KENYA – In a small boutique near the elephant tusks at the Mombasa central business district (CBD), Meline Achieng is busy monitoring her Facebook page as she awaits orders from clients.
The shop is well-stocked with clothes, shoes and jewelry. Ms Achieng arranges the clothes, takes a photo of each of them and posts it on her Facebook page called Classic Fashion.
“Most of my clients are my friends, colleagues at school and others from Facebook which is my main platform,” notes Ms Achieng.
The 20-year-old entrepreneur says the online platform has been a pillar of her business.
“I get new clients every day. They order, pay and I deliver. I make more sales than the (physical) shop in Mombasa,” says Ms Achieng who is a third-year students at the Mount Kenya University studying supply and procurement.
To make her business dream a reality, she had to work hard and make sacrifices.
She started working in her aunt’s shop when she was 19. Her salary was Sh10,000, most of which she saved.
“I bought my first stock of Sh45,000 from the savings I had made in six months. Also my friends supported me,” the entrepreneur says.
The business lady says one of the challenges is the cost of renting a stall. Her small shop costs Sh20,000 a month. She shares the premises with her aunt.
In a month, Ms Achieng earns between Sh100,000 and Sh200,000 from the online platform.
Having skills in modelling, the entrepreneur is up to date with the new trends in the fashion industry. This, she says give her an edge.
“Most clients are trend-chasers. They like having the current fashion and trending designs and that is what I offer,” she says.
She has partnered with other online fashion shops, helping her get referral customers.
“I look at the gaps from the other online shops. We also help each other refer clients to get the products that we might be having. This helps me get new clients, ” Ms Achieng says.
She says an online shop saves one the cost of paying large sums of money as rent, especially for those starting in business.
“You only need to have one shop. I can make transactions from anywhere because after posting the pictures on the Facebook page, I only monitor the request of the clients,” she says, adding that when she is at school, the business still operates smoothly.
Challenges in business are inevitable, Ms Achieng says. Her account was reported as suspect by someone and it was blocked by Facebook for a week.
“Competition is stiff in online shopping. Haters will hack your account or even report it so that it is blocked,” she says .
She notes that creating good rapport with clients is vital but “it takes long because most people doubt online platforms”.
“Some people doubt shopping online, others think it is a scam. I spend a lot of time convincing a single client,” she says.
The entrepreneur seeks to find a larger space to display her products and start a design company.
“I love fashion and hope to have my own design company to mentor youth who want to be fashion models,” she says.
By DIANA MUTHEU