The resilience of Kenya’s young

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BY VICTOR ADAR

Campus life, sort of, is all about living each day at a time. If money comes through, some comrades would use it the best way they can (buy some basic needs with it), while a majority will blow it up buying flashy phones, or go out and rave without worrying what will happen tomorrow. This explains why, common in our higher learning institutions, are the enterprising lot who make a kill by selling basic stuff like, say, perfumes, airtime, dresses, sandals, and even caps, to their peers.

Sue Mueni is one graduate who scratched the ground, studying while selling watches on the side. Hers started when she decided to sell a leather strapped watch she had bought for herself to one of her friends. She would later go back to the shop for another classic one. This time, she picks more than a piece with hopes high that more and more of her friends would fancy them and end up buying. And what a sweet turn of fate when she sold off all of them.

Knowing too well how campus life can be shaky and sometimes unpredictable, Mueni viewed this as a cool business that could help her get broader revenue streams and never to worry about pocket money from her parents. Initially, Mueni used to source for the watches in Nairobi. But after about a year of operations, she went looking for a third-party manufacturer in South Africa. Just like that, SUED Watches, an enterprise that’s designing and marketing its own brand of classic customised watches was born. It was towards the end of 2015.

In 2016, Safaricom’s Be Your Own Boss program, popular as BYOB summit, came to inspire her hopes even further. It was a day of good stuff that allowed Mueni to audition for season 1 of the now popular show. It came as a surprise, she says. Like a lady who gets the first kiss on her forehead, the Safaricom program is something that the bubbly lady will never forget.

SUED is what you would call a Kenyan watch brand, says the founder and CEO of SUED Watches.

“I have been a watch collector since campus days. But when I attended the audition and was picked. It was like a windfall, an opportunity that came to meet me at the perfect time. I had just cleared my degree course and registered the business name so I participated in the show without getting worried about copyright theft,” she explains, adding that she got her major capital, over half a million, from the show. “Initially I used to sell and spend just to survive campus life. So the show really worked fine for me. I got over Sh500, 000 from the show.”

Clinching the fifth position (and getting the favourite contestant award) in a program that brought together entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, techies as well as eager youth whose main aim is mentorship, learning, networking and fun, Mueni is an example of what it really means to be a smart young entrepreneur. She is all of charm and brains being served on the same plate.

This year, BYOB has partnered with Centonomy (a company that helps people build and manage their personal finances), eMobilis Mobile technology Institute, Huawei and Bluesky Innovations to provide more knowledge as well as skills in three day camps where Kenyan youth will not only be taught about various careers and business strategy and planning but also financial management. The winner of season 3 of the show will take home a grand prize of Sh5 million.

Moving her products

Doing business in a generation of social networking, Internet and smart technology gadgets, the 24 year old who cut her teeth in Business Management from Moi University, Eldoret is living her dream, growing a business that she is passionate about. With a background in marketing, she wakes up everyday with an attitude of thankfulness, which at the end pays off. She says that since early this year (around March) business has been brisk, and there has been a growing demand to an extent that together with her team of nine people, they can sell up to 30 to 40 watches in a month.

Aside from marketing her brand – SUED – using a fully-fledged website, social media platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, are also boosting her actual sales.

At the moment, Mueni is the only permanent employee. However, during production which involves branding, fixing leather straps and assembling of the parts they’ve imported mainly from South Africa, China or Switzerland, services of two delivery guys, plus seven other people who help in marketing and distribution come in handy. The business is entirely based online but there are times she does pop up shops like setting up a makeshift shop at shopping malls or restaurants, for example at The Hub in Karen.

“E-commerce is such a wide market. It opens beyond what a physical shop offers,” she says, while also agreeing that lack of a physical shop can be a disadvantage. “If you don’t have a shop it is easy for you to slack. Again, being online means you can’t control how people use what you post. People copy, and then you also risk getting a competitor who’s offering similar products but of poor quality.”

The young entrepreneur has set a price range that any ordinary Kenyan can afford. Her prices range from as low as Sh3, 000 to Sh5, 500 depending on design. In deed, the many watches she keeps delivering to buyers in a month paint the picture of a lucrative venture. But what is she doing to move her products off the shelves?

“Apart from being consistent and disciplined, you have to know your products, and your target market. Look at the market and study what the market needs. If there is no market, create your own need, and satisfy that need. Things will fall into place. Ours is a very unique product, a brand of watches based on culture… and they are our in-house designs.”

She has expanded her services to watch repairs, strap and battery replacement.

At this stage, partnerships can take her enterprise quite far. Stocking up for example, calls for big money, and this can only come from a financially strong partner.

It’s easier selling watches. That’s what I was passionate about, and nothing fulfils the soul more than passion. It’s a good venture but days are different… If I were not into this business of watches I would pursue photography,” she says.