Two years after being featured in this business section, Rose Memeu reflects on the growth of Organized Planet, the online retail store she started with her sister Frida Memeu, and why they chose to take up the concept of making homes and lifestyles simpler and more organised.
In 2011 I moved to Switzerland in search of opportunity. This was after graduating with a Bachelors in Agricultural Economics at Moi University.
In Switzerland I worked as a nanny part time. I also got a job as an Assistant Project Manager for a software company called Exersoft.
While there I was struck by how simple and organised the lives of the Swiss are because they have created specific products that solve their everyday problems.
In 2014, I came home for my sister’s baby shower and I brought with me some of these products for the baby. When our friends saw the items, they also requested the same. I got intrigued by this and decided to post some of the items on Kilimani Mums Facebook page to test the waters. The reaction was overwhelming. Lots of pre-orders flowed in. This gave me the confidence to move forward with the idea.
My sister and I decided to create a business that would supply the demand for home solution products among our friends and customers on social media.
What happened next
Around May 2014, we officially started the business. We ordered the first batch of items by air through Somalis in Eastleigh, opened a Facebook page and registered the business. It cost us about Sh80, 000.
When the products arrived, the business kicked off. I would book orders using my phone and would receive payments by mobile money. We would then load the items in the boot of my sister’s car and she would go with them to work. She would then make deliveries on her lunch break or on her way home from work.
Demand grew so rapidly that we brought in my sister-in-law to help with deliveries. By this time, it had become clear that we had a real business.
Later in 2014 we opened our first office in Westlands Commercial Centre. This served as a dispatch office.
Running a start up
It is exciting and challenging to establish a new business from scratch, especially when you are pregnant as I was at the time.
Luckily we did not need to raise financing as the business was able to grow organically. We have expanded the team to help us satisfy demands of customer service. We now have two boda boda riders who ensure timely deliveries. We have also trained them to get feedback from customers to help us refine our offerings.
We have added a part time accountant who comes in once a week to ensure all is well from a book keeping perspective.
We found that, although our business is still largely online, many customers want to see and touch the product before they make a purchase so we opened two shops in Nairobi.
One is on Ngong Road at Applewood building and the other is in Westlands at Kenrail Towers, opposite Sarit Centre.
Where I am now
I have just returned from Mombasa where we are looking to open our third shop. I am also trying to get into manufacturing customised items which are not available abroad, such as products with an African theme.
Importing items has become difficult over the last few years. The cost of doing so has gone up more than five times. Also, it used to take only 21 days to get a shipment cleared. But now it takes more than two months. For some, it takes up to a year.
Small business people who cannot afford to bring in a whole container rely on consolidation, where they come together and ship their items in one container as a group. Unfortunately, this is no longer easy to do due to government policies. We hope this improves.
Stop thinking. Stop planning. Stop procrastinating. Just go after that idea that is in your mind. Just do it!