Alex Aduol is a trader at Gikomba Market. He deals with second hand (Mitumba) clothing and shoe bales.
I started this business seven years ago. I started with a capital of Sh. 300,000. Before I ventured into this business, I worked as a Team Accountant and Team Manager at Team Australia LTD. When I was starting, the market was not as open as it is today. Huge sections of the countrywide market that I am able to tap into today were still unexploited. This was mainly because of misinformation and misconceptions about second hand clothes and the preference for new clothes and shoes. Over time, though, I was able to come in and bridge this gap. The advent of technology has also been a boon for my business.
Apart from selling from my premises, I am able to market my stock and sell online. I have a customer base I have never met face to face who I sell to from the trust we have founded over time. They place orders and make payments, and I organize deliveries for their orders.
Over the time I have been in business, I have come to learn that the mitumba business is very capital intensive. This means that the business is always building up on its operating capital. I have been doing this by reinvesting through fresh stock from sales and profits. This has helped to always have ready supplies whenever there are new shipments. In addition to this, I have been able to reduce disposable cash which has helped me to tame impulse buying.
I have had my seasons of profit maximization. I have also had my seasons of extreme challenges. There are well documented Gikomba challenges, majorly the fire outbreaks. The timing of the fires leaves many of us with serious questions and introspection. The fires are not just normal accidents and we suspect they could be part of ill agendas, including the suppression of non-veteran traders from the market.
I once spent all I had to buy stock only to witness it get burned to ashes. This crashed me to my knees. I had to borrow funds to start afresh. The recent ban on mitumba imports was a huge challenge for me and many other traders at Gikomba. Currently, we are facing the hardships of the depreciating value of the Kenya shilling which directly affects our import costs.
I still have a long journey to build my business into the empire I aspire it to be. Nonetheless, I believe I should be more observant and aggressive than I have been before. I have also realized that growing a business takes more than just acquiring customers.
Customer needs are not constant. They keep changing as time evolves and you have to keep up with the changes to survive and beat competition. Business is the greatest sport. Keep your mind and body in shape, be patient and opportunities to score will come. Enthusiasm to make it work will almost, always make it work.
A version of this profile feature on Alex Aduol was also featured in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.