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SU duo turn small gift shop into money spinner

Two classmates started a small on-line gift-shop selling simple and low-cost jewelry to fellow students late last year with a capital of Sh500.Today, the business has grown and diversified into a profitable venture making up to Sh1 million per month in profit.

Purpink Gift Shop targets high-end clients and corporate bodies with customised gifts, thanks to an idea that was born inside a classroom by two broke students. ‘‘We started this business last year November with a small pack of jewelry. We were buying the pieces at Sh30 each and re-selling  each at Sh50, ’’ said one of the founders, Aryton Bett, 21, in an interview with the Business Daily at Strathmore Business School  where he is taking a Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) course.

The idea was to cater for a huge  number of students at Strathmore University who wanted to propose to potential partners in a special  and affordable way. ‘‘We started by wrapping a simple ring or even pen to look sophisticated and appealing. Buoyed by the response, this came with more orders,’’ said Diana Martha Mwaniki, a co-founder, at an exhibition of SMEs at Strathmore University last week.

In a good month, the business makes between Sh600,000 and Sh1 million per month, they said.

Purpkin Gift Shop deals in buying, packaging and delivering gift hampers — targeting both corporates and individuals.

Clients can make online orders. Pricing is based on what the client wants delivered and the distance covered. The firm customises gifts to look more appealing and presentable.

In the first three months after opening their briefcase enterprise, Bett and her business partner Martha were struggling to make ends meet.

‘‘We hardly made profit as we had expected, we had to go back to the drawing board and plan how to diversify our portfolio,’’ Martha, 22, who is also pursuing a BBIT course, said.

Initially their presence was limited to Strathmore and because advertising in both the electronic and print  media was very expensive, the duo decided  to  exploit the social media  platform. Two weeks after posting their services on Facebook, client numbers grew rapidly with enquiries about their products, prices and delivery methods coming from as far afield as Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. ‘‘Two weeks after placing  our services on Facebook we got good business and made Sh100,000. We used part of the income to set up a website and register our  company,  we ploughed  the remaining money back into the business,’’  said Martha.

Aryton Bett attending to one of their clients

With the growth came the need to have a store to operate from, with the aim of giving their trade a corporate touch.The duo approached the management of Strathmore Business School for a space.

Impressed by their idea and passion, the institution offered them space and later contracted them to customise gifts for the institution whenever it hosted a conference.

Other corporate clients later came aboard including the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association and Twakutukuza Foundation, a non-governmental organisation  with interest in fighting  cancer  in the country. Purpink Gift Shop is located at the main entrance of to Strathmore Business School.

‘‘Getting corporate clients came at our lowest moment. At one point someone told me that their company did not deal with briefcase businesses,’’ re-called Bett, adding that his passion for self-employment dates back to his school days. Another challenge was winning clients’ trust given that they had to pay a certain amount of money before items were delivered. ‘‘We banked on showing them the successful clients we had dealt with and their responses. This worked out very well,’’ said Matha.

Bett remembered how he used to watch business news on television and envy successful investors. He vowed  to emulated  them when he come of age. ‘‘Most of our clients are between 25 and 40 years old,’’ said Martha, admitting that quality, trust and timely delivery have played a key role in growing their business. ‘‘Up to 30 per cent of our clients are from Nairobi, 25 per cent Mombasa, and 15 per cent in the Rift Valley,’’ said Martha. She said that orders also come from Malindi, Dar es Salaam and Kampala.

Purpink Gift Shop owns a number of vilano aluminum road bikes which it uses to distribute its products to various destinations in Nairobi and its environs. The firm has partnered with courier firm Wells Fargo to make deliveries outside Nairobi.

Seasonal business

‘‘We use Air Kenya for deliveries in Lamu, Malindi and Nanyuki to avoid delays,’’ said Bett, who also serves as the content manager at Purpink Gift Shop.

The company had dealt with 675 individual clients and three corporates by November this year.

‘‘Sixty per cent of our clients are permanent, mainly from referrals. Our business is seasonal, we normally make good money during holidays, parties, Valentine’s Day, award ceremonies and birthdays,’’ said Martha.

The company has hired five graduates who do marketing and sales. ‘‘We have made and delivered customised gifts to who-is-who in the government and the corporate world,’’ said Martha without disclosing names.

Customers make orders through online platforms and pay via M-Pesa and Visa Card.

Betty and Martha said that they see their business growing despite the fact that both will clear their studies next year and leave Strathmore.

After college they will dedicate more time to the business and set up shops in Uganda and South Africa, they said.

SOURCE: Business Daily