Marysarah Mutola is a fashion and design technical teacher, and the founder of Sasha Designs Closet, a fashion and design business located in Nairobi.
She shares how she started the business after saving money from selling chapatis in the streets.
I had just graduated from school in 2018 when I started my business. I was also coming off a relationship with one child, had just relocated from upcountry to Nairobi and life was quite expensive. I had to quickly think of ways to sustain myself and raise my child because my teaching certificates were yet to be processed. I got a job to cook and sell chapatis, popularly known as chapo mwitu. My pay was Sh150 per day. In five months, I managed to save Sh3,000 which I used to buy a table. I brought an old sewing machine which I had inherited from my parents and started designing outfits. I was not perfect at the start, but I had to start somewhere. I would post my outfits on social media.
It took me five months before I got my first customer. All this while, I ran my chapo mwitu cooking hustle. When customers started making orders, a new challenge emerged. Many of them were dissatisfied with the type of work I did on the outfits because of lack of experience. Today, I can say that I lost most of the first customers. But months down the line, I got a call from a childhood friend who was holding a wedding. She gave me an order for her wedding outfits. This order not only boosted my capital base but gave me the business confidence and vindication that I craved for.
I had difficulties separating my business money from my salary. I was not able to account for the amount of profit I used to get in a month because all the money I earned from the business and the job went into a single account. To solve this problem, I started by utilising my M-Pesa account. I would keep the money in my Till wallet with a corresponding record of items sold, cost of production and profit made.
I am in both business and employment. I don’t favour one over the other. I advocate that you have both. One salary may not be enough for your goals. You need multiple sources of income. In my case, there are days when business is low. Fashion goes with seasons. In low seasons, I get a boost from my job.
I have been reinvesting any profit the business makes. For instance, I ensure that I have an adequate stock of all the necessary fabrics and materials. This helps me to avoid the rush to the market. It also cuts down on purchasing costs as I am able to buy in bulk when prices are good in the market.
Starting my journey with chapo mwitu has taught me the importance of making every coin matter. No money is too small. If I had concluded that Sh150 was too little to save from, I would never have started my fashion business journey. But this is only doable if you are willing to live within your means.