The Art of Self Repackaging

Published on 23rd May 2006

Lucy Njoki, a 24 year old Kenyan, has been working at Waka Electricals in Nakuru for the last three years. Lucy is a form four leaver and is glad at how much she has learnt while at her current job. She does not only know about different electrical appliances, but she has learnt how to repair them. The African Executive caught up with Lucy and she shared some of her experiences

 Q. What happened after completing high school?

 A. A family friend offered me a job as a house girl. All along I wanted to join college but had to source for funds. I therefore decided to take up the job and save some money to pay for my college. Unfortunately the pay was too little; I could hardly make any savings.

 Q. How then did you get your current job?

 A. I came across a notice pinned on an electric post. It read: “Urgently wanted, a shop assistant. Qualifications: O-level graduate. No experience required.” The job was to be offered on a first come, first served basis. Since I was in town, I expressed interest. The lady I found asked me some questions on my personal life and warned it would be challenging since I knew nothing on electrical goods. She then asked me to see her after two days. I landed the job.

 Q. Briefly narrate your experience

A. My first week that involved job orientation was the worst. I realized I knew nothing about electrical goods other than the very basic ones like bulbs, sockets and switches. My employer was patient with me. She told me that I would be in charge after the first week since she had to resume her job. To avoid confusion, we arranged the goods alphabetically on the shelves and had nametags attached to them not only for easy tracing but to also save my time and that of the customer when purchasing. I would at least trace it easily. It took me three weeks to know almost all the goods and a bit on where they are used.

Q. Any other challenges?

A. As I went on working here I realized that most employers are conned a lot of money by their employees. Most electrical engineers ask the shop steward to write higher figures on the receipts than the ones used to purchase the item. At times their employers visit the shop and discover the trick. “How comes so and so gave me a different quotation?” they ask. 

Q. Do you also fake figures on receipts?

A. No. We believe in executing clean deals and let our customers know that we can't be accomplices in such shady deals. Honesty and integrity are good brands for a business.

Q. How do the customers react?

A. Some say we are foolish and will die poor. Some leave in anger, never to come back. Our stand won us many clients though.

Q. Do you face any other challenges?

A. There is stiff competition in the sale of electrical items. Many customers compare prices and strike a deal with the retailer who sells them at lower rates. We are obliged to keep comparing prices with our competitors while looking for cheaper wholesalers. Some customers expect us to stock everything, when they find we do not have what they want, they walk away in protest. Others make orders and never show up.

Q. Do you regret working in your current station?

 A. No. I have gained valuable experience while on the job. I can now repair damaged appliances. 

Q. How did you acquire the skills?

 A. During my first year here, many people would come asking whether we offered electrical repair services. This prompted my boss to hire an electrician and while he was doing his job, I was keen to learn. In the process I began repairing the goods too. So, whenever the electrician is not in, I always step in. I would like to join college to study electrical engineering.

Q. Do you have an idea of how much it will cost to enroll in a college?

 A. Yes, most colleges charge between Ksh.20,000 and 30,000 per  term for a three year course. So far, I have saved money that is able to cater for one term.

Q. Apart from saving, what else have you done with your money?

A. I opened a grocery shop where I sell vegetables, toiletries and paraffin. People in my village had to walk over 4kms to access a grocery. Seeing this need, I decided to fill it. So far I am making profit. 

 Q. Have you employed someone to run the grocery?

 A. Not really, my mother is in charge. She runs it.

Q. Do you pay her for the services?

A. Yes, I pay her Ksh.2,000 per month.

Q. What lessons have you learnt on business?

A. To sustain a business one has to be tough. One time you make profits and the next time losses. This does not mean you give up, you have to aim high. It’s always important that you keep records for this will help you know in which direction your business is headed and whether you can expand it or not.


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