The thought of creating self employment occurs to us young people often. The tricky part however, is actualizing this thought.
Twenty-five year old Tracy Mulei had a brilliant idea, to start a delivery service business. But only a year later did she finally take the leap, and JUST DID IT.
‘I was working in an IT firm, as a business developer. Then one time I had to send a document to a client, it was urgent and so I call a bodaboda guy to make the delivery. I explained to him that the document was urgent and gave him directions. Two hours later the client calls me to ask why he hasn’t received his document. I call the bodaboda guy, he doesn’t pick up. You can only imagine how disappointed I was.’
The bodaboda rider eventually delivered the document at 5.30PM,much later than the client had been assured of delivery.
‘And I thought, there is opportunity here! How many people in a day get this bad delivery experience? Is there something I can do? Yes there is.’
It remained just an idea, until a year later, in January 2016, when Tracy threw all doubts and fears to the wind and set out to start Shujaa Delivery.
‘I had little knowledge on how to start this business, but I knew first thing is I needed to get it registered. I asked around and got someone to help me out in getting this done. Through this process I also learnt that my business has to be at least 20 percent Kenyan! Well, Shujaa Delivery is 100 percent Kenyan!’
After registration, Shujaa Delivery needed a website.
‘My brother came through for me in this. He volunteered to design the website. And as he was getting it ready, I got busy doing further research on the courier industry, coming up with marketing strategies, financial projections, target market, etc. By the time the website was done I was fully aware of what I was getting myself into.’
On July 1st 2016 Shujaa Delivery was ready to start operations.
‘I started with one bodaboda guy. To get him I asked the caretaker at the office I was working at to suggest people to me, so he spread the word and I received CVs from different people who were ready to do delivery.’
Tracy shortlisted her candidates, and called them in for an interview.
‘I train them first. They have to understand what Shujaa Delivery is all about, our goals and mission. Our values. How to handle clients. It is important that they see what I see with this business.’
With one bodaboda guy on board, Tracy made her first delivery.
‘My first client was Natural Hair. He was pleased with the service and referred me to others. In five months, I had to get three more bodabodas because of the increasing number of orders.’
It is not as simple as it might sound, Tracy points out that independently running a business is not a walk in the park.
‘One thing I have learnt is that this scope of business is seasonal in the sense that there are days when we get so many orders in a day that we get overwhelmed, and there are days of just about 10 orders a day.’
Then, of course, there are the challenges that come with her gender.
‘Sometimes I tell a potential client that I offer delivery services and they ask if I can deliver myself to them. I just laugh and move on. On the flipside I enjoy the look of surprise on people’s faces when I walk into a boardroom and they see that Shujaa Delivery is actually run by a woman. Ha-ha.’
For Tracy however, it is a worthwhile experience, and Shujaa Delivery is well on its way to claiming its own space in the delivery market.
‘At Shujaa Delivery we believe in three pillars, Convenience, affordability, and security. We strive to stand out on every level as a startup, and focusing on developing strong lasting customer relations. I know this is our best chance at success, when people trust you and believe in your service.’
Away from work, Tracy makes homemade peanut butter for sale, and also runs Msichana Kutoka Eastlands, a Facebook page that features inspirational stories of young women from Kenya’s Eastlands.
‘I believe in empowering the girl child. I started Msichana Kutoka Eastlands so young women who have been brought up in the ghetto could share their stories of triumph, and in turn inspire another that it is possible. It really doesn’t matter where you are from.’
So, Tracy, what do you think stops many young people from following the self-employment route?
‘Fear of failure. What if it doesn’t work? Won’t it be a waste of time? No. It will work. Even if it doesn’t, it will not be waste of time. You will come out better, with lessons learnt that will be valuable in your next attempt.’
As we finish off the interview, I ask Tracy if she would consider seeking formal employment, you know, just in case, just because.
‘No. I love being in charge. It is challenging, and sometimes you might question, but it is all worth it. I was born to be a boss, to be at the forefront in making things happen. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.’