A hawker no more

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • After four months, she gave up on the business after incurring losses. “After all the challenges, I gave up and my mother told me to go to Gikomba and do a survey on what I could sell.


  • I had Sh500 and my mother gave me Sh500 more, totaling Sh1,000.


  • I bought 30 pieces of sweater tops for Sh30 each, and took them for ironing for Sh2,” she reveals, adding that she then started moving from place to place, including salons and barbershops, and selling the sweaters.

Stacy Auma used to struggle so much to escape the wrath of county government officials when she was hawking secondhand clothes on the streets of Nairobi. She was arrested several times, but this did not stop her from taking steps to actualise her dream of living a good life.

After searching for employment and dropping copies of her CV in various places, nothing positive came on her way. She had to find new ways to make ends meet.

“I used to wash clothes for people at Greenspan area in Nairobi, but it reached a time when I was not able to do that because of severe back pain. My mother urged me to start a food vending business, which I did. I began selling fish,” she says.

After four months, she gave up on the business after incurring losses. “After all the challenges, I gave up and my mother told me to go to Gikomba and do a survey on what I could sell. I had Sh500 and my mother gave me Sh500 more, totaling Sh1,000. I bought 30 pieces of sweater tops for Sh30 each, and took them for ironing for Sh2,” she reveals, adding that she then started moving from place to place, including salons and barbershops, and selling the sweaters.

Stacy later sold all the sweaters for Sh100, making a profit of Sh70 for each. A short while later, she found a temporary stall at Roysambu, where she continued with the business, this time switching from selling sweaters, to jumpers.

“One day, I found my classmate who was also selling clothes in town, and she told me to go and try selling there,” says Stacy.

However, she was not lucky. On the first day, she was arrested by kanjo as she tried to flee together with her fellow traders. “I was arrested at 6pm and released at 9pm. I had to call my mother to send me bus fare because I had not sold anything. The following day I was there again, and this time, I sold all the jumpers. This boosted my morale so much,” says the businesswoman.

However, on the third day, she was arrested early, at 4pm.

“I had only Sh50 in my pocket. Those who had Sh500 were released, and I was left there looking for more money to buy my freedom.”

After facing all these challenges, Stacy joined hands with other women and contributed some money that enabled them order a container of bales. They collectively raised the Sh200,000 needed to buy the container, and after that they subdivided the bales among themselves.

Currently, she sells her mitumba bales in a shop in Gikomba, Nairobi.

 “My mother borrowed a loan, and I also took one from a bank. Someone else topped up the amount and we used the money to order for new bales of clothing. I now stock secondhand clothes, handbags, shoes and household items,” says Stacy, who also offers free mentorship to those who plan to start such businesses.

“We get bales from the United Kingdom and Canada. I get most of my clients from referrals and online,” reveals the entrepreneur.

She says that sometimes she gets bales which contain low quality clothes, which result in losses. In such instances, she shares the weight of loss with the customers. However, Stacy says that there are some customers who are difficult to deal with.

One of the challenges in the business is consistent fires in Gikomba market which occur almost every year. Another challenge is convincing customers who have been buying elsewhere to be her own loyal clients.

“I opened a Facebook account to look for more clients. I advertise my best clothes there so that customers can shop from wherever they are,” says the business lady who uses ‘Stacey wa Mitumba’ as her Facebook page, and Auma Stacy on Instagram.

“Even now, I have a retail shop in Roysambu. Usually, I arrive in Gikomba by 6am and leave at 3pm,” says Stacy, who is also a football coach who trains two teams in Nairobi.

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