Small Enterprise

How I grew my side hustle into thriving import business

Jacinta Mutoro, owner of Jacy’s Smart Collection, during the interview.  photo | Wachira mwangi
Jacinta Mutoro, owner of Jacy’s Smart Collection, during the interview. photo | Wachira mwangi 

Every payday, 27-year-old Jacinta Mutoro would make allocations to her expenses as many employees do. The result for the lab technician was always the same – what she earned (Sh24,000) was far from enough to cater for her needs.

In May 2015, with Sh3,000 in capital, she decided to start a small business to supplement her income. She has not regretted her decision.

In a good month, she now makes about Sh800,000 from selling household items. She started by buying her goods from Eastleigh, Nairobi as ordered by her clients.

“My colleagues loved my products so much. I used to sell them the goods on credit. They would pay me after two months or so. In the process, I identified my market niche,” Ms Jacinta told the Enterprise during an interview.

She noticed there was a big demand for handbags and mosquito nets, which she sourced from wholesalers in Mombasa. Every week, she said, she would sell around four handbags from which she made significant profit. She saved the money, intent on using it to start importing goods from abroad.

Today, Jacy’s Smart Collection deals with all households wares from inflatable beds, pull out sofa beds, carpets, utensils to handbags, plastic wardrobes and home decorations.  She sources them from Turkey, China and the wider European market.

“I linked with one of the suppliers in China and started importing goods. Back then majority of the items were handbags, but now I sell all types of household goods. I import all of them. A client just has to say what they need and I will get it,” she said.

The experience has made her understand the market well and she is today able to the meet needs of customers with different tastes.

“Sometimes other businesses get similar products, hence I have to be very keen on trends. Each time I have to bring in something new to meet the client’s needs,” she said.

The venture has helped her pursue a degree in medical laboratory at the Technical University of Mombasa.

“Besides meeting my basic needs and other expenses such as rent, I support my family back at home. I have also employed my siblings,” she added.

She has also employed seven people who assist her in running the business.

Most of her products, which she either sells wholesale or retail, go for between Sh2,000 and Sh14,000. And in order to reach out to customers, she uses social media platforms such as Facebook. Word of mouth, however, has been the greatest driver behind her growing client base.

Over and above the two branches she operates in Mombasa and Nairobi, she also supplies the products to other towns through courier deliveries.
She says balancing between her full-time job and the venture needs can be taxing, but the returns make it all worth it.

“Both of these jobs are important to me, so I am forced to work very hard. I am a very busy person, but my family has really supported me. My brother assists in the management of the business,” she said.

The business is not without its challenges. The biggest of them is the fluctuations in freight charges.

“Freight importation charges sometimes change. For instance you had expected to be charged Sh35,000, but on arrival of your goods the charges increase. It was a big challenge especially during the electioneering period,” she said.

She hopes to expand the business to other regions in the country. For her side-hustling is not only a way to make ends meet, but also about pursuing a passion and fulfilling customer’s needs.

She encourages prospective entrepreneurs to start a venture with whatever amount of capital they have.

“Start with whatever you have. Be it Sh1,000 or Sh2,000.You may never get a  lump sum for you to start .However little you start with, it will one day grow big, she said.