Believe it or not, 22-year-old Collins Kimani is the proud owner of one of the biggest sneaker shops in Mai Mahiu.
His journey has not been easy.
Raised by a single mother, he knows what it feels like to lack and why it’s important to believe in your dream no matter what people say.
He started his journey with only 10 pairs of second-hand shoes and is well on his way to owning the biggest sneaker shop in Mai Mahiu.
This is his journey as told by WoK:
When Collins completed his high school education, his future looked bleak.
His KCSE grade did not allow him to proceed to University, and his financially struggling mother was too poor to enroll him in college.
It seemed like his dream of being a journalist had reached a dead end.
Luckily, a benefactor came through and offered to sponsor him for a plumbing course at the Christian Industrial Training Center College near Pumwani Maternity Hospital.
Although Collins had never been interested in plumbing, he clutched at this opportunity because there seemed to be no other alternative.
A few months later, he graduated with a certificate as an inexperienced plumber.
His first job was at the apartment they lived in.
“Our apartment had three unfinished floors. I approached the landlady and requested her to give me a plumbing job for some of the rooms. She agreed,” Collins recounted in a recent interview.
However, since he was inexperienced, the landlady teamed him with another older and experienced plumber to work with him.
For the whole job, they would be paid sh 60 000, upon which they agreed they would split the money in half.
“It was a good deal for me. I hoped to use my share of the money to start a business,” said Collins.
They started the job, but his co-worker was often absent and pursuing other projects elsewhere.
Consequently, Collins did most of the jobs by himself, making many mistakes because he was still inexperienced.
Within a month or two, the project was complete.
However, upon completion, his co-worker reneged their initial agreement and paid him only sh 12 000. He disappeared with the rest of the money.
Since it was his first gig, Collins swallowed the discomfiture and used the money to do a little shopping for himself and his mother.
In the end, he remained with about sh 4,000.
“I thought of how I could use the money to start a business before it ran out,’ he said.
He discussed his plans with his mother, and she took a sh 10 000 loan from a chama and gave it to him to start a business.
That was in June 2019.
He had a friend in Mai Mahiu who had told him that the town was a perfect hub for mitumba second-hand clothes and shoes business.
Together, they rented a place and decided to start selling second-hand clothes and shoes.
Collins communicated with another of his friends at the popular Gikomba market, which is a famous hub for cheap second-hand clothes.
With an initial capital of sh 10 000, he purchased 10 pairs of t-shirts, a few capes, and 10 pairs of shoes.
However, they were all small sizes because they were the cheapest.
He then looked for a fundi who fixed some nails on the wall which he used to hang clothes and also made him a display for the shoes.
He wanted to be as presentable to customers as possible.
“At first, I was afraid that customers would not buy from my small business. I was also afraid that if my job failed, where would I get the starting capital?” he recalled.
The first day, he sold one t-shirt and made a profit of sh 50.
The second day, he sold a few more T-shirts and shoes.
Within a few weeks, he had sold almost everything.
However, he did not touch the profits or stock money.
He used the profits to re-invest in the business, buying more t-shirts and shoes.
On his second trip to Gikomba, he returned with 15 pairs of shoes and more capes and T-shirts.
All the money he got was spent on steadily expanding and diversifying his inventory.
“I did not even save anything. I would rise at 3 am to be in Gikomba by 4 to get the best products,” he recalled.
He also had to wash the shoes and clothes thoroughly to be appealing to customers.
In December, customers increased because of the festive season. Still, he did not spend the money.
However, business was low in February and January 2020.
In 2020, during the Covid period, he had gone to visit his mother in Kiambu when the government announced a lockdown.
There would be no moving in or out of Kiambu and several other counties.
Luckily, he had a friend in Mai Mahiu who operated the shop for him. Despite the pandemic, business continued to thrive, with sales increasing dramatically.
“We were making good money,” he recalled.
He would source the stock from Gikomba and send it to Mai Mahiu via parcel.
It was during this period that he thought of selling sneakers.
These were more expensive but were of a higher quality than other second-hand shoes he had been selling.
He therefore experimented with three pairs of sneakers and sent them to his friend to display them at his shop.
All three pairs sold on the same day.
Realizing that customers were willing to spend more on better quality shoes, he sourced more sneakers from Gikomba and stocked his shop.
Some of the brands he stocked included Nike Airmax, Fila, Nike Vapourmax, Lacoste, Levi’s Puma, and others.
By the time the Covid period was over, his shop was one of the busiest in Mai Mahiu.
He now sells leather belts, baseball shirts, slides, caps, hoodies, and socks, aside from sneakers.
He now owns one of the biggest sneaker shops in Mai Mahiu and aspires to expand it even further.
He has also mentored other entrepreneurs, one of whom has started his own sneakers shop just a few meters away.
Reflecting on his journey, he says that although he might be young age-wise, his experiences have made him mature mentally.
His parting shot to upcoming entrepreneurs is to never give up because dreams are valid.