Tourism alumna taking on business
Liz Nina Wanjiku and her sister, Ivy Natasha, manage a staff of six at PawPrint Kenya, with branches in TRM, Garden City and TMall. Within five minutes, they will allow you to create, design and print your idea onto a hoodie, a t-shirt or, during this pandemic season, a mask.
Seven years ago, she tipped the tassle on her graduation cap to her left to celebrate the attainment of a Bachelor of Science in Tourism Management degree. She also walked the podium to receive the Chancellor’s Award. We caught up with her to discuss business, the pandemic and her Strathmore experience.
We needed a name that would demonstrate the unique factor of our business to our clients; they have the freedom to create and leave an imprint of their idea on merchandise. We settled on PawPrint. Much in the same way animals leave their paws imprinted, we give our clients the opportunity to leave their mark.
What is the easiest part of running a business?
That has to be time management. Running your own show allows you the flexibility to fix your own schedule which in turn enables you to work with your natural cycle. For instance, my sister is a night owl, so she will work late into the night while I prefer to make an early start to my day. At the beginning, though, one doesn’t have that luxury as there is plenty to be done.
What’s the hardest part?
Managing finances. Income is not constant or consistent as business is cyclic, there is a high and low season to it. What I’ve learnt to do is to set aside part of the profits we make during the high season to cushion us through the low seasons where there are lower sales yet still the same operating costs to attend to.
There is also the aspect of having advice from multiple sources. It makes one question whether what they are doing for their business is the right thing. You have to learn to stick to your ideas as you are the one who knows your business best.
While back at Strathmore, did you see entrepreneurship as the path you’d follow?
No. I had my eyes set on joining the Ministry of Tourism once I was done with my degree. An experience that changed my perspective and opened my eyes to entrepreneurship was the Marriott International’s Voyage Global Leadership Program in Dubai. In addition, seeing my boyfriend (now husband), passionate about the business side of things solidified my plans to start a business.
What piece of advice would you give others navigating through entrepreneurship during this Covid-19 season?
It’s really tough on business and I’m also learning how to cope with it along the way. The traffic in the mall decreased with the onset of the pandemic, which affected our sales. At some point we were the only shop open, apart from the supermarket. There is definitely a change in the spending patterns of people – they focus on purchase of essential goods.
What I would say is: always set aside some money when things are good. Put it on reserve, as something sooner or later comes up that catches you off-guard. For now, minimize on costs so as to maximize on profits and increase your online activity. Make yourself more visible through social media platforms.
How has your four years at Strathmore influenced your work?
While still a student, I didn’t see the need for certain courses such as Philosophical Anthropology. But now that I am out in the job market, I realize how much it opens up your mind and helps you to think critically and deeply. You are better placed to come up with creative solutions to problems as you don’t have a one-sided track of thinking. I would encourage lecturers to give more emphasis on the practical use of these general courses so that students appreciate the content more.
The Tourism programme had a wide range of units – business law, accounting, finance, entrepreneurship – that have given me a wonderful interaction into the business world. I was well versed with the terminology of the business world. With this knowledge, you aren’t clueless when dealing with money matters and you don’t necessarily have to hire external help for this.
What would you tell the first years who have just begun their journey at the School of Tourism and Hospitality?
Don’t let what other people think about your choice of degree course influence your attitude towards your career. Some will not see it as a lucrative career. Be convinced that although the industry has been hard hit by the pandemic, you will still find your niche in it. And be open minded, for opportunities come from areas you least expect.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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