When Asha Abdallah invited me to her two-bedroom house in Mombasa, I was surprised at how many people she hosts. But after a while, she informs me that the people are her clients.
Ms Abdallah who lives in a rented two-bedroom house decided to transform one of her rooms into an online business set-up.
“I used to stay in a one-bedroom house before. When I saw the expense that comes with opening a shop, I challenged myself why not move into a two-bedroom and turn one of the rooms into a shop as I continue to pay the same rent,” says the 25-year old.
She studied Information Technology and Beautician courses before dropping out of school due to financial reasons.
“I am the third born in a family of five, all raised by a single mother because our father passed on when we were still young. Financial challenges are the main reason I did not complete school,” she says.
Her elder brother has been her business mentor teacher.
“My late father was a businessman. Then, my brother followed in his footsteps and immediately after his high school studies he ventured into the clothing business. I never thought I would make it as an independent businesswoman,” Ms Abdallah says.
Before going big in the business, she started by testing the waters using her family and friends.
“I opened a WhatsApp group that included my family and close friends. I started by posting male and female attires and as time went by they started enquiring about the prices, that is when I saw an opportunity and dived into it,” she says.
That was the start of her business transformation that has since then seen her expand her brand.
“While in high school people nicknamed me Aisha-Montana. When this business opportunity came through I chose the same name for easy identification. If I could have chosen another name it would have been difficult to set up the ground,” she says.
The Montana collection, she says, is now two and a half years old, with her suppliers being from Turkey, Dubai, China and, Tanzania.
“It is easy ordering clothes from outside the country because they sell cheaper wholesale. Most of my clients love the Dubai designs,” she says.
Most of her clients are women of all ages, who inspired her to open up a children's clothing line too.
“The mothers who would buy clothes from me frequently asked if I had the same clothes for children. I listened to my customers and now I have Montana Kids that focuses on children's clothes aged one month to six years,” says Ms Abdallah.
But how does the online business operate?
“I receive photos from my suppliers which I post on all my business social media pages. If my customers show interest I order in bulk, organise them well in my room, take more photos and post them. This attracts as many customers to my home shop as possible,” she says.
But with many people going into online business to survive the Covid economic hardships, Ms Abdallah has had to think outside the box to keep her customers coming back.
For every clothe Ms Abdallah sells, a customer receives a free thank you card accompanied by a bar of chocolate.
“On top of the packaged item, I put my Montana sticker that has my business social media pages and business number written on it,” she says.
She adds that online business is not simple. At one time a customer reversed her money after a cargo came in late leaving her with a huge loss.
Ms Abdallah who was employed before losing the position following Covid 19 hardships says she is not looking to being employed again, but would rather go back to school again to study a business course.
She advises the young jobless generation to “challenging yourself is always going to earn you an income one day.”