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Joseph Munyao: How Sh38,000 built my car import firm

By Malaika Chunji | August 23rd 2017

Kegeco International Ltd founder Joseph Munyao

NAIROBI, KENYA: It has been said that poverty is a physical state, not a mental one. It is a sentiment that Joseph Munyao fully agrees with, as he believes there are millions of legal business opportunities for any Kenyan willing to go the extra mile to make money.

He decided to walk the talk in mid-2013, and got into business by investing Sh38,000 – all his savings. He was aware he could lose it all, or it could end up being the best decision he made.

He started out importing baby clothes from China, and turned his extra bedroom into a mini store. He also set up a Facebook page to market the clothes.

“I didn’t have any experience with transacting online, but I believed taking the risk was worth it. My first shipment arrived within two weeks, and that’s when reality hit home – I had the goods but no market. And my only advertising tool was Facebook,” Joseph says.

To avoid getting stuck with the stock, he knew he had to move fast to avoid the copy cats that make marketing on Facebook difficult.

“Immediately you upload something on any online platform, there is the possibility of getting a buyer, but there’s also the risk of seeing someone copying you and bringing in similar stuff. That is the greatest challenge in business – there are those out there waiting to hijack other people’s ideas simply because they don’t want to do the hard job of coming up with an idea,” says Joseph.

His aggressive marketing online worked, and he made Sh104,000. The business had more potential than he thought, so he kept at it. By mid-2014, his savings had grown to Sh480,000.

Joseph then decided to take things a notch higher. He now had a bit more experience with making orders online, so he decided to import a vehicle. He sought out the leading Japanese car sellers online.

Using the cash he’d saved up, he imported a Nissan Note, which cost him Sh490,000. He later sold the vehicle at Sh630,000 – making Sh140,000 in profit.

“After this, I decided that car importation is the business I wanted to focus my energies on, and that is how Kegeco International Ltd was born,” says Joseph.

Because he didn’t have the huge capital required to set up his own car yard, he decided to import vehicles on other people’s behalf at a commission.

Next step

“To survive in any business, you have to have a secret ingredient to remain afloat. Importing on behalf of other people is what has brought me this far. When I began, no bank was willing to offer me a loan, but in 2015, one year after venturing into importing cars, securing a facility wasn’t as hard,” he says.

Joseph, who also works as a programmes director in Nairobi, says he wishes he had got started on his entrepreneurial journey earlier.

“Had I known what I was missing out on, I would have ventured into business a long time ago. It may, however, seem so easy to import a car and sell, but there are challenges. The risk of losing your car while in transit from the port in Mombasa to Nairobi is very high. I once lost a car worth Sh680,000 and it was never recovered.

“On the other hand, there are delays sometimes from Japan, which means a car can take as long as three months to get to Kenya.” Still, the longest Joseph has stayed with a car before selling it is two weeks, with 60 per cent of sales made through Facebook. He says what makes him stand out is his pricing.

“There are so many car sellers in Kenya, and most of them started way before people like me. To survive, I make sure I give my potential clients a reason to purchase from me. I ensure my prices are slightly lower than other sellers’.”

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