Saturday, October 1, 2022

Khadija Miya: How I turned Sh. 2,500 loan into thriving business in 3 years

Khadija Miya is the founder and managing director at Chamvigah Designs, a fashion house that deals in all types of attire, from wedding gowns, suits, casual wear, and kids’ clothes.

I started my business in 2019. I remember I had gone to Eastleigh where I ought one Dera at Sh. 250. I custom made it from the usual Dera design to an off-shoulder design and posted photos of me wearing it on my WhatsApp status. Although my intention was not to sell, I got 10 enquires from friends and acquaintances who were asking if the Dera was on sale. I said it wasn’t on sale but I could get them similar designs. The following day, I borrowed Sh. 2,500 from my husband and went back to Eastleigh.

I bought 10 Deras and customized them to the off-shoulder style. I posted photos on WhatsApp and distributed to the 10 people who had inquired about them at Sh. 500 each. I made a profit of Sh. 2,500. I repaid my husband and went back to Eastleigh for more Deras. This became a business cycle. There were times I offloaded the Deras faster and other times when it took longer. When I realized that this could become a business, I started incorporating more designs for sale.

It took me more than a year and half to break even. Almost three years later, I can say that I have seen the fruits of getting into this business. One thing I have learned is that the fashion industry is full of challenges. In my business, I am not the tailor.

My skills end with designing. This has at times been challenging because good tailors are quite hard to come by. Once, I got an order for suits, but I didn’t have a tailor. I traversed the whole of Mlolongo area looking for someone who could do the job that was required in vain. There are times also when tailors refuse to take jobs because of what they seem as outsiders coming into their industry. Phrases such as ‘Unafungua kazi ya kushona designs na wewe sio fundi kwa nini?’ have often been thrown my way.

When was starting, I lost thousands of money to clients who refused to pay up after work was done. I also had some clients who issued bad cheques for bulk jobs. Amidst these challenges, six months after opening my shop, I got a government job that would have paid six figures. I declined because I felt that the business I had started would be more fulfilling in the long run.

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Over time, I have struggled with separating my business money from my personal money. These mix ups once left me chocking with bills for almost five months. I was struggling to pay rent, salaries, and buy new stock. I realized that I needed to separate what the business made from my own personal funds in order to survive. Since then, I have been observing strict bookkeeping and operating separate accounts for the business and my personal money.

One thing I have learned in this line of business is the importance of hiring the right workers. Cheap labour is the killer of small and upcoming businesses. You may think that you are saving money, but overtime, you will lose more and your brand will be tarnished if your workers are not properly skilled.

I save my money through Sacco. This worked well for me as it has been an improvement from table banking and merry-go-round chama groups. I previously used to keep my money at the bank through a fixed account. This proved to be the wrong method when I lost a good business deal simply because I could not access my money in good time.

A version of this profile feature on Khadija Miya was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group

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