Our first day of business was a cloudy one
A common thread that runs across student entrepreneurs is the desire to create an activity that will fill up their free time, and fill a gap in the market while earning a shilling or two. Ian Chomba, a fourth year Bachelor of Commerce student at the university, narrates his entrepreneurial journey while giving tips on how to juggle business and studies.
I started a business, Flavours Juice Bar, in February 2014 with Ryan Githinji, a fellow student at the university. We were later joined by Joan Nyambura and Wambui Kinyanjui. I am the Managing Director of the business where we produce and sell freshly squeezed juice. We realised there was a niche in the fresh juice business as we used to go for many events, find food present and on sale but the drinks missing. The juice comes in 14 flavours; passion, mango, orange, pineapple, pineapple mint and beetroot to name a few.
Cloudy day at first event
When planning to sell our juice at our first event, we took everything at face value. We were new to the business and we didn’t bother to ask the necessary questions. This was one of the cloudiest days at the juice bar. We followed the event organizers on social media and going by the many likes that they were getting, we knew it would have a sizeable crowd and so we planned to cater for 1500 people. At some point in the marketing campaign carried out by the event organizers, we realised we were among the main sponsors. This should have raised a red flag but we didn’t look too much into it.
We got to the event venue at 9am. Nothing had been set up. It was only my partners, the juices and myself present. Still, no red flag. By 3pm only the stage had been set up. This is when reality began hit. At 4pm, a few people trickled in. As if things couldn’t get worse, it started raining. Imagine selling juices in the rain! We had prepared about 200 litres but by 9pm, we had sold only about 30 litres. We disposed nearly all of it; some we donated to a children’s home, some we gave away to the event attendants for free. From that hard experience, we learnt not to take things at face value and to be aware that there are quack business people out there.
Entrepreneurial skills from Strathmore University
There was something a lecturer told us when on the first day we began our degree course: Strathmore does not train employees, it trains employers. I etched that idea in my mind so that by the time I graduate, which is next year, I should have started a business and employed a few people.
In BCOM, there is practical entrepreneurship, a course where the students are expected to start a business. We had a pop-up flea market at the student center and the idea was to sell to the Strathmore community and create as many contacts as you can because it is a one-day show. By 12 noon, we had finished all our juices and we had demand for our product but nothing to supply.
My business partners and I also took part in the Student Training for Entrepreneurial Promotion Program (STEP) run by the Strathmore University Business School in conjunction with Leuphana University of Luneburg, Germany. We were among the 100 students and each business was given 100 dollars. However, we were not just given the money but trained in financial, accounting, and marketing matters over a 12-week period. It was an eye-opening opportunity that helped us take the business to another level. We discovered there are other business models we can use, not just selling directly to customers during events, which was tedious; the more the events, the more we sweated and neglected other things. We aimed at making our processes easier so we partnered with a lady who already had a production plant. This made our workload ten times easier. She got us good rates for sourcing and increased our fruit variety. We also noted that we needed someone in our chain of processes to help us deliver the juice. We got a few riders on board. The advantages are that they charge us a premium rate which is flexible and customers’ juices are delivered on time.
Juggling juices and books
After engaging the use of the production plant and the riders, we were able to focus more on our studies. This is because from the comfort of where we are, we are able to monitor our juices, process order and make the delivery smoothly. I also got to do the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) course.
As a parting shot, if you’d like to start a business, go for it. The best person to support you are friends and family. There is a lot to learn and you don’t need to do it alone. Get partners. You will then go through all the loops and hoops of the business more easily.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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