While on campus, Mercy Karimi Munene, liked the Jumia story, the convenience of shopping from your phone and having stuff delivered to your doorstep fascinated her.
Out of curiosity, the then 3rd year Moi University Bachelors in Public Relations student shopped for her first tablet on Jumia. The tablet was just Kshs. 7,000 and it was a really good deal at the time. When she got it, she realized there were people like her selling on the platform. She then inquired about the process of selling on Jumia and her curiosity even grew further when she found out that becoming a vendor on Jumia was free of charge.
Selling kids items online
“I love kids,” she told TechMoran. “I was even a Sunday school teacher.” It’s that love that propelled her to think of selling kids items online under the name Tash Baby Store. “My sister was expectant when I was starting out, so I could see how hectic it was to get kids items and when you get them, you find that the price is too high,” she says of her turning point into kids items.
Now 25, Mercy has been a Jumia Vendor for 20 months and apart from her presence on Jumia, her store can also be found on Facebook and Instagram. She says her operation costs are low and its easy for her to sell items at a lower price than physical stores in Eastleigh or even Biashara street.
Now the top vendor in her category, the MSc. Communication graduate from Moi University has not had an easy way to the top as many would think.
“My first item was a baby rocker that used to go for Kshs 7,000 but I only had Kshs 4,000 and had to borrow the rest. Making matters worse, the client who bought it from me returned it, but that didn’t discourage me. I continued pushing and I got the money. On Jumia anniversary, I got many orders but didn’t have the cash to fulfill them which was another big challenge. Luckily I was able to fulfill the order using a loan which had 20% interest,” she told TechMoran.
Tasha Baby Store took a turnaround during that years’ Jumia Black Friday sales which saw a spike in orders around February the following year. Jumia also came up with a merchant loan program with very low interest rates of about 3% which came in handy. The store currently has 496 items for sale. Thanks to the Jumia financing.
“Finance is a key challenge but other than that, sourcing of the products has become a problem. I do not ship directly so I have to make partnerships with people who do. The challenge is that sometimes products get stuck at the port due to KRA policies. This makes some clients have to wait for their products longer that we would want, it also affects supply contracts,” said Mercy adding that at times big companies under cut her and go for very small margins to push their products making it difficult for vendors like her to keep up.
Though with ups and downs, Tash Baby Store is Mercy’s full-time venture and has no to go into 9-5 employment.
“It’s now my main source of income and even if someone brought me a job offer of over a million Kenya shillings monthly, I wouldn’t take it,” she told TechMoran. “Yes, I wouldn’t take a day job at whatever salary because I love what I do. It’s my passion and it gives me freedom. It may be stressful but it has freedom to manage my time as I please. In addition, it is a lot of fun to see kids receive new items from me, the smile and joy on their faces is priceless. Sometimes I feel like not charging the parents at all.”
Tash Baby Store’s main category is kids products for 0-7 years of age. With with two full-time employees, Tash Baby Store has invested in a business car to make faster deliveries unlike earlier days when the store used to use Uber. Internally handling the deliveries has reduced delivery costs by 70%.
Apart from Jumia, Tash Baby Store also sells on Pigiame, OLX, Dil.Africa and are yet to try out Masoko because of negative feedback from other vendors. Most of online stores, she says, at times make key decisions about things like commissions without consulting the vendors, and this hurts their margins.
“We would like to be involved in this decision making. We are also charged for storage per day in the warehouse and when an item is bought, we are also charged shipping fees to the buyer, so those costs affect our margins. But they are working on getting things better through surveys, so we are hopeful,” she told TechMoran.
To ensure its vendors actually do business and make profits, Jumia usually sends its vendors a weekly newsletter dubbed “Price it Right” to help vendors price their products right to increase their volumes. That advice helps a lot in pricing and making more sales. Jumia also gives financing to its vendors.
“Yes, there are many online selling platforms but Jumia is special, they have financing for startup vendors, they charge lesser commissions to new vendors, they offer advice as well; those are things that you won’t find in other platforms. Jumia really encourages the upcoming vendors even through inventory management training before you get an account,” Mercy said.
Jumia is special
Though some traders use Jumia’s warehouses around town, Mercy prefers to do fulfillment on her own to cut down on her operational costs. By doing so she misses on the visibility and free deliveries that Jumia at times gives to its vendors. These perks are not available to those who do drop shipping on their own like she is doing now to cut on some of her drop off costs.
Tash Baby Store has no plans launch an offline store because the world is changing and the future of retail is online. Most middle class people do not have time to walk around shops, so online is the platform of choice to reach them. The only physical locations she has are her warehouses.
If she will ever change mind, Mercy says she will venture into electronics, especially computers to help out students, especially those joining campus to secure laptops at affordable prices since they are many opportunities for them online. She would also target those who have finished campus and want to start a business online because that’s the direction the world is headed.