After four years of relentless job searching, Paul Maingi opened Dreams Wear shop, where he now specializes on formal as well as casual wear. Today, he boasts of three shops; one located in Nairobi’s city centre and the other two on the outskirts of Nairobi. The African Executive caught up with the 27 year old Kenyan and he shares some of his experiences.
A.E: How did you begin?
Maingi: I hold a Diploma in Design from Kenya Polytechnic. After my graduation, I was out in search of jobs to no avail. However in 2004, I resorted to go into business. I had some money and had to identify what I would invest in. I did some research and found that most men unlike women do not have time to go shopping for clothes and find the whole exercise tedious. Therefore, I decided to cater for this clientele by getting them suits, shirts and shoes and delivering them in their offices and homes.
A.E: What happened next?
Maingi: I shared my idea with the people I knew first and most of them supported me. By interacting with them, I got to know their preferred outfits. I would get what suited them and deliver them. Most of them appreciated my efforts and introduced me to their friends and colleagues. Today, I have a clientele of more than 300 people.
A.E: When did you open the stalls?
Maingi: I initially operated from my tiny house in Umoja estate for two years before opening my first stall in the city centre. I have opened two other stalls in Nairobi West and Buruburu estate since then.
A.E: Do you only target men?
Maingi: No. The stalls have a wider target. They serve the young, old and also both female and male.
A.E: Do you deliver clothes to women?
Maingi: No. I have never done office or home delivery to women. Women buy their clothes directly from the stalls.
Maingi: Women unlike men prefer making a choice from a variety of colors and designs among others.
A.E: Where do you get your clothes from?
Maingi: This varies. It can be Bangkok, China, Turkey, Uganda among others.
A.E: How much was your initial capital?
Maingi: Ksh. 50,000
A.E: Do you travel to purchase the goods yourself?
Maingi: Not always. Sometimes I send someone, or purchase them online and have them shipped to Kenya.
A.E: How much is your stock currently?
Maingi: Over Ksh. 750,000. Generally, men’s clothes have a bigger capital compared to women; this also affects the price of the clothes too. For example, while a man’s suit would go for approximately Ksh. 12,000 that of a woman would go for approximately Ksh. 5,500. This also applies in shoes, T-shits among others.
Maingi: I think it is because they are more long lasting. For example, a man can do with one pair of shoes for up to six months or more, but for a woman, by the end of first month, she will be looking for a cobbler.
A.E: What have been your greatest challenges?
Maingi: Capital, especially during my initial years. At times people would order and I would take long to deliver as I had to source for funds. Also, I had no business skills when I began. Competition is stiff. Today, there are many stalls in town selling clothes and shoes. Sales are usually down in January and February after the festive season of chrismas. One has to use profits from the previous months to meet the expenses.
A.E: What services do you offer to manage the stiff competition?
Maingi: I offer office and home deliveries. The customers that I have worked with for more than two years can purchase good on credit. I give them a grace period of utmost two months.
A.E: How do you manage the three shops and the deliveries?
Maingi: I have employed a sales person in each shop, one person whom I visit the clients with, and another person who oversees the three shops.
A.E: What’s your take on the Youth Enterprise Development Fund that was launched by the Kibaki government?
Maingi: It is a good stepping stone for the youth. People should not complain that Ksh. 30, 000 is little. One does not need a huge capital to start off. If they identify what the customer needs and offer that, the first year may be challenging but with good services, word will go round widening the client base.
A.E: What’s your advice to the youth?
Maingi: They should change their perception that they can only succeed when they get white collar jobs and be ready to take the risks of starting their own businesses.