Joseph Kamotho started his entrepreneurial journey in 2007 while still a student at Kisii University; he used to sell airtime scratch cards and mitumba scarves to his fellow students.
The MBA Finance degree holder is currently employed by the university as a planning officer. Kamotho also owns JD Trendy Menswear store located near the campus.
He talks about juggling employment and business while also pursuing a Ph.D.
How is it juggling between employment and business?
I would not say it is a challenge as such, but time is an issue. I have to dedicate much of my time on weekdays to my employer from 8 am to 5 pm.
Then I have to attend classes as I’m still advancing my studies – pursuing a PhD in finance, and later proceeding to the business.
Luckily, I have a reliable employee who is at the shop to ensure all is smooth running, but I have to physically avail myself on a daily basis to see how the business is going and make orders.
What has business taught you so far?
I have learned some invaluable lessons, one being the good and bad seasons for any business. The secret is to save and stock up during the good times so as to cushion yourself and ensure you remain afloat during the bad times.
How has the pandemic dealt the business?
The pandemic affected the bottom margins. We were at an all-time low for much of last year, but as the economy reopens gradually, the business has started picking up. Also, I learned the importance of keeping ongoing and never giving up as business growth is a marathon and not a sprint.
Between employment and business which would you go for?
Each job has its own merits and demerits and considering that currently, I’m in both, I think I would not wish to lose on any since I have diverse personal goals.
Isn’t it a conflict of interest to work for your employer and run a business on the side?
A conflict of interest would arise if my line of business was correlated with that of the employer thereby leading to an unhealthy competition but that’s not the case. In terms of time, I never use my employer’s time to do business.
How do you do your marketing?
Social media is one of the most effective ways of marketing in modern times. Through my social media accounts, I reach out to clients who are not able to physically visit my shop. It is not without some challenges using the online platforms though.
Some online clients have trust issues as they don’t believe I can send them goods once payments are done. I overcome this by ensuring the clients I serve become my goodwill ambassadors and most actually send referrals my way.
What are other challenges?
The courier costs discourage my faraway clients. A client can be in Mombasa and when the cost of courier services is added to the cost of an item, the client would feel they are being overcharged.
Would you say being in business is good than being employed?
Unlike salaried jobs, being in business is good for anyone as they can get a constant cash flow. But to everything that is beneficial, there is always a downside. In his example, profitability is never guaranteed in business but one’s salary is assured in employment.
If you keep making the wrong investment, managerial and saving decisions, you will close down your business within no time. That is why many feel safe employed than risking it in business.
What advice would you give to those leaving employment for business?
It is also not that easy for many and that’s why many would rather be employed than risk it in the uncertain world of business. I would advise anyone willing to leave employment for business to first analyse and leave at the right time.