Travel

Eye for detail sprouts a big hit in picnics

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Picnic sites set by Jacinta Njoki, an entrepreneur who founded a picnic company. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • No word is closer to Jacinta Njoki’s heart than detail.
  • The founder of Picnics by Njoki curates picnic setups for clients.
  • In many ways, her business is a departure from the tradition where picnickers, mostly family or lovers, bring everything they need from refreshments to utensils, wastebaskets, and a picnic blanket in an outdoors setting to spend quality time together.

No word is closer to Jacinta Njoki’s heart than detail. The founder of Picnics by Njoki curates picnic setups for clients.

In many ways, her business is a departure from the tradition where picnickers, mostly family or lovers, bring everything they need from refreshments to utensils, wastebaskets, and a picnic blanket in an outdoors setting to spend quality time together.

To Ms Njoki though, memorable picnics are made up of more than merely tranquillity, food and heart-to-heart conversations. Luxury should be a natural component of this intimate affair.

So how did she start and what was the inspiration behind it?

“My friend had asked me to help organise a picnic for her birthday,” says Ms Njoki, who prides herself as a perfectionist.

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The 24-year-old ended up outdoing herself. “My friends were so blown away they asked me if I could do it as a business. I was hesitant. I didn’t know who would pay for a picnic.” Besides, how would she determine the rates?

“After a few weeks, I decided to give it a try. I’d just started my MBA {Masters of Business Administration}, so I felt there was nothing to lose. I scoured the internet for ideas on picnic setups.”

Next, she went shopping for furniture, cutlery, pillows, sheets, and the entire picnic paraphernalia, spending Sh120,000 in the process. She then set up her page on Instagram.

“I told myself that if things didn’t work out, at least I’d have new furniture and cutlery for my house. To my surprise, the feedback was phenomenal,” she says.

In the second month, Ms Njoki had to double her equipment. By the third month, she was forced to triple her investment.

For a start, she didn’t have a specific target clientele and had to take business from all demographics as a way to study the market.

“I’ve organised birthday parties for children, family picnics, wedding anniversaries and romantic dates,” she says.

Her concept has also attracted corporate customers as well. In the long run, though, she says she has her eyes on middle-class professionals and families as her main market segment.

Picnicao

“Most of our enquiries come from people between mid-20s and mid to late 30s. Occasionally, we have families and even individuals, aged above 40.”

Women, she adds, treat their men to picnics more than men treat their women.

So, what specifically goes into planning for a picnic? To Ms Njoki, the choice of venue is key.

“I give my clients a list of places I’ve worked with before, mostly gardens and private parks in Nairobi and Kiambu. Most of these venues are in very serene neighbourhoods and have water bodies to enrich the atmosphere.” There are also times when clients suggest different venues, which she then works with.

So far, she has three bouquets to cater to different budget strengths. While some customers request a simple arrangement, others are often willing to shell out a fortune for absolute luxury.

Every package comes with a fur carpet, dining setup, and flower displays, she says, adding that she provides wine, snacks and ice cubes while crafting messages on a board to suit the occasion. There is also music and candles for a complete enchanting mood.

“Picnickers bring their own food. But I also organise for meals for them on request from their favourite vendors,” she says, noting that she tries to minimise contact with food especially during this Covid-19 period.

I ask her about her fascination with finesse. She tells me she is a minimalist and subtle with colours, which, if her setups are anything to go by, I find it hard to reconcile with. “You can create a classy ambience without overdoing things. My favourite colour is black.”

For as long as she has earned money, a significant portion of it has gone to the aesthetic enhancement of her house.

“I love to style my house in curtains, throw pillows and an elegant carpet. This way, I approach picnics setups as an opportunity to decorate a room,” she says.

Without any background in interior design—she studied commerce in university —Pinterest is her most valuable tool for inspiration.

“You may forget everything else about a date, for instance, but the atmosphere will stick on. Beautiful memories are built from beautiful sceneries.”

So what would constitute an ideal date for someone who obsesses over the tiniest detail in her surroundings? She lets out an engaging laugh.

“I wouldn’t mind walking into a picnic setup identical to what I create.”

A lot could go wrong during a picnic, she says. “Weather is the biggest threat. It could rain, for instance. It once rained when I started,” she recounts, saying that she had to think with her feet. “Luckily, we were able to move indoors and to continue with the session.”

Cancellations or requests for rescheduling sometimes occur at the last minute.

“There is the time when clients cancel when we’re already on the way to the venue, or just when we’ve started to set up.”

But what complaints does she often deal with? Ms Njoki says that most customers have sophisticated tastes and that meeting their expectations entirely can be quite a handful. And when they are paying money for a unique experience, they demand nothing short of premium.

“Sometimes you miss one item and the client complains a lot. It could be the choice of balloons or the colour theme.”

I’m keen to know how her largely untapped segment of leisure concept fits in the industry’s evolution that is certain to happen.

She says she foresees cutthroat competition and growth in the near future.

“When I started deep into the pandemic, it was almost like a monopoly. A few months later, several businesses with a similar concept have cropped up.”

Does she feel that her territory has been invaded? Not in the least, she emphasises. “It challenges me to be more creative and to introduce more elements to my concept to preserve its identity,” she says.

She sees clients’ diverse preferences as an opportunity for investment.

Every day takes her on traverses of the city to lend life and magic to picnics. December was particularly busy for her, with an average of three events per day. “I’m barely off my phone these days. I’m always answering enquiries from potential clients. At the start, I’d sleep very late. I like the pressure.”

On what this job has taught her about herself, Ms Njoki says she is a go-getter. “I can’t sleep until I’m certain everything suits my desire. Growth has never meant so much to me.” It’s also taught her patience and time management.

Her biggest fear? Another pandemic, worse than Covid-19 “that would ground businesses.”

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