Maggie Wakori Mukei (pictured), 35, is the Managing Director of Sidmar Premium Rubbers, a customised shoe company that she and her husband Sidney Mukei built from scratch. She tells Sylvia Wakhisi about the challenges they experienced and milestones they have achieved since
I am a wife and mother of one handsome son. I was born and raised in Kiamwangi location in Gatundu, Kiambu County. My late parents Joseph Wakori and Mary Wanjiku Wakori died when I was still young. They were great business people and my dad was a great politician in Gatundu and Kiambu at large and his legacy still remains. I am the third born in a family of four siblings. I started my education at Kiamwangi Primary School and later transferred to Plains View Academy. I then joined Gatitu Girls Secondary School, still in Kiambu County, and cleared in 2004. I almost lost hope and meaning for life when we lost our lovely mum in 2005. My dad had passed on while I was in Class Five. With some of the money raised by family and friends after my mum’s death, I enrolled in college and got my Diploma in Professional Computing and Information Technology (PCIT).
Thanks to one wonderful lady Rachel Kimani, I was first employed as a receptionist/secretary in her family company. I owe her a lot. I didn’t know anything about being employed and she taught me to be confident in whatever I do. After working for three years, I got married. It has been 11 years since. Over the years, my husband and I tried our hand in several businesses just to make ends meet, including selling fruits and juices, cereals, milk, sweets and even toiletries.
In 2017, I discovered that my husband had a dream and passion for shoes. I was also passionate about sales and marketing and that’s when we concluded and found out that passion plus sales equals to success. That same year, my husband secured a job in China. Whenever he came back home, he would buy for us very beautiful and unique rubber shoes. That is where our interest in the shoe business began.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I bought some shoes locally and I began hawking them door to door and through referrals from family and friends. My husband sent a few pairs from China and I added them to the stock I had bought. We did this for two years then acquired a car and started selling them from the boot. We kept on working hard and smart and reminded ourselves that we should not be afraid to take any step because every time you overcome a barrier, it makes you much stronger. To be a great champion you must believe in yourself. In 2018, Sidmar Premium Rubbers was born. Thanks to my husband, with the savings we had, we acquired a big store and shop along Accra Road in Nairobi’s central business district. We specialise in quality rubber shoes and sandals for all ages -- from pre-walkers to the biggest size in both wholesale and retail.
RUNNING A STARTUP
It has been a journey full of sacrifice and patience. Success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that really matters. We have faced a number of challenges, especially this year when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and started in China where we source most of our shoes. We also source some from Dubai. This made it hard for us to travel or make orders.
The lockdown in the country also affected us in terms of sales since our customers, especially wholesalers from other counties, could not access Nairobi. Paying rent and salaries became an enormous challenge but we thank God for the new normal and business comeback. We are now able to get different designs and lots of pairs, leading us to upgrade to affordable wholesale prices for everyone who wants to start a business.
We have also faced other challenges such as disappointments from our suppliers who would sometimes send the wrong designs and sizes, or the shoes would be damaged on arrival. Getting reliable and honest employees is something we also struggled with so much at the beginning, until we realised that we just don’t need to employ anyone with grades or papers, but we need to employ a person of good character.
With the digital market, we are able to reach more customers not able to come to our shop. Social media has been a great business tool for us during this period of the pandemic and I would encourage anyone who has or wants to start a business to make good use of social media platforms.
WHERE I AM NOW
We thank God for where we are today. Our dream is still young and fresh and we will relax after setting up a shoe manufacturing company with our brands in the country. This is our biggest dream. The beauty about Sidmar Premium Rubbers is that it is a company born out of passion hence we seek to get the best premium quality for our clients. It still amazes us how far we have grown and the journey still continues. As a way of appreciating how far God has taken us and giving back to the society, we support an initiative called Hope in the Streets spearheaded by one Nancy Sheila, whereby we donate shoes every month to the less fortunate.
Discover your passion because that is where most people go wrong. We all have potential and capability to make money but most of us are in the wrong business. Get a good location depending on what you are selling. Make good use of social media platforms since that is where you get connected with many people. Maintain quality standards of your product and invest more on customer service. Read and learn more from other competitors and always acquire lots of wisdom and knowledge from the internet about your products. Above all, be patient and honest with yourself and to your customers.