By Joan Thatiah
Imagine being in the middle of an important and urgent task at the office, with the bank set to close in less than an hour, yet you need to deposit some money in your account for a standing order or be slapped with hefty penalties.
Or you need meat from that butchery downtown but you are stuck in traffic on the other side of town. Or maybe you are in your last trimester and while browsing online, you come across these essentials you need before the baby comes.
Problem is that you are on bed rest and housebound. What do you do?
These three are perfect illustrations of the kind of problems that Wanjiru Mambo fixes daily through her courier company.
For her, every morning is a fresh chance to bridge the gaps and to meet the growing need of logistic solutions. It is involving and it can get hectic but when she speaks about it, her enthusiasm is contagious. Clearly, she is at home in the courier business.
However, logistics hasn't always been something she wanted to do. It was something she realised she was good at when she was busy doing other things. She holds a business degree in marketing from Kenyatta University. Her marketing major was a natural choice for her.
Lessons from employment
She enjoyed her job as a marketer, but this didn't stop her from making gift baskets to sell as a side hustle.
"I have always been very restless. Always looking to sell something on the side even when I was doing other things. Right from high school, I would buy bracelets and small bags to sell to my classmates," she recalls.
It was when she was making runs to deliver gift baskets around Christmas season in 2013 that she realised that she was good at logistics.
"It just dawned on me that it was something that I enjoyed doing and I was efficient at it," she recalls.
She still had a well-paying marketing job at a real estate firm but she started paying attention to the logistics industry. She noticed an interesting trend. There was a growing number of online business. This meant that there was a growing need for logistics solutions. What if she could start a courier company?
"I began asking questions and doing research. By July, I had registered my company. In August, I used my savings to buy a motorbike."
Her company was born in her living room. She ran the show all by herself, but engaged a rider for the motorbike. When she looks back, she acknowledges that a lot of success as a businesswoman has been as a direct result of the lessons she learnt as an employee.
She had the networks and with her experience, she was able to spread the word on social media. As she got along, however, she realised that she needed much more money than she had anticipated. She needed insurance and a series of licenses. She asked her husband for a boost and perhaps because he saw firsthand how dedicated she was, he obliged.
Having a business that bears her name also came with special challenges. When her employees are out there, she feels that they represent not only her business but her as an individual. She is constantly having them trained so that they can reflect the image she wants.
"I also have intensive interviews to vet prospective employees. I made a decision right from the start not to employ bodaboda riders. I prefer to employ riders who have studied for and have experience as office messengers. I need employees with people skills, people who can communicate effectively."
While she kept pushing, it took her a year to break even. It has been a long way up. She now has a fleet of fifteen motorcycles and a team of dedicated riders. She has also added onto the delivery services to include shopping and banking services.
The fulfilment that she gets at the end of the day, she says, is worth all that trouble.
Often when starting, you can't pay yourself for many months. To help you stick with it during those times, let the business you choose be your passion.
Run a clean business from the beginning. Evading tax and cutting corners will eventually catch up with you. When it does, it will be very costly.
Build good relationships with suppliers and other individuals that you will be working alongside.
Network. Wanjiru is a member of Business Network International (BNI), a network for entrepreneurs. Her membership has directly contributed to the growth of her business.