Three online entrepreneurs spoke to Saturday Magazine about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their businesses and how they have adapted to it.
The Online Content Creator
Elizabeth Gathu, 44, Online writer; she runs content creators agency Reach Communications
In 2016, I started working online after leaving a managing editor job with a regional media company.
I needed a job that was less demanding — one that I could do at home whilst taking care of my young children. Also, one that paid better.
I went online looking for work and encountered very many sites promising quick money. Other sites demanded upfront payment before getting work.
I didn’t have much money so I avoided such sites and others that promised instant money. Then I found Elance.
The platform offered a wide variety of remote work. I was delighted to discover that the jobs were legit and the Elance support team was very helpful.
They guided me through the account set up and gave useful advice when it came to bidding for work.
Because of my journalism background, I went straight into content development, journalistic writing, proof reading and editing. I put these down on the list of skills I possessed.
But it was not easy. I had to put in a lot of work into research and making good pitches and I ended up becoming a top rated service provider.
I started earning more than I did while working full time. I even started an agency to help with the workflow.
Later, Elance merged with Odesk and became Upwork. Well, this reduced the amount of workflow and I had to look for other means to supplement my income. I started writing for online media.
Because of the pandemic, most organisations have reduced their workload and I have resumed to working online on a full-time basis, and I am already receiving invites for various jobs.
For me, it is a great way to supplement my income and I like the flexibility that comes with it. I made Sh2 million on a particular year working only six hours a day.
The Online Caterer
Pauline Kinjah (Pau), 40, Caterer, Pau delicacies and caterers
I started my business in 2015. I would cook snacks – such as samosa, mandazi and chapati – and post in the estate WhatsApp group.
From one client, the list grew, which prompted me to start a Facebook group – Cooking is a Hobby.
The idea was to network and share recipes with other people who enjoy cooking. It turned out to be a great platform to get new clients.
With each posting, I got new clients. We are based in Lang’ata but would do deliveries to various locations.
One day, a client who had come to pick some snacks asked if I could do catering; I responded in the affirmative and that is how Pau delicacies and caterers was birthed.
Since then, I have catered to more than 100 weddings excluding other events. Before the pandemic, we were doing great. All our weekends were fully booked.
I have five full-time staff and 38 casuals workers. On several occasions, I had to turn down catering requests because I was swamped.
After the first case was announced, the cancelation calls started coming in. We have not worked since March yet we still got bills to pay.
To remain relevant and occupied, I started cooking from my house and doing Facebook live shows. “Why don’t you start offering online cooking classes?” one of my clients asked me sometime last month.
The next day, I posted online the masterclass offer and I received positive feedback. For starters, I have 70 students on Facebook online classes. To join, I charge Sh1,000 every month.
In mid April, I started going to the market, buying food supplies and marketing through WhatsApp groups and Facebook. Interestingly, I also got this idea from someone else — my sister.
This pandemic has made me realise that as women, we need to have a backup plan. I have realised that through online, I can still make money. The potential to grow is huge. To thrive online you need to be honest and reliable.
The Beauty Vlogger
Margie Muga Abissi, 28, Hair and lifestyle Vlogger
I have long, silky natural hair and I would get many questions about my hair routine and what products I use.
I decided to create a blog – www.justmargie.com – to talk about all matters natural hair. That was in 2016 and by then I was a student at Kenya School of Law.
Later on, for practical and demonstration purposes, I created a YouTube Channel, Margie Muga. My audience is mainly women.
Over time, the platforms have garnered an active audience. This has attracted several natural hair brands, who have reached out to me to try their products and review them.
My channel kept growing and I also graduated. I am now a practising advocate who moonlight’s as a vlogger.
I realised that my followers wanted to know other aspects of my life, so I have since diversified to lifestyle vlogging, which basically involves sharing various aspects of my personal life.
Have you noticed that there are many new entrants on YouTube? With most people working from home or with their offices closed, this is becoming a new source of income.
Before, I was not consistent with my postings but from March, I have been making a new post every week.
I have over 17k subscribers and the views are higher than previous months. This has shot my income.
The payment threshold is roughly Sh10,000 and sometimes it can take even two months to get there. Thankfully, I have gotten there within weeks.
The viewership has increased and so have the Ads on my timeline. With most people at home and with much free time on their hands, it is a win for us content creators.