cars from trusted dealers because if you want to be a broker you have to partner with the right dealerships for you to be able to source the cars.
If you want to open your own yard this is where capital comes in. You have to source for capital for the location because there are places where customers will refuse to come to. So if you’re going for high-end cars, invest in a high-end location.
Capital is key for any business. What was your initial investment in this business?
Honestly, I started with zero. I didn’t have the money but I had the clients to get me from point A to B. What I used to do was to source cars from known dealers.
I would get a client then walk the client into another dealership because I didn’t have a location. Then I started investing in marketing. The first form of advertisement I ever paid was Sh8,000 and I just grew from there.
How do you handle clients who want cars that are above their budget?
Every client is different. When buying a car, capabilities are also different. Sometimes you get a client who says they want a ‘German machine’ but you find that the client may like the car but it is not the right pick for them.
At the end of the day, driving a beautiful car is nice but maintaining it is also another important aspect. What’s the point of buying a car that stays in your garage because you can’t afford to maintain and service it?
Some car spare parts are not available locally so you have to import them. There are many things that inform a car purchase.
What challenges do you face in your line of work?
We have our own challenges just like any other business. In 2020 and 2021 we had an inflation issue and customers never seem to understand what’s going on with the pricing. Another big challenge is taxes. We have to pay huge taxes at times and this really hits us hard.
How did you ensure that your business weathers the covid-19 pandemic?
I believe everyone had to make adjustments during the pandemic and so did we. But this was sort of a silver lining because there are people who did not want to use public transport anymore and opted to buy cars.
This was good for us as a business because we were getting a fairly good number of first-time buyers.
How do you ensure you stay on top of the competition?
Competition is part of life. You have to be very creative, but creativity is also something that you must have within you.
Research on the industry you are in is also important. Look at what your industry needs and what you can do to fill those gaps.
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
You have to believe in yourself because the more you sit on your talent, one day you will wake up and someone else has done exactly what you wanted to do.
Especially young women, we tend to second guess ourselves a lot, which shouldn’t be the case. Believe in yourself and work hard. Everything will eventually pay off.