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Lessons to Entrepreneurs in Their First Year in Business

Wanjiiru Kiiru, Founder of AutoSeal LTD

Each person aims at becoming financially independent. Entrepreneurship has been admired by many people since it is the easiest means one can have a feel of self-employment and financial freedom. Wanjiru Kiiru, commonly known as Ciru, started her entrepreneurship journey by selling shirts while in primary school. She also sold puppies during her teens. Ciru also opted to sell bottles of Slime. Slime is a tyre sealant import from America which works as a clot. In case of a puncture, it saves the drivers from the burden of taking the vehicle to a mechanic.

The 23 years old is waiting to graduate with a degree in entrepreneurship from Strathmore University. She started selling the bottles of Slime six years ago. Her customers were her friends, families and boda-boda operators in her neighborhood. But now, she is operating Auto-Seal Ltd, a firm which she launched in 2017 to distribute the product. Her pool of customers has grown to include Power Governors and Motorcycle Club of Kenya. In her journey, she believes that there are important lessons that one should learn as an entrepreneur in their first years.

Ciru believes that to attain success, one must carry out research before starting a business. For instance, before she imported the Slime, she had done a research on the product. She also made inquiries on its sources and why the previous supplier got phased out in the market. Ciru is certain that without conducting a proper market research, any business will fail. Research helps businesses to be customer-centered. Since businesses fully rely on consumer behavior. Ciru, however, cautions prospective entrepreneurs from relying too much on Google.

Before starting up her venture, she had to contact the Dubai-based office with the franchise for the Middle East and Africa. At first, the sale representatives were reluctant to engage her. They doubted Africans’ credibility to form a partnership based on the numerous unresponsive buying requests from Africa. To come to a mutual understanding, she also did some little research about the office to be sure if she was transacting with a real representative from the firm. Hence, she sent her friends staying in Dubai to visit their offices. Her friends were to check on the legitimacy of the company.
Source of capital has always been a hindering factor before the start of any business. To gain credibility, Ciru required a large pool of capital so as to have enough stock. In such cases, many will go for bank loans. However, she opted for a friendlier source. She decided to approach her father who is a businessman. She made it official using a business proposal, sales projection, and a business plan. This was an official approach similar to any formal financial request she could forward to any investor. Her father accepted to offer her Sh1.5 million. Moreover, he offered her space for her office and storage in one of his premises. She promised to repay the loan in a period of two years and she is living to her promise. Furthermore, she is paying a small fee for the premise and her father acts as her advisory. The advantage is that her father would not push her to repay the loan the way banks does.

After getting the money, the next move was to put up the business. Ciru and her first employee hit the ground to market the product before its arrival. They managed to get many clients who promised to get many litres of the products. But she believes that product interest does not guarantee sales. She had to incorporate the number while making the orders. Clients never picked her calls after the arrival of the product. That demoralized her, but she kept her head high. Also, she preferred importing the product by shipping because it is the cheapest method, though it’s the slowest mode of transportation.
She also believes in having good structure and keeping of records in the business. She relies on Bitrix24. Bitrix24 is a free social platform that manages daily operations and tasks. It does not only ensure that nothing runs out of hand but also help her to hold her customers accountable for anything. This has aided her to keep her promise to her customers since any discussion she has with her clients is recorded on the Bitrix24 system. Structures help businesses to meet their goals. That is the difference between small and big businesses.
Business has got no friends. Managing talents is one the biggest challenges to any startup. She had a problem with getting hold of a worker who fits in her salary scale and has an interest in car tire merchandise. She happened to hire her colleague as her first employee. But she learned that friendship ties pose a challenge in a business. Approaching her was a major problem and she did not know how to handle her. Luckily, she progressively learnt how to handle familiarity and being personal. That has helped her business to do better.

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Written by Denis Opudo

Am an engineer who's a tech blogger, hit me up on dennis@techinafrica.com and we base our discussion on technology in Africa and the rest of the world.
Denis the Tech guru

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