Mabel Achieng Oginga says she is an ambitious risk taker who wants to make spaces drop dead gorgeous. She tells Annie Awour how this propelled her dream to her own design company, Mabel Home Style.
I am currently working as the head of visa department at the Royal Thai Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, and I am in the process of enrolling for a Masters degree in Conflict Management.
Growing up, I loved and admired the idea of a perfectly set up family home. I was inspired by my mother who I watched running our home. She was not only neat, but a perfect home maker. Our home was always well organised and perfectly themed. My dad, wasn’t left behind. He knew the right places and ways of hanging art pieces, calendars and clocks. Thanks to them, I learned to organise, decorate and add green elements to a new or already existing space. It got to a point that whenever we visited people’s homes, I would make changes to their spaces in my mind. I guess you can say I have always loved making spaces beautiful. However, the idea for my business came in early 2014 after I had moved out of my parents’ home and into my own one-bedroom apartment. I was excited because I got the chance to create a beautiful space for myself. When my friends and family would come over, they would go on and on about how beautiful my home was. As a result, the idea to start a business was born.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I first started on Instagram by creating a page. I slowly started posting pictures of my beautiful space. My pictures quickly attracted a lot of traffic. Next, there were inquiries from people and as a result, my business Mabel Home Style officially began in 2014. Mabel Home Style does everything from decorating homes, giving already existing spaces a new look or creating new beautiful spaces. This ranges from floor to walls. I do all this using beautiful, unique, stylish décor pieces.
RUNNING A STARTUP
When I first started my business, I treated it as a hobby. I knew it was going to be beautiful, simple, easy, and a lot of fun. I also knew I would be my own boss and determine my hours. However, my work began to attract a lot of traffic and all that changed. I was forced to become more strategic and aggressive with my business and to stop treating my business as something I did for fun.
So, first, I had to set up my business properly. I registered it, created an e-mail address strictly for business, and opened a bank account for it.
In addition, I had to really search myself and figure out the “why” that motivated me to start the business. My “why” was to create a problem-solving business, to help people beautify their spaces? I had to come up with a business template that was going to be able to walk in my clients’ shoes in order to come up with tailor made decor solutions.
Next, I invested in my education and exposure in interior decoration because I wanted to cater to different kinds of clients. I bought and read a lot of books on interior décor, and also did a number of online short courses. I then created a blog to interact more with my clients and expound on my interior décor style.
Then came the hard part; I had to figure out how I was going to make my finances work for me; how I was going to run the business efficiently and provide quality products for clients while making a profit. When I originally began the business as a hobby, all that mattered to me was making my clients happy, often profit was an afterthought. However, because I wanted my business to grow, I was forced to be strategic with my money.
Additionally, I had to go on the ground and search for reliable sources. I had to find the right companies that would help me import goods. I also tried to direct my holiday trips to countries where I would get the chance to source for amazing interior décor goods that were not in our market. Also, because I did not want to completely rely on the international market for my products, I decided to challenge myself and design my own decor pieces and make them locally.
My business is now a well-oiled machine; it operates efficiently. For example, it has perfect delivery methods, strict operational and working hours, and well-structured payment method. I have also found a way to balance my career and my passion. I now know how to balance the two and work around both areas respectfully without them negatively affecting either.
WHERE I AM NOW:
My business has broken even. I have moved from making Sh2500 per month to not less than Sh50000 from my online platform. I am getting ready to open a physical shop at the Lavington Mall. I want to create employment and hope to open more branches in near future, not just in Kenya but in other countries as I have a number of clients from Tanzania and Uganda.
You only have a viable and sustainable business if you can find a problem. So, before you start your business you need to find a problem and be the solution. Secondly, the key to success is to start before you are ready. You have to believe in yourself, listen to your gut and do what you love.
Thirdly, you need a great support system. I have my husband, Samuel Peter Okoth Nyabwa, he works with Multi choice Kenya, and is also a great businessman. He has walked with me and taught me a lot about running a business.
Fourthly, do not be afraid of competition. In fact, use positive and unique strategies to compete in the market. Engage in positive and healthy business competition by constantly being on the lookout for what is missing in the market and identify how you can you fill that gap.
Lastly, your smile will be your logo, your personality will be your business card, and how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.