Monday, September 25, 2023

Marion Wambui: It took my business Sh. 1.5mn capital, two years to break even

Marion Wambui is the owner of Beautiful Bouquets Kenya, a fresh flower and gift shop located in Nairobi offering customized and personalized bouquets with unique arrangements.

I started this business back in 2018. I got a really bad experience during Valentines in 2018 and this irritation interestingly spiked a curiosity in me about floral arrangements. I learnt about the different types of flowers available and how to come up with beautiful arrangements. Little did I realize, during this phase, that these small coincidences would morph into a business idea.

Several weeks later, a friend saw a lovely arrangement on my dinner table and asked if I could do something similar for his wife. This was when the business started. I started with a capital of Sh. 5,000 and an idea. I was skilled in digital marketing and I began sharing my arrangements online.

Over the years there has been continuous investment in the business. This has helped me to set up a physical location, hire staff and also invest in continuous floral education. Overall investment has been in the range of Sh. 1.5 million. It took 2 years for me to break even.

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The main challenge is supply. The local flowers market is semi-formal. There are some elements that are hard to control. These elements include seasonality of some varieties, reliable suppliers and fluctuating prices. With our value proposition being unique customization, we have some arrangements that we are not able to provide all year round.

I was employed as a community manager from 2014. I started juggling between employment and business in late 2017. I actually started out with handbags before venturing out to flowers. I went to full entrepreneurship in 2019.

I think the biggest money mistake for me was not realizing that a business is a separate entity from the owners. When I started out, I hadn’t learnt to separate my personal funds from my business funds and this caused me a headache in managing my affairs and the business operations. I was shocked at how much money I was unable to properly account for and ended up being wasted on personal items instead of being reinvested into the business.

I learnt with time to separate the funds and use available tools such as an M-PESA Till and opening a separate bank account for business funds to manage my business affairs. I also learnt that a successful business has to have proper financial records and that I am an employee of my business and have to pay myself a salary.

My biggest business moment, so far, was the opening of my physical outlet. I had operated with a purely online presence for about a year before I ventured into a physical location. I had to empty out my savings to secure and eventually set up the physical shop.

This opened my business to new clientele, enhanced customer trust, grown the brand, enriched customer experience and enabled me to assemble a great team.

If I could start all over again, I would enroll in a business management class. I feel like I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning in managing the business especially from a cash management point of view.

Having studied Journalism and eventually working within the digital marketing space, I did not fully appreciate how important financial management is in a business – knowing when to stock and what to stock, separating personal funds from business funds, taking advantage of fads to push product, employee management etc. I learnt the hard way…wueh!

I use M-SHWARI service from MPESA as a savings method. This is especially effective for me as a business owner since I have the flexibility of saving and accessing credit for day to day running of the business. It also helps that the money, when needed, is easily accessible in my mobile money wallet.

I used to have a fixed deposit account, but this wasn’t practical as the cash conversion cycle requires you to hold a healthy amount of working capital in circulation.

You will only achieve what you want by being bold and venturing out of your comfort zones. I had to venture out of the comfort of a regular paycheck to an uncertain world in a difficult and seeming saturated market. I didn’t think there was a niche for me but I soon realized that I had something beautiful to share with people…and that they are even willing to pay me to do it.

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

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