Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I earned Sh. 5,000 as an employee; my businesses are now making Sh. 1mn annual revenues

Although Leah Atieno runs what many would consider a small business, she is currently on an ambitious quest to record her first Sh. 1 million annual turnover this year.

You see, Leah’s turnover for the year 2023 stood at Sh. 500,000. “I am aiming to break the Sh. 1 million barrier this year,” says the 27-year-old.

Leah runs a cooking gas and a purified water vending business in the outskirts of Nakuru Town.

Her determination to succeed in his business is illuminated by the burning tenacity that has characterized his life. “I am motivated by poverty,” she says. “Having grown up in a family where daily livelihood was hard to come by, everyday that I wake up, I am motivated to ensure that I get as far away from poverty as possible.”

Leah says that she has not always had a future to look forward to. She was not so good in school and neither were her parents well off. “I attended a village day school. My father was jobless and to fund for my school fees, he pruned flowers at the school,” she says.

“Watching him labour at the school while my schoolmates’ parents were away doing better jobs was a constant reminder that we were poor and that I would amount to nothing.”

After sitting for her KCSE examinations in 2015 and managing a grade C (plain), Leah started working as a Mama Fua earning between Sh. 200 and Sh. 300 per customer.

In 2017, she was also employed at various hotels around Nakuru’s bus stage area. “My pay used to be Sh. 200 plus lunch and supper,” she says.

Two years later, in 2019, Leah was employed as a cashier at a gas supplying stall in the town at a salary of Sh. 5,000 per month.

“My budget was simple. I paid rent and food and at every end month, I saved about Sh. 1,500. Sometimes I saved Sh. 3,000 in months when I exceeded sales and got commissions,” she says.

“I had started saving the money in my mobile phone, then my boss advised me to switch to a bank. Since we banked her business cash at Co-op Bank, it was only natural for me to open my account there,” she says.

For months, whenever she went to bank her employer’s money, Leah contemplated asking a loan officer at the bank if she could qualify for a small start-up loan.

“The more experience I gained, the more I began to think that perhaps I could also start my own gas supply business within the estate where I lived,” she says.

By the end of 2019, Leah had saved Sh. 30,000. She began to buy empty 6kg gas cylinders for Sh. 2,000 and resell them at Sh 3,000. “I would make Sh. 1,000 profit on the side. I also squeezed my expenses to build up my savings.

By the year 2022, Leah had expanded to buying both empty 6kg and 13kg gas cylinders. “I moved to a two bedroom house and turned one of the rooms into a store,” she says. “I was able to balance my work since my employer dealt exclusively with gas refilling and did not buy and sell empty cylinders.”

In November of 2022, she took the bold step of approaching her bank for support.

“I explained my vision to them and they agreed to extend me a loan of Sh. 300,000 if I could get a guarantor,” she says. To make sure she was in good books with her employer, Leah opened up to her employer.

“I told her that her business had inspired me and I wanted to start a small gas refilling hustle in the estate where I lived,” she says. “She told me there was no problem since I lived quite far from her business location and would not eat into her client base.”

See loans you can get from Co-op Bank to fund your small or medium business

Interestingly, Leah’s employer offered to guarantee her bank loan. “She was excited that I was trying to venture out.”

A month later, she began to refill some of the cylinders while selling others empty. “I rented a verandah from a shop in the estate,” she says.

From 6am to 8am before she reported to work, Leah would sell her gas cylinders. From 8am to 7pm, she would be at her employer’s business. From 7pm to 10pm, she would sell her refilled coking gas in the estates. “I built a customer base and ensured every one of my customers took down my contacts.”

In April 2023, she decided to shift her storage to a safer building. A month later, she gave her employer a three month notice.

She opened her new store on with 50 gas cylinders. Today, she has more than quadrupled her stock and opened. She has also expanded to a nearby store where she sells purified water.

“I am hoping that by the end of this year, I will record a Sh. 1 million turnover. The business is currently self-servicing and I am able to repay the loan and sustain myself sufficiently.”

She says that she has been re-investing her net profit back in the business. “Vigorous marketing and a friendly customer relationship has been my secret. I give my customers reason to return and see my business as a young, growing brand,” she says.

When asked what her success recipe has been, Leah says that her former boss and the Co-op Bank are the reason why she is in business today. “You are as good an entrepreneur as the financial institution you bank with and the mentors you have,” she says.

I almost lost my business to inflation, salvaged it with Sh. 200,000 capital funding

“I have been lucky to have a former boss who is also my mentor, and a bank that was willing to listen to my pitch and advise me on how I could access financial support to realize my business dream,” she says.

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