Starting a business is difficult. Launching one where potential customers are unfamiliar with the products doubles the difficulty. Elizabeth Kinyanjui, a fishmonger from Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, had to use social media to publicize hers. What began as a necessity to satisfy his taste for seafood ended up becoming a professional activity.
Kinyanjui was born in Mtwapa, near Mombasa, and grew up eating fish, but in 2016 she had to move to the big city for work. “Before I was employed in an ice cream parlor, but since it was not profitable, they closed it. So I asked to be transferred to the store they had in Nairobi ”, says the young woman, who at that time was studying Hospitality at the Kenyatta University, the most important in the country, and hoped to be able to finish it despite the move.
“In Nairobi, life became more difficult for me. I kept earning the same, and housing was very expensive, “he explains. Things started to get difficult because I couldn’t make ends meet. “My colleagues earned the same salary, but it seemed that they were doing well. I realized that I was in trouble. “
In the midst of all his troubles, he was homesick, and his love of fish didn’t make things easier. According to Elizabeth, in Mombasa this food can be bought in street stalls and is easy to find, but in Nairobi it is difficult to find it. However, he had heard that in Mirema, on the Thika road, there was a woman who was selling produce brought from Mombasa. “A couple of times I traveled there after work. Then I thought it was too much effort because it was too far for me, so I asked my mother to send me some for my consumption, “he recalls.
Kinyanjui says that when he cooked, the different aromas reached the neighbors, who wanted to know what he was preparing. “I told them about the supplies that they sent me from home. They were interested and placed several orders on me for the next time I received something. Some friends who were from the coast, like me, also wanted ”.
The then student asked to be paid in advance before sending the orders to her mother, because she had no money left over to make them. His mother, then, would put the fish in a refrigerator with ice and send it on the night bus. “My neighbors and friends liked fresh fish. Now I have more than 2,000 clients who order me at least once a month, and about 300 regular clients who order weekly ”.
The businesswoman receives at least four deliveries from the coast a week. He now works with 10 different suppliers who supply him with seafood such as prawns, lobsters, crabs, squid and octopus. As for fish, you get real fish, white snapper, red snapper, and siganus. Kinyanjui adds that it is not limited to selling: it also has a page on Instagram Through which it informs on how to prepare these foods and the benefits of their consumption for health. “At first everyone asked for red snapper, which is served in restaurants, but my Instagram offered them new ideas. I started by suggesting that they try the siganus and the royal fish. Now I can say that there are people who started eating fish and shellfish with me ”, he presumes.
Currently, it has buyers to whom it was difficult to sell octopus at first, and now they order it. He also shares videos with recipes in which he explains how to prepare different marine dishes. “Also, I encourage customers to send me photos of what they have cooked. The images help show others that it is not difficult to prepare healthier dishes at home, ”he says.
Kinyanjui attributes its success to home delivery at agreed times. This form of delivery was its main commercial attraction for consumers. “With the recommendations against covid-19, sales have changed. On a good day, I get to sell up to 50 kilos of product; if the day is bad, I sell 16 kilos ”, he points out.
His main difficulty has been how to get the merchandise to Nairobi. You cannot afford to transport it by air, which would mean faster delivery. “The bus is the cheapest way because it only costs 500 Kenyan shillings [3,9 euros]. I don’t want to charge more expenses to my clients. The worst was when a shipment arrived the next day in the afternoon because the bus had broken down. I couldn’t do anything more than bear the losses, ”he laments.
Kinyanjui had to learn on the fly to handle social media professionally. Clients understanding her business meant more profit for her. “Networks are a full-time job. You have to be active all the time, if not, it is useless. I learn as I go how to respond quickly to stakeholders and how to teach them effectively. Sometimes I can’t stop for a moment, because fishermen also call me when they have a product to offer me, ”he says.
In his experience, money was also a major obstacle. He couldn’t get a loan from the banks and didn’t have enough savings to run the business. He had written a commercial project, but most people saw no interest in him. “They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just sell on the street, like the other fishmongers. Others thought that what he had to do was open a normal restaurant. But I want something for the middle class. Not too expensive and that it is delivered comfortably at home “, he defends.
Customers did not trust that they would receive what they had asked for. Some were concerned about the quality of what they ordered online. “But over the years I have built trust. I make sure that what they see in the photo when they order is what they get. They pay on delivery after confirming that it is what they wanted ”, he assures.
The entrepreneur has two employees and works exclusively with five delivery men, who receive the total amount that the client pays for the service offered. “Now, they have to follow precise instructions. When we say home delivery we do not mean at the foot of the stairs or on the street, but punctual delivery at the door of the house “, he points out.
He also tells that a year ago he got an investor, with whom he partnered to open a small restaurant. “Business was going well, but after six months we had some differences that we couldn’t resolve, so I quit. Now I have a small shop. Is named TamTam Fresh Seafood and it is in the neighborhood of South B, in Nairobi ”.
Kinyanjui has had a lot of work and did not finish his studies. However, he has built this business from scratch on his own. Listening to your customers and learning together has been essential to create a unique brand. In the future, he hopes to start a restaurant where he can go to dinner. “Although I have been asked for information from as far away as Eldoret, for now my dream is that the people of Nairobi comfortably enjoy seafood and fish at a good price,” he concludes.
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