Neema Kamau is the founder and owner of Elimubox, an online bookstore helping children discover and nurture the joy of reading and love for learning.
I started my books business with a leap of faith in December 2018. I purchased 1,000 books from a wholesaler on E-bay. I spent Sh. 60,000 on the books, including the shipping cost. The mission of my business is to help children discover and nurture the joy of reading and learning through affordable literature and learning resources.
In addition to selling quality pre-loved storybooks for ages 0-14 years, I also stock a variety of family games and jigsaw puzzles. I endeavour to know customers and build relationships, in addition to being knowledgeable about books, so that we are able to make good recommendations to our customers.
I worked for an international bank for 11 years, in Operations and Technology. I really enjoyed my work, had a great employer and really grew in my career. I however felt that I needed to spend more time with my growing family and opted to leave employment in 2013.
It was a very difficult decision for me to make at the time. But I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to discover and pursue what I am truly passionate about, and turn it into a profitable business. I am also thankful to have a spouse who has continued to provide financially and support our family since I left full time employment
The first thing I did when I started my venture was to separate my personal and business accounts. I have continued to save with my Sacco, as well as have a separate bank account for additional savings. When I was in full time employment, I should have saved more with my Sacco, especially in my younger years when I had just started working.
Sacco’s are a great source of business capital that is not overpriced. Also, if I were to start all over again, I would have trusted myself more and started my business earlier. I would have also invested a bit more in an integrated tech platform in the early stages.
It took me a year for my books business to break even. My first challenge was that as my business grew, I needed an alternative platform to reach my customers aside from the physical events where I used to sell books. In April 2020 I launched my website www.elimubox.com, where my customers could independently browse through what I had in stock and make their purchases. My second challenge was the need to achieve economies of scale and improve my cost advantage by doing bulk importation.
I was able to do my first bulk import in 2020, which was successful. The challenge with subsequent imports has been the rise costs in shipping as well as arbitrary duty costs (on top of the mandated VAT cost) imposed by the regulator at the point of clearing shipments.
My greatest business moment was when I did my first bulk import of books in November 2020. There was still a lot of uncertainty because of the pandemic. It was a big investment for me and I’m so glad I took the step. It has definitely paid off. I still remember the excitement of opening my first container filled with 20,000 books!
Done is better than perfect. It’s a lesson that I am continuously learning on my entrepreneurship journey. As a woman in business, ask for support, not for permission. You are smarter and more capable than you think. Courage is a muscle – the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. Face your fears and do it afraid anyway.
You’ll always be glad that you tried. Understand your money scripts – the values and beliefs around money that you have grown up with – as these can help or hinder you as you grow your wealth in business.
Always remember that money is a tool, not the end goal. The lasting legacy that you will leave behind is the impact you have made in the lives of people. Finally, as business owners seeking to build profitable and sustainable businesses, allow your business to grow beyond you, and ultimately create wealth for generations to come.
A version of this profile feature on Neema Kamau was also published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.