A convenient solution

Ms Winfred Gacheri who quit her job to start online supermarket which involves delivering on products in major towns in the country. Photo/JACOB OWITI

What you need to know:

  • Currently, the online supermarket serves Kenyans in over 15 countries and delivers in almost all the major towns in Kenya. “I make deliveries in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Meru, Mombasa, Nanyuki, and Embu towns,” she says.

In an increasingly busy world, convenience is becoming key in many clients’ business experience, and Winfred Gacheri is one entrepreneur who understands this.

This is why she started online retail store ePepea Online Supermarket.

“I had been toying about the idea of starting a business for some time, but one day while watching television, I saw a story about someone who was doing a business I had wanted to do. I knew it was not going to be long before someone started an online shopping website, and I knew I would be disappointed not to start it. And that’s how it started,” she says.

Winfred had been working as a personal assistant to the managing director of CarTrack Company (now 911 Group) but the desire to start a business that did not require intensive capital was heavy on her mind.

“I looked at shopping and saw no value in a person being present at a supermarket or shopping mall to get what they need, which is how the idea of online shopping was born,” she says. “The pressure to buy because of advertising, impulse buying, end month queues, kids wanting everything and no parking space during rush hours… all of this is not only a waste of time but also money.”

In 2010, she launched the business. “I started by building the website and getting information about the products I wanted on the website,” she says. But there were problems. “The capital I had was not enough and client demand was growing.

I had to depend on my husband to finance me.” Pricing of the goods also became a problem. “We use the recommended retail price (RRP) for our products but we incurred challenges because supermarkets have different prices and getting a standard price became a problem.” Price changes also affected the business.

“Prices for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) change very frequently and we have to keep changing the prices in order to keep up,” she said.

With her husband’s support, she did not give up even though at one point she was rather overwhelmed by client demands and lack of capital to stock more products. “But the beauty of online shopping is that the customer pays and then we deliver, so in essence you use the customer’s cash to do their shopping,” she says

Apart from that, there are delivery problems. “The traffic jam on our roads has cost me a lot,” she laments. “Some customers want their goods delivered within a certain time frame, but traffic makes this almost impossible.”

And there is still a lingering mistrust of online services. Convincing people to use her platform was a problem but she has managed to overcome it by being trustworthy and delivering goods in time and in good condition. “I have a unique strategy, with a number of direct-to-consumer solutions that ensure my clients get their goods on their doorstep in a matter of hours,” she says.

LOOKING UP

These days, things are going well. “When I got into the business, I had no idea how it would turn but to my surprise it has done well,” she says.

Word of mouth has been her biggest marketing tool since she does not have a marketing budget. Making sure she does her job well has seen repeat customers also bring their friends on board.

Currently, the online supermarket serves Kenyans in over 15 countries and delivers in almost all the major towns in Kenya. “I make deliveries in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Meru, Mombasa, Nanyuki, and Embu towns,” she says.

Her website charges Sh500 for a delivery, and allows customers to buy at market rates. She has 20 freelance sales people across the country and makes about six to 10 deliveries in a day.

ePepea Online Supermarket also has an associate programme that enables members to place links to their own website. “Any sales made to customers who click on those links will earn the affiliate a commission. The standard commission rate is currently three per cent,” she says. In the next five years, she says, her plan is to take her business regional.