HOW I STARTED MY MALI MALI STORE – ESTHER WANJIRU

Mali Mali business is a common business venture in Kenya. Whether it’s in a local shopping center in a residential area or in a big shopping center.

Having a one-stop-shop that offers a wide variety of household items can make you a good amount of money. Some of the mali mali enterprises that have grown earn about Ksh.800,000 a month. Some of these enterprises were started with as low as Ksh.3,000 meaning you don’t need too much money to start.

Your mali mali business can be started with as low as Ksh.5,000 and grow to an enterprise that earns you over Ksh.50,000 or even more.

Esther Wanjiru runs a small mali mali store in a local shopping center in Ruiru and makes good money every month.

“I started my business in 2013 and I have been in this business for seven years now. When I started, the economy was not as bad as it is now. But, I didn’t even have money when I started. I only had Ksh.5,000 and that’s what I used.

I just bought a few items to stock up and noticed that the items are actually selling. From then on, I started adding my stock.

Before my mali mali store, I ran a kerosene pump business. I never got the satisfaction I wanted and decided to divert to mali mali. I got the idea from my sister who ran a mali mali business and was making good money from it.

She told me when I listen to my customers and give them the items they needed, I would grow my business and make money.” Esther.

*Permit*

“I did not pay for a business permit when I started my business. Considering how much I had as capital, I couldn’t afford to pay for a single business permit.

However, I now pay Ksh.4,500 annually to the county government annually. I used to pay Ksh.3,500 the first two years but the fee was increased.

Before I acquired my business permit, I had issues with the county council and it was not a good experience. 

*Location + Rent*

“When looking for a location to set up your mali mali business, look for a place that’s populated. Look for a place near the road. Don’t set up your store somewhere customers cannot notice you with ease.

Also, as you set up your store, make sure your display looks good and is visible. Your customers need to know what you are selling, even without being told.”

Look for locations with the need you want to meet. Think of business centers and local shopping centers. Consider locations near residential areas, colleges, and universities where people in the area will need household items.

“I pay Ksh.4,000 for my store per month, and the space is good enough for me.”

Esther’s store is located in the interior and a similar store near the highway on the other end would cost double that price. So, different spaces in different locations will vary in price.

Also, remember to choose a location that provides you an outside space to display your items.

*First years of business*

The first years of business for an entrepreneur especially a small business entrepreneur are never easy. Most businesses fail in the first year of business for so many reasons. You have not yet established your footing in the market and you don’t have an established customer base.
There are cash flow issues, management issues and the business might struggle to sustain itself.

“My first year of business was not too bad for me but it was not too good either. You are new in the market and customers don’t trust you yet. But when a customer comes in, buys an item from you, and discovers its good quality, they will keep coming back.”

*Supplies and stocking up*

Your mali mali store is all about your stock and what you have for your customers. They need to find what they are looking for if you want to sell and make good profits.

In the beginning, you might not have so much stock but as time goes by, work towards increasing the quantity and variety of items. For household items mali mali store, think of all that people use and need in their houses. From kitchenware to cleaning items. There is a vast variety of what you could stock in your store.

You also need to be aware of the different places you could connect with the right suppliers and get quality items.

“You don’t have to stock everything while starting. Stock items that will obviously sell. Items like buckets, basins. Whether you are spending Ksh.7,000 or Ksh.10,000, stock up the necessities first.

Learn to listen to your customers and with time, you will add to your stock list and bring what your customers actually need. You will know what sells and what doesn’t sell.

I get my items from the Kamukunji market. From my experience, Kamukunji is the best place to get your items at wholesale and at an affordable price. While re-stocking my store, I spend about Ksh.20,000, or even more depending on the timing.”

*Challenges*

Staring and running a mali mali store has its own challenges just like any other business.

“While starting, the main challenge is how customers don’t trust your business yet and still prefer where they are familiar with.
A customer will pass by your shop and come back carrying an item you sell in your shop and don’t buy from you even if you are the nearest to them. You start wondering whether customers are even noticing you. But once they start getting used to you, that’s it.

Also, some customers are really difficult and you have to keep your cool even when they are getting to your last nerve. You have to be nice to them and make them feel welcomed to your business.

Another challenge is customers wanting to get items on credit and end up never paying you. Some pay half and never finish up their debt.”

*To aspiring mali mali entrepreneurs*

“Avoid giving goods on credit at all cost. Giving items on credit can actually collapse your business if you are not careful.

While shopping to stock up, choose good quality items. For example, you will find a variety of basins in Kamukunji but some are of really poor quality and break easily. Take the basin that’s of good quality even if the price is higher.

Don’t compromise quality at any point in your business. Poor quality items will make you lose customers.

Remember to give your customers the best experience when they come to your store even if they are the difficult type.

Also, avoid mismanaging your money. Keep an account of every shilling that comes in and goes out of your business. Additionally, let business money be business money.

Another thing, don’t let people who are not in your business such as your family dictate how you do your business. Be in control of your business.
I ran my business by myself and I love it. It makes accountability easier and gives you more control over your business. It’s not easy for you to just take business money and use it somewhere less important.”

“When your customers get what they need and what they are asking for, you could make good money. Think of Ksh.30,000 and above every month coming from your small mali mali business. But if you go big in this business, you can make over Ksh.100,000 per month. Also you can grow into a wholesaler or importer.”

*Final Thoughts*

A small mali mali business is a good venture you can make money from whether as a side hustle or a full-time job. You could start small and grow your business into a big malimali enterprise.  

To make it in this business, ensure you have a one stop shop where you sell a wide variety of household items.

By
Justine Nyachieo
Business Man & Mentor

Timothy Angwenyi
Business Consultant

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