Technology has over the years changed the way businesses operate. Many businesses have since shifted from having a physical presence to pitching tents online and thriving.
This has seen budding enterprises reach a wider customer base even from across the region and World.
Take the case of 28-year-old Esther Muriuki who was employed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) for five years as a local administration officer before quitting for business.
“I left employment because I was in a ‘toxic workplace’. So I ventured into business. Because I have a good taste for clothing, I plunged myself into the fashion business which had initially been a side hustle,” says Ms Muriuki.
She started small, she says, adding that growing a business begins with a plan and what you have.
“Using Sh1,000 as start-up capital, I went to Nairobi’s Gikomba market and bought a few tops and hawked them from shop to shop and got a small profit. I reinvested the whole amount back in business and began growing it from that point.”
Owing to her then weak financial footing, having a physical location was out of the question. Apart from hawking, she would aggressively market her business online on social media channels.
Her business trades as Pewamu Trends and deals with lady wear including dresses, tops, sweaters, blazers, trench coats, shoes and everything feminine.
“The modern woman is more fashion conscious than a man and loves glamming in the latest fashion trends to look good and I saw this as the niche market to try,” she tells Money Maker.
As the online customer base began growing, she had to be as creative as possible to bag more sales.
This saw her start making reels and short videos and posting them on her social media accounts mainly on Facebook and Instagram.
“Orders started coming in from the growing fan base and customers were from near and far. For the near customers, like those in Nairobi and its environs, I was and still, I’m the sales and delivery agent. Those far off get their orders through courier services,” she says.
Realising she was getting more customers online than from hawking, she shifted her business online. She had been a hawker for two years.
But what about potential clients who may not be online or aren’t social media enthusiasts? Ms Muriuki agrees that social media is not for everyone but there are satisfied clients who refer such customers to her.
“I get many referrals but I ensure that I carry some stock with me just in case I need to show some samples to people who aren’t on social media,” she adds.
Though it pays for her online business, she says that social media, despite being useful, has its own dark sides as well.
First, it is addictive, and also robs her of intimate physical interactions with customers as she is in a virtual business.
Also, fake and parody accounts mimicking genuine ones are created by cons with nefarious intents of robbing unsuspecting customers out there and this can put a business in a negative reputation.
Conned persons will then rush to social media sites, pages or groups, whose purpose is to expose individuals or businesses using dirty, dishonest, or unethical practices to get money from the unsuspecting public without first verifying if they were dealing with genuine persons or accounts.
“This is one of the challenges of doing business online,” notes Ms Muriuki.
For clients who get their orders through courier services, she says some can be a headache to deal with.
She delivers countrywide and, despite agreeing with a client on delivery fees before purchases are made, some refuse to pay and Ms Muriuki incurs losses.
Then there are those who book orders and cancel them at the last minute while others make late payments.
“Some clients can make or break a business. I definitely face difficulties but I’ve learned to be patient with customers but for those who are too much, I politely distance myself,” she adds.
Her business meets her financial needs and doesn’t think employment would offer one the flexibility that entrepreneurship gives.
“I’d not consider employment as a business is doing well but in case I was to change my mind, I’d take that job so long as I’m still running my business. You need to prioritise one thing at a time,” she says.
Some of the business lessons she can offer one leaving employment for business is to, first of all, do market research in the field they want to venture into and check its viability.
And as they put money into the business, they should trust the process and see their ventures manifest into something great with time.
Entrepreneurs should also not fear competition and feel like their business survival is being threatened.
“The cake is big enough for all of us - don’t be jealous or envious of a competitor who may even tailor their business model to yours. You can stay ahead of the pack in a cutthroat competitive market,” she advises.
Ms Muriuki reinvests profits back in the business and says that if she comes up with another business idea, she won’t hesitate to try her hand at it and widen the income bracket.
“Having diverse income flows is wise than relying on one source because if one income source is facing bad times, the others can supplement and this will save the investor from business ruin,” she adds.
For her pastimes, she watches movies, travelling, eats out and tries new recipes.