How and why my recycled materials business finally paid off

Thomas Njoroge Karari is the founder and managing director of Romara Designers, a business that specializes in indoor and outdoor rustic, artistic and modern furniture and décor. Photo | Pool

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Thomas Njoroge Karari is the founder and managing director of Romara Designers, a business that specialises in indoor and outdoor rustic, artistic and modern furniture and décor

I founded my business way back in 2011. At the time, I started it as a fashion design brand which I was using as a side hustle to raise my college fees. I worked on this brand until 2018 when I decided to recreate the whole concept. I remember how I came up with multiple sketches as I attempted to come up with ideas. From the list and sketches I made, I narrowed it down to recycling materials into designs that could be incorporated into home décor. I was fortunate enough to find one client who believed in my idea and made a deposit for their home to be designed. This client was the open door that ushered my idea into the business it is today.

Building a business from recycled materials was not easy. There were clients who tended to underestimate recycled materials. Some thought they were cheap and not durable while others assumed they were easy to acquire and as a result wanted their invoices discounted. This has however changed gradually with more customers trickling in from referrals. Today, I have sold designs for and worked with corporates, a feat that has enabled me to accelerate my growth, customer base, and operating capital. I can say that I have broken even.

I was too keen to grow when I started the rustic business. This led me to reinvest everything I earned from my sales back into the business. I would buy more materials to stay fully stocked. This meant that I didn’t have any money left for saving. I was not enjoying any benefits from my sweat. If a customer came and placed an order for a design whose material I did not have, I had no way of funding it. I was also too exposed in the event I encountered an emergency that would require liquid cash. It is critical to create a balance between capital reinvestment, liquid cash flow, and personal benefits. Drawing a pay is one way to stay motivated in entrepreneurship.

I am in an industry that requires constant creativity and research. Had I known this earlier, I would have paid more attention to the creative area of the business. I would have purchased better working tools earlier too. That said, I harbour no regrets in the way the business has panned out. It has been a learning curve.

I handle my finances in phases. There is a phase in which I will pay more attention to saving. There is also a phase where I will dedicate bigger chunks of my money to the business. Currently, I am not in the saving mode, and am instead pooling my funds together to acquire more efficient machinery and creative tools. I believe that these acquisitions will help the business become more punctual, and production more efficient.  Nothing comes easy. The phrase ‘Jitume’ is very real for entrepreneurs who want to succeed. It doesn’t mean waking up at 4am, but rather doing what is necessary to give your business an edge, such as purchasing more efficient, modern working tools.

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