“The mind is limitless. It can be stretched by new ideas without losing its original dimensions,” says 28-year-old Lillian Wairimu, who built her career from an old rugged mattress.
Wairimu, the founder and CEO of Vee 3 Creative, began her beanbag company at 24 and has seen the company grow over the years.
Beanbags are large cushions used as seats and loungers, offering a versatile and fun alternative to contemporary furniture. Beanbags are experiencing a worldwide renaissance.
Originally a simple toy for children, it has evolved into an amazing assortment of luxurious furniture that are comfortable and give a touch of elegance and style.
In 2012, Wairimu was overly excited to graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in marketing from the Africa Nazarene University. Little did she know that life was not as smooth as she had hoped.
For one-and-a-half years, all she could get were contact jobs that ended in frustration. She had to act fast to provide for herself and her little son who was looking up to her.
After serious soul-searching, Wairimu stumbled upon an idea that would bloom into a viable business. “I noticed this old rugged mattress in my room and started thinking what I could do with it,” she recalls.
She pored over the Internet and discovered that beanbags could be made from mattress chips. The self-taught beanbag maker depended on YouTube videos and Google instructions to sharpen her skill.
She created a Facebook page and posted pictures of a few beanbags that she had made, earning her several nods from her online friends. Since then, she has leveraged on online marketing to find clients.
She is also the proud owner of Woodley Mart, a shop located at Adams Arcade on Ngong Road in Nairobi, where she sells beanbags, travel pillows, throw rags, throw pillows and cushions.
Wairimu gets clients from all over the country and uses G4S for deliveries outside Nairobi. For clients who cannot visit her store, she uses online platforms such as Facebook to communicate and cut deals.
Beanbag business doesn’t require much capital, all you need is Sh.10,000. Wairimu started with Sh.5,000. She used Sh.3,500 to make her first beanbag and sold it for Sh.4,000.
“As a beginner and with such a profit margin, I realized that I needed a business plan that would help me assess the market. I was also advised to diversify according to my market research. This worked very well,” she says
She uses locally available materials but imports the special cartoon materials used to make children’s’ beanbags. She believes in customization and a tailor makes the beanbags to fit her clients’ specifications.
“For the outer cover, we use American suede, khaki, canvas, leather and fur. Dustless Styrofoam which we import, is used to fill the bags and give them the desired shape,” she explains.
For safety purposes, a beanbag has two linings; the inner lining that has a zipper and the outer one that is removable and can be washed or changed. A small beanbag weighs four kilos, the medium seven kilos and the large 12 kilos.
For factory stitching, which is a three-piece work; bottom, side and zipper, she does it at Industrial Area in Nairobi.
In a month, she makes over Ksh.200,000 profit depending on the season. She says holidays, especially towards the end of the year, are a better season compared to the beginning of the year, when people start to plan their budgets.
Her biggest clients are corporates, the expatriate community and residential home owners.
‘’We have made beanbags for companies like Growth Africa, Roths Child-a consultancy firm, and Tuko Media. Today, offices are becoming more like homes as lifestyle becomes increasingly important. Employees need a place where they can get off their feet and embrace a few moments of peace,” she says.
Her greatest motivation and driving force is the excitement to do more, and the appreciation from clients.
She says plans in the pipeline include opening branches in Rwanda and East Africa.
“I want my brand to grow like Java. To be known not only for beanbags but as an exclusive gift shop that stocks collector pieces by different designers,” she says.
For Wairimu the beauty of entrepreneurship is the realization that your hard work is paying off.
The future is looking bright for the young woman who started off with only Sh.5,000. She now has seven employees. Her plan is to franchise her business and she has already ventured into the Ugandan market.
The moment graduates complete their undergraduate education, their hopes are up there, you can’t convince them that jobs are scarce in the country; they will even spit at you.
Six months down the line, you meet a number of them in the street, dejected, resigned and embarrassed to speak out their cases, but we understand them anyway.
Most of them have sent over 1,000 applications to companies and no one has been sympathetic enough to give them even an internship.
This is the moment a graduate starts becoming innovative.
If you find yourself in such a situation, you better stop thinking about employment and figure out a suitable business to start so that you can scare away some common conditions like depression.
If you succeed to secure employment when you still own some business venture, well and good but don’t allow yourself to be a slave of your academic papers.
Business Man & Mentor