Scaling My Business: How Safaricom Offer Changed My Fortunes

  • Traders pictured in Gikomba Market, Nairobi.
    Traders pictured in Gikomba Market, Nairobi.
  • Business had been tough months before the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Kenya.

    My shoes and clothes store somewhere on the streets of Kariokor had witnessed a worrying, gradual decrease in foot traffic.

    This was despite everyone on the street knowing that no one was better than Omoka Fashions when it came to ‘drip’.

    Over the years, I had built a loyal base of clients who kept returning for the fresh gear I was known for, having mastered the art of rummaging through bales of second-hand clothes at Gikomba, Nairobi.

    Unopened bales of second-hand clothes.
    Unopened bales of second-hand clothes.

    They seemed to be disappearing, however, and I was feeling the heat as the end of the month approached, knowing that I had little left for myself after paying the rent for my stall.

    When she came to pick up a dress, one of my regulars, Njeri, got me thinking. Somehow, my woes featured in between our laugh-filled conversations as she looked through various items on display.

    She offered a diagnosis for why I was losing customers; I was stuck in the past.

    “Your competition is digital stores. I buy shoes, wigs and clothes on WhatsApp and Instagram now.

    “I couldn’t even find you on Twitter when I wanted to show you the dress I wanted last week,” she stated.

    The truth was, I barely used social media, and WhatsApp was for chatting up my girlfriend.

    A simple man, I had never taken digital stores and their marketing seriously as it sounded like a chore.

    Scrolling through a smartphone.
    Scrolling through a smartphone.

    Faced with my lowest returns yet, however, I had to make a decision. I pulled out the 3G phone I had owned for four years and tried to download one of the apps to check out my competition as suggested by Njeri. I couldn’t, as the phone’s specifications were too low to run it.

    “I can’t afford a new smartphone,” I thought to myself, almost consigned to my fate.

    Just then, I remembered hearing Halima, who owned a fast food stall next to mine, talking about paying for a phone in installments.

    After getting various answers from her during my lunch break the next day, I knew exactly what I had to do. Back in my stall, I dialled *544# on my Safaricom Line and selected option 5 for Lipa Mdogo Mdogo.

    If my application was successful, I would get a 4G smartphone, a Neon Ray Pro which comes with 1GB data and Android Go installed. All I would be required to do is pay a deposit of Ksh1,000 to get the phone, and pay the balance in installments of as little as Ksh20 a day to complete the payments within 9 months.

    Seeing as I had been a Safaricom customer for more than six months, was not listed on the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) and owned a 2G or 3G smartphone, I met the eligibility criteria for the scheme and was accepted.

    I received a Voucher Number via text message. A day later, I collected my Neon Ray Pro at a Safaricom shop in town, presenting my ID and the Ksh1,000 deposit.

    Thanks to the free 1GB I received with the phone, I didn’t have to worry about purchasing bundles as I got to work.

    I downloaded all the apps I needed for my business, designed a logo and shared links for the ‘Omoka Fashions’ page across all platforms.

    Having synced the apps with my contact list, many long-time clients quickly followed me online, some of them messaging me to say that it was about time.

    After struggling to find the best spot with good lighting in my stall, I took high-quality photos of all the items I had in the shop.

    I started sharing them one by one, making it clear that no one else in Nairobi had the unique items, or camera in Gikomba lingo, as I did.

    I shared prices and contacts as well, and soon started receiving calls from people who ‘saw my post’. I racked up numbers fast, and began encouraging clients at my shop to share their experiences on their own pages.

    Soon, I was no longer the king of ‘drip’ just on my street in Kariokor, but the entire city.

    My sneaker collection, in particular, became a hit and attracted many new clients, forcing me to start delivering to various locations.

    Now, I am looking at opening a second physical store even as I build a website to expand the store’s online presence. Thank God for Njeri, Halima and Lipa Mdogo Mdogo.

    A Safaricom Shop in Nairobi
    A Safaricom Shop in Nairobi.
    The Standard