Covid-19 pushes saleslady into cereals business


Cereals trader Doris Makena. PHOTO | COURTESY

Doris Makena has been a saleslady since she completed her degree in education.

"Almost everyone in my family is a teacher and that seemed to be my fate too after I missed Law School because I did not make the cut," explains Ms Makena.

However, she did not practise teaching and dived right into sales and marketing and has worked in several organisations as a marketer. Her current job is in the hospitality industry, and all was well until she was sent on indefinite unpaid leave thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was understandable since we were not making money as hotels have been shut down owing to the pandemic," she says.

"This sudden change must have weighed on me subconsciously because I remember one day going to bed at 3am and waking up at 7am. I realised I needed to do something to complement our family income and the first thought that crossed my mind was to sell rice."

"I had Sh14,000, which I used as capital to buy my first batch of rice," she says.

Before deciding which brands to trade in, she started by cooking them first to determine the quality.

"I remember going to buy grains in small quantities and my friend asked me why I couldn't buy in bulk but I told her I didn't have enough money," she says.

After consulting with a friend she expanded her business into cereals such as yellow beans and green grams.

"I had to learn the ropes fast. I remember the first batch of grains I sold was not selected. Luckily I had sold them to my friends and the consequences were not too bad," she says.

"Today's client does not want to spend three hours selecting grains. They want clean grains that are ready for cooking," she says.

For Ms Makena, the business has been some sort of a learning curve.

"I have learned that there are different grades of selection for the grains. I settled for Grade 1 as it gives the cleanest grains. It is a little pricey but it's worth it," she narrates.

Ms Makena has been selling grains for about two months now and she is glad she is contributing in meeting the family budget.

Her list of grains has also grown as she gets to understand the needs of her clients. She has added 'njahi', pigeon peas and yellow lentils to her stock

"I'm also expecting a consignment of groundnuts from Busia as my clients kept asking me for 'njugus'. You know people aren't very busy and they have time to munch on the 'njugus'," she says.

Ms Makena delivers the cereals to her clients and usually markets them on her WhatsApp status update and Facebook. She also gets a lot of referrals and has already sold to about 80 people and counting.

"Luckily most clients buy in bulk, for instance the 25kg bag of rice. So far I've sold more than 500kg of cereals combined," says Ms Makena.