Many campus students dream of starting businesses of their own; to come up with the next big ventures akin to Microsoft and Virgin Atlantic. However, nearly all of them shy away from putting in the effort; they are never up to snuff when it comes to maneuvering between class work and side hustles. It takes persons of tough mettle to be able to set up a venture, grit their teeth to see it work and never succumb to the lure of throwing in the towel when things get tough. One such individual is Vincent Kioko.
Vincent is a fourth year student at Kenyatta University, pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree. But his business acumen is not only confined to the classroom. He is a literally a jack of all trades, having successfully applied whatever his business professors teach him to a variety of investments. Jowal Jones caught up with the budding entrepreneur who takes no prisoners in his craft, and here is what he had to share:
Describe yourself in three words
I love money!
Tell us about your business
My business is called Juu Cini; I’ve been running it for about a year and two months now. My main line of business is designing and tailoring custom-made bags and purses. I also make bangles, Ankara shoes, and custom T-shirts.
How did you get the concept for your business?
After I left form four, I had an opportunity of interacting with tailors in my hood where I volunteered as an apprentice. Through apprenticeship, I was able to learn the basics of tailoring and fasion design. However, I never got around to starting Juu Cini until some time last year, after I’d tried several other hustles which didn’t work out quite as expected.
What hustles had you tried prior to founding Juu Cini?
During my freshman year, I used to hawk ladies’ boots. However, the business flopped because ladies would use their feminine wiles to trick me into selling boots to them at a loss. I later gave away the remaining stock to my siblings (laughs)
In my second year I bought a pair of skating shoes. I was intending to cash in on the skating craze in campus by teaching comrades the craft for a fee. However, I had to quit after I discovered that a majority of students are terrified of injuries.
I also tried my hand in a few jobs such as chopping sukumawiki, and teaching computer packages.
Many students never execute their business ideas due to apparent lack of capital. Where did you get the starting capital?
I worked as a computer packages instructor for three months during a holiday. I was paid sh. 7000 monthly, which was a comfortable amount considering I didn’t have many expenses. However, my spendthrift nature saw me spending all the cash save for one thousand bob.
It was then that I came to realization I needed to do something worthwhile with my life. I recalled my tailoring skills and invested the sh.1000 into making a laptop bag which I sold at sh. 1500 to my sister. I re-invested the 1500 and came out with another bag and a purse. I sold the purse at a handsome profit, but I gave the bag to a certain preacher for free. The preacher was so glad that he told me “Many such bags will come from your hands and you will be a blessing.” I have seen the preachers’ words come to pass.
Impressive story! How many employees do you have?
I have hired an artist and several tailors.
Who are your clients?
I have a wide clientele range, from a mother who needs a diaper bag, students who need laptop bags, companies that need to motivate their employees with branded briefcases, to even electronic companies looking for specialized bags in which to transport their electronics.
What’s the biggest order you’ve ever received?
I once received an order for 2000 backpacks. Their deadline was tight, and I remember how as a team we almost didn’t sleep a wink for 5 days.
How do you advertise your products?
We mainly focus on producing quality work, so most of our clients usually refer their friends to us. We also make heavy use social media, especially Facebook. I exhibited my stuff during the previous culture week and the response was amazing.
What’s unique about your business?
Our strength lies in the quality of work that we do, and our custom designs. For instance, a client might want their name and a picture of their choice printed on the bags. We also provide a life-time warranty, whereby we repair bags for our clients at no charge as an after-sale service.
Which other business have you invested in?
I rear rabbits. I have about fifty of them now.
There is a great demand for rabbit meat in the country. I mean, just look at all these high class hotels striving to provide their customers with exotic food. One mature rabbit sells for about sh. 4000.
You are always at school, how do you manage to strike a balance between your business and education?
I take my education very seriously. I rarely leave the school compound during weekdays, which I dedicate wholly to my studies. I have employees who ensure the continuity of my business, and I only travel home over the weekends to inspect their work. My mother has also been very supportive in helping me run the business.
What are the major challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
Un-cooperative clients have been a sore thumb ever since I started out. At times I sell my merchandise on credit; never to get my money back. It’s really frustrating.
Have you ever turned down a client?
Never. I would rather operate at a loss than turn down a client.
Other than investing and saving; how else do you spend your income?
I neither drink nor smoke, so clubs are a no no for me. Instead, I prefer relaxing in nature, so I visit parks often. I also donate a lot to charity.
We all know KU girls are attracted to fellows with well-lined pockets. How do you handle their attention?
(Laughs) Yea, that’s so true. Not only of KU chicks, but girls all over are the same. For me, I only concentrate on one girl, my girlfriend, to limit my expenditure. I don’t entertain gold-diggers.
If you had one piece of advice for a person who has just started out in business, what would it be?
Don’t put pride in business. Kazi ni kazi.