Enterprise

Engineering graduate finds traction in garment business

FelixMwangi
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Summary

  • Fresh from college and with a diploma in civil engineering, Felix Mwangi thought he had what it takes to land work in this lucrative field, but he was wrong.
  • After dropping his resume to countless prospective employers, and being called by a few for interviews, he learned his resume was missing one vital detail; work experience.
  • Most firms were looking for a hire with at least five years working experience.

Fresh from college and with a diploma in civil engineering, Felix Mwangi thought he had what it takes to land work in this lucrative field, but he was wrong.

After dropping his resume to countless prospective employers, and being called by a few for interviews, he learned his resume was missing one vital detail; work experience. Most firms were looking for a hire with at least five years working experience.

And that is what dampened his spirits.

“Where does a freshman gain that work experience from?” Posed the 25-year-old.

His impressive academic credentials at that moment appeared worthless. It downed on him quickly that he was fighting for limited vacant places in a job market saturated with many qualified but unemployed graduates.

“I felt like I had pursued a wrong career course as I could not apply the learned skills to better use immediately.”

The close he came to garnering work experience was while on attachment with an engineering company.

A different career path

All seemed bleak, until a chance he got work at Trendy Links, a garment factory located in Bahati in Nakuru. His acquired skills would one day come in handy at this line of work and especially when the company was contracted by the Kitui county government to set up the Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec).

“I’m a qualified driver and I began employ here as a bus driver, later moving to work in the organisation in garment making and learning the ropes fast. My civil engineering skills would be employed as well in solving problems as they arose,” he said.

He rose up the ranks and be promoted as the head of sales and marketing at the company.

The opportunity to be his own employer came when he was among the team members selected by the Trendy Links to help Kitui government set up its own garment factory.

“At the end of that contract, I had saved enough to be able to buy machines and materials and register my own garment making company that trades as Menengai Knitters, and located in Nakuru town.”

Today Menengai Knitters makes an array of branded attires for different industries with his target clients being schools, health and hospitality, security, NGOs, sports, and industrial sector.

With electioneering period around the corner, he is projecting to target politician for branded campaign merchandise.

Business hit a low

When the Covid-19 pandemic came, the business’s bottom margin hit the lowest. The lockdown did not help matters and he had to send workers home. Moreover, there were clients who had not cleared their debts, especially learning institutions when the pandemic was declared in the country.

“We had to adapt by moving to producing personal protective equipments and face masks as the business took a hit.”

But that did not mean a change for the better for the now three- year-old firm.

“I had to seek other ways to shore up the dwindling fortunes in face of the pandemic, including recently working as a driver ferrying ballast for the metre gauge railway rehabilitation.”

This was before relocating the company from Bahati to Nakuru town recently.

Cartels

He said it has been a tough business environment as head teachers in collusion with cartels have made the school uniform business their forte, locking out others.

“There has been hue and cry from parents about the exorbitant uniform prices from schools and uniform shops with head teachers directing parents and guardians to specific shops to source uniform.

At times I may stock a certain uniform with the aim of selling it to a given school, put on school logo only for the school head working with the cartels to interfere with it as in changing it to look differently and direct parents which specific shops to source uniforms from. That way, I’m left with dead stock bearing the old school logo.”

Then there have been other challenges from some of his clients who place bulk orders, but do not want to commit themselves in meeting the production costs.

“You may meet clients online who make orders only for them to disappear, and if the orders were already customised, there is no way you can reverse the customisations. This as a business loss. It pays to know your clients well before choosing to engage with them and in the process establishing business rapport with them,” he advised.

In terms of marketing strategies, he said he employs the use of social media platforms, on-point sales and referrals from customers.