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Leah Esilaba: Making it in the hardware business in Kenya

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Hardware Business in Kenya: My name is Leah Esilaba. I am a hardware materials retail supplier. My work involves supplying any all types of hardware materials to clients. Instead of them moving from place to place looking for the materials they need, I discuss with the client what he needs. I then to and source for them quality products at an affordable price and deliver the materials to their site at a profit.

I am a family person. I am the first born so that means checking up on everyone and knowing how everything is going on and also ensuring that we are all at peace.

What type of business form do you have?

Sole proprietorship.

Why did you decide to get into this type of business and how long have you been in it?

I have done business all my life even while employed but my dad always encouraged me to venture into hardware business. So after 8 years of employment I got a new boss with whom we didn’t get along well which led to my employment being terminated.

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Upon termination, I got a chance to focus on business. I thank God for good friends who trusted me with imported goods that I would sell at a profit. My dad believed I could do better. One day he called me and step by step he guided me on how to go round hardware shops asking for orders and gave me samples to show my customers and voila here I am.

What is your average turnover a month/year?

30,000 – 70,000 per month.

What major challenges in business have you faced so far?

In this market there are so many suppliers who are selling with different prices. My experience in customer service skills I acquired has really helped me. I always go to my customers with patience and try and indulge with them to know how my competitors are doing. Some of them have become my very close friends.

My main challenge has been transportation cost because at the moment I don’t have a car  yet so I use boda boda riders which is expensive to transport goods to my customers in far places yet I have to serve them wherever they are.

Hardware Business in Kenya
Electrical bulbs – Hardware – Bizna

What is the greatest achievement in business so far?

Well my greatest achievement is customer satisfaction. I have never heard my customers complain about the quality of my goods. As much as some run away from me due to cheaper supplies they still come back saying my goods are of good quality.

Do you have employees?

No

Who is your ideal customer?

I really don’t have preference. However, to me, a consistent customer is a trusted customer

Who are your competitors and how do you handle them?

My competitors are fellow hardware suppliers. Competition is very healthy I sometimes engage with my competitors to know whats new and to get better strategies to improve

Anything you ever regret not doing?

Yes, two actually.

First, I regret not listening to my dad and venturing into hardware and electrical business earlier. Secondly, I wish my first loan which I took to open a movie shop I had started a hardware shop but as the saying goes, you either earn or learn. That was a painful learning moment for me.

Have you ever received any form of loan or funding? If not, why?

No.

The process of applying and getting a loan is long, tedious and demanding. I have tried borrowing from banks and other financial institutions but fell short on most occasions because  did not have the requisite collateral to satisfy the loan I was seeking.

Electrical bulbs - Hardware - Bizna
Electrical bulbs – Hardware – Bizna

What would you say is the biggest reason for your success/failure?

My biggest success is my customer base.

What’s your biggest fear in business?

Bad reputation. A good word goes round and so is bad word.

Name one person that has influenced you the most and why

My father Mr. Calvin Esilaba he has failed several times but he always rose up so did I. Beyond fatherly love, he has continually guided and supported my hustle. When am discouraged and I feel like giving up he always encourages me to soldier on.

Trust you me, the hardware business in Kenya is not for the faint-hearted.

What’s the best business advice you have ever received?

There will always be competition but never be afraid of it.

What do you do when you are not working?

I love positive energy. When I am not working, I am either having fun with my friends or at home with my babies watching movies and making their favourite meals. Positive energy all day every day.

What’s your most prized possession?

My children.

State a piece of wisdom you would pass on to a young person looking to follow in your steps

Listen. Listen. Listen.

If I had known this, I would be very far.

What is the future for the hardware business in Kenya?

I am planning to open a retail hardware shop God willing and who knows maybe a manufacturing plant.

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