At the age of 26, Benjamin Gsell’s journey in entrepreneurship has been nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Gsell’s fascination with business began at an early age, sparking his interest in entrepreneurship while still in school.
His early endeavors involved selling computer accessories, but his ambitions reached far beyond that horizon.
His goal was clear: to discover and seize business opportunities in the thriving markets of Africa or the Middle East.
Gsell’s aspirations led him to Dubai, where he gained valuable experience working in operations, marketing, and business development.
His seven years in the corporate world not only honed his skills but also provided him with insights into the startup ecosystem, where he found himself mentoring and investing in budding entrepreneurs.
However, his heart was set on translating his hard-earned knowledge and experience into his very own business venture.
His entrepreneurial aspirations eventually brought him to Africa, a continent he had long been fascinated by.
His chosen destination was Kenya, and more specifically, Nairobi.
This decision was rooted in the tremendous potential he saw in the mitumba business – the local trade of second-hand clothing.
It was during a drive through Nairobi’s streets in March 2017 that Gsell was captivated by the sheer proliferation of second-hand clothes being sold along the thoroughfares.
This sight marked a turning point in his journey.
Eager to explore this newfound opportunity, Gsell delved into researching the intricacies of the mitumba trade.
His dedication paid off, and in September of the following year, he made the bold move to relocate to Kenya.
By the next month, Gsell had opened his first shop in the bustling Gikomba Market, a hotspot for mitumba trade in Nairobi.
”I have three shops in Nairobi’s Gikomba market, with most of my containers offloaded in Donholm. I sell my products to wholesalers looking to buy up to 100 bales – though, depending on the size of the bales, I can sell up to 10 bales at wholesale prices,” He said in a past interview.
Gsell says he sold a bale at Ksh4,000 to Ksh19,000, depending on what’s inside, as well as sell some items on retail to boost profits.
Gsell’s journey was one marked by strategic decisions and calculated risks.
His choice to operate from Kenya was well thought out.
He saw the country as having the most investor-friendly framework in East Africa, and its large market size made it an attractive destination for his mitumba venture.
Moreover, political stability and the widespread use of English reduced potential barriers to entry.
Starting a business requires capital, and Gsell’s venture was no exception.
With an initial capital of approximately Sh5.5 million, he combined his personal savings with investments from an American business partner he had crossed paths with during his time in Dubai.
This capital infusion provided the financial foundation necessary to establish his mitumba enterprise.
Sourcing inventory is a crucial aspect of any retail business, and Gsell’s venture was no different.
He chose to source his second-hand clothes from the UK, importing them to Kenya via Mombasa and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
While he initially imported from various sorting plants, he soon recognized the importance of ensuring consistent quality.
This realization led him to establish his own sorting process, a commitment to quality that set his venture apart.
Navigating the Kenyan market came with its fair share of challenges.
Gsell encountered hurdles in finding reliable partners and establishing trust among potential customers.
The mitumba industry already had well-established players, making it essential for Gsell to differentiate himself.
He achieved this by focusing on delivering excellent quality and pricing while also ensuring timely deliveries within Nairobi.
In a competitive market, Gsell acknowledged his rivals – those with established distribution channels and years of industry experience.
However, his unique advantage lay in his vertically integrated approach.
With in-house sourcing and sorting capabilities, he was able to maintain control over product quality and supply chain efficiency, giving him a strategic edge.
Gsell’s business journey, while not without its challenges, has yielded promising results.
Despite minor setbacks, such as disruptions during election periods, he remains optimistic about his venture’s future
As his business gained traction, Gsell envisioned growth beyond Nairobi.
He had planned to optimize the supply chain and expand his operations to other Kenyan cities, as well as neighboring countries like Tanzania and Uganda.
Additionally, he had set his sights on West African markets, including Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Nigeria.