In early 2018, when Makena Murungi and James Bukusi, a couple in their late 20s, were expecting their first child, they never thought this could be an opportunity to get into business.
In the course of their preparations for the child, the duo says they had challenges acquiring the right baby stuff and all that their child would need.
They were lucky enough to have networks and means to buy some of the items through acquaintances outside the country.
But at the same time, they realised that due to everyday constraints, not all would-be parents had the convenience and spare time to move from one shop to another, looking for the right items for their babies.
It was while going through this situation that a business idea struck the couple.
“We realised that during pregnancy, and by extension after childbirth, the mother has to, mostly by herself, go through a tough experience getting the right stuff for herself as well as the baby,” says Ms Murungi.
“The father may sometimes be available to run to the shops buying these things, but more often than not, he does not get the right details of what the mother or the little one really needs.”
So the two started buying some baby products and advertising them through their Facebook pages. They managed to sell quite a substantial quantity of goods they had bought with Sh15,000 capital they had invested.
They, however, realised soon that they could sell more if they set up an online shop. So the duo, who had some backgroun knowledge on e-shopping, decided to set up an online shop. This would be more accommodating and easily navigable compared to Facebook.
And in June 2018, this marked the beginning of their Mother and Baby Shop, (https://motherbabyshop.co.ke) an online marketplace dedicated to “convenient provision” of all the supplies that an expectant mother requires , and what the baby needs until they attain the age of five.
On their portal, one can make diaper subscriptions and have the convenience of being supplied with the product and their related necessities such as baby wipes at their homes after paying through mobile money transfer. Clients can also pick the goods themselves from the enterprise’s office in Ngara, Nairobi.
“We sought to fill the gap of catering for the mother and the baby. We realised that there could be others in a situation similar to ours, that due to their busy schedules they are unable to go in search of these items,” says Mr Bukusi.
The enterprise uses a team of four bikers, who are subcontracted to make deliveries across the city. The also use couriers to make deliveries to the clientele outside Nairobi. On average they serve between 60 and 70 clients a month.
“It takes just a day to deliver to clients in Nairobi but for those outside the city, in the counties, they get their deliveries a day after making an order,” Mr Bukusi indicates adding that for the diaper subscriptions, the client will have the deliveries made as per the agreement uploaded on the online shop portal.
Ms Murungi points out that their online shop largely deals in original products as they work with internationally renowned brands. This, she says, enables them to “uniquely stand out from competition”.
The couple however says it has not been all rosy in the business as challenges abound. Mr Bukusi says it was difficult for a while to trust those tasked with making the deliveries to convey the goods to their clients, and in good condition.
“Then there was the challenge of trust with our clients. Many found it difficult to pay beforehand and trust that we will deliver the goods as they want them. Sometimes they felt that what we had in our online portal could be different from what we really supply,” Ms Murungi says.
The duo says they post photos of their real items and do not use downloaded pictures, as others normally do in a bid to make their business sites catchy.
Their online shop has expanded over time and now deals in supply of new mothers’ as well as the baby’s nutrition products, parenting books, breast pumps, baby pacifiers, baby monitors, milk bottles, baby training cups, and after-birth care products such as pregnant care stretch creams, and bio-oils for the mothers, among others.
It also supplies an assortment of mothers’ maternity items, a wide range of diapers, nanny cams, and baby shower gifts.
“We supply baby nursery furniture, including cribs, and baby cots as well. We have a variety of up to 500 different products for both the mother and baby,” Mr Bukusi says.
The couple says they target to be a leading enterprise for provision of mothers and their babies items in East Africa. Not many enterprises offer the combination of these services, to the mothers and babies at the click of a button, they say.
Their advice to upcoming entrepreneurs is that online businesses offer endless possibilities for investing. But they caution that one has to research, and understand their target customers’ needs and then follow due diligence in seeking ways to solve those needs.
“There are many good ideas in the online business segment. But some of these good ideas may not necessarily solve the needs that these customers want addressed,” Mr Bukusi says.