How I built a business empire with Sh3,000

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020 10:00 |
Lilian Kibunja, founder of Lil Emporium and Lil Motors. Photo/PD/MILLIAM MURIGI

After her struggle to get employed, Lilian Kibunja cast her eyes elsewhere and  build her businesses and diversified into sectors that fired her passions.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Lilian Wangari Kibunja proprietor of Lil Emporium and Lil Motors never imagined herself being an entrepreneur.

That’s why after she graduated with a degree in Business Management and Information Technology from Kabarak University at 21 years old, she immediately proceeded to do her Masters of Art in Disaster Management at the University of Nairobi.

However, securing a job after school was not easy. She made thousands of job applications and not a single call for an interview.

This was frustrating and as she continued to wait for an opportunity, she was helping her parents in management of their farms.

On May 25, 2016 as usual she woke up and went direct to her email, but still there was no single feedback from all the applications.

She decided to take a U-turn with her life and try her luck in business.

Armed with Sh3,000 Lillian travelled from Nakuru to Nairobi’s Kamukunji area where she bought a few items worth Sh2,000 before embarking on her journey back home.

“If you met me in that matatu that early morning and asked me where I was going, I wouldn’t have had a clear answer for you. All I knew is I was going somewhere.

Depression had pushed me to the wall. Getting to Nairobi, I decided to go to Kamkunji and see what my Sh2,000 could buy,” she said. 

She bought one nonstick pan at Sh400, which was later sold at Sh1,000; two bags at Sh200 each and sold them at Sh750 each and three bags with hats at Sh300 each and later sold at Sh1,000 each.

She also bought two toothpick dispensers with a dolphin at Sh150 each and later sold them at Sh500 each.

Beginners fears

 “After buying my stock minus transport I was left with only Sh7 in my wallet and I bought a chewing gum for lunch because that is all I could afford,” Lilian says.

Just like every entrepreneur starting out, Lilian had her fears. She was worried about where to sell her products and whether she would be able to get back her return on investment.

Fortunately, that fear completely disappeared when she sold her first product.

That one person buying her first product increased her confidence to a whole new level.

“I kept thinking ‘what if I don’t get my investment back?’ What happens next? What direction do I take?

For me quitting was not an option; this was my last hope since applying for jobs wasn’t bearing any fruit.

I convinced myself to keep trying until I knew I had indeed given it my best shot,” she explains.

Upon getting home at around 6pm, her family helped her price and take photos of products to start advertising.

At 7pm, she had started going round selling her products. She would knock on people’s gate so aggressively until they open for her and she would stand there smiling in the dark displaying her stock so that they could buy one or two items.

Often underestimated

Luckily by 8pm she was done “hawking” and returned home without any stock left.

That day alone she managed to get Sh4,500 profit. Though she couldn’t believe her eyes, she was happy and her confidence started blooming.

The next morning, she woke up early and by 9am she was in Nairobi for more stock.

“My business kept growing and with time, I graduated from Kamkunji and was doing bulk imports from other countries.

That’s how Lil Emporium was born and the rest is history. Currently the shop has about two employees who deliver goods,” she adds.

One year later, her friend told her how he had struggled to sell his car for months. Jokingly, she asked for the car pictures and posted them on social media pages.

One week later, the car was sold. This was an eye opener for her, and consequently, she ventured into motor vehicle business, and that is how her second company, Lil Motors, was born in 2017.

“I decided to start helping people sell their cars for a three per cent commission of the selling price.

I set up  a Facebook page called Lil Motors, and before I knew it, I was now buying and selling vehicles. I learnt so much.

I loved being underestimated by men, because at the end of it, I used to seal the deal and surpass their expectations,” she informs People Daily.

She adds that she plans to continue the motor business regardless of the country she chooses to settle in because her love for cars can’t be overstated.

Currently, she is in the process of making a very tough decision, to stay in Kenya or move to Europe.

She went back to school last year to learn German to help her transition smoothly should she decide to relocate.

She also plans to develop a platform where she can mentor young entrepreneurs to help them discover their strengths and not waste so much time in getting lost.

“I had no one to mentor me. I discovered my passion and strengths in marketing and leadership along the way— something I am really proud of.

Companies willing to partner in such initiatives, I am open to join hands.”

Apart from the two businesses, Lilian is also into Forex trading training, with a network that has grown to seven different countries. 

Her journey into forex trading started in 2017 after a friend offered to teach her what she knew.

Two years later, she had learnt the ins and outs of the business and a few people started asking her about it. 

Pricing control

“I decided it wasn’t wise to just give information that had taken me two years to learn just for free, so I attached a price tag to it.

Later, I started getting clients and through referrals my network has grown in seven different countries on training alone.”

Although successful, Lillian says her entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been as smooth.

One of her biggest challenges was finding unique and quality products for customers.

“To overcome this, I travel between towns confirming if products and designs I want to bring in aren’t out there in the market.

This way I control my pricing and not price products depending on competitors.”

To her there is no magic secret in business; and if you want to succeed, you must combine smart habits but most importantly make the lives of your customers better.

It’s not about working yourself to the bone, it’s about working smart.

“I believe a successful business is not just about the idea and lots of capital; it’s also the technical discipline of good management.

Business should be a journey, but it becomes a stroll if you are not investing in management.”

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