How I cracked the mitumba importation business at Gikomba
Jane Kangethe Wamuyu is the founder and managing director of Best Mitumba Bale’s Ltd, a company that deals with wholesale and retail mitumba bale’s at Gikomba.
70 per cent of my clients have never interacted with me face to face. Our sales and business dealings have been through social media, on Facebook and Instagram. This has been efficient on my side as I have been able to organize what needs to be shipped to which location across the country, and ensure that my 24 hour delivery promise for far flung areas is maintained.
I started this business seven years ago. I started with Sh. 50,000. It was a step of faith since I resigned from a formal job to venture into entrepreneurship. After I started, it took me over two years to break even.
I found that this type of business was capital intensive since I had gone into it with a large scale importation and wholesaling target.
As a result of this, I had challenges with operating capital. I also found out that this business is male-dominated. When I started out, I had to carry my own bales during delivery to my shop. This was not a walk in the park at all.
The 2020 pandemic really hit us hard. The ban on importation of mitumba was very severe on us. We went for several months without opening our business. The cost of importation of Mitumba was also very high.
My employees went for months without work, and at some point, we had to figure out how to share the cost of their basic bills. I am now glad that gradually, things are looking up again as the world shakes itself off the pandemic.
Over the time that I have been running this business, I have come to learn that separating business and personal money is not always easy when you’re an entrepreneur. It requires very disciplined bookkeeping and financial planning, because the temptation to dip into business funds just because you can is quite huge.
Over the time I have been selling mitumba, I have managed to grow from a small shop to four branches with importation and delivery subsidiaries in East Africa.
In 2021, I was awarded the ‘FOYA AWARDS Founder of the Year Over 30 Africa’ award. This was a humbling vindication that I am in the right business and my efforts are making an impact.
I set myself goals and dedicated savings towards them. I have also created a reserve account so that all the net profits the business makes are separated from the principal amount. That way, the operating principal is always safe, while the net profits can be reinvested into the business.
The mitumba business is sometimes a cut-throat business and rivalry can be gruesome. I remember one incident where my competitors ganged up to taint my brand. However, this tactic did not work as my clients were able to vouch for my case. This taught me why it is important to have a good relationship with your clients. You might need them down the line.
Yes, mitumba is a good and profitable business, but it is not for the faint hearted. In everything you do, put God first. Great people are molded out of adversities and not comfort. Go out there and work hard, smart and be consistent.