By Prudence Minayo
When Harun Kimani Gikera retired from his job with a multinational, he had three plans for his retirement. The first was to spend time with his family, the second was to become an entrepreneur and the third to continue serving the community as a volunteer.
Entrepreneurship was a way for him to have something to do during retirement, create employment for the youth and bring something different to the table. After doing research and the observations he made in the course of his travels, he launched Kenya’s first coin operated laundromat named Mimi Fua Laundromat Cafe.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
Before launching the business, Harun Kimani worked for over three decades in the corporate world. For 12 years, he worked at PZ Cussons, known for the Imperial Leather soap brand. He then joined an American multinational, Ecolab, a leading industrial hygiene manufacturer. He retired from the company in 2018, at the time he had risen to become the company’s Managing Director for Ecolab East and West Africa.
After retirement, he had several business ideas. The entrepeneur sat down with a business consultant and went through the ideas. He settled on the coin operated laundromat and approached a supplier.
His first branch opened for business in April 2019 at Signature Mall. A customer who wants to wash, goes in and purchases a coin-which represents the amount, loads it into the machine and his clothes are washed. If they want to use the dryer, they purchase another coin. As they grew and customers began to ask for dry cleaners, he bought a dry cleaning business in Upper Hill that was on sale. He opened his second branch in his home area, Ongata Rongai, in April 2021, and has two more branches.
Challenge and Advise to Entrepreneurs
Today, one of their major challenge is stiff competition. While he was the pioneer of coin operated laundromats, other people have since launched them. Then, there is also the challenge of staff turnover.
The entrepreneur is happy to see the growth of the business despite the challenges. He also offers consultancy to others who wish to know more about the business, like how it is set up and where the products can be found.
In an interview with KTN Home, he advised people not to get into the business with money as their only objective. This leads a lot of people to cut corners and reduce quality in order to reap huge returns. In his business, he sets up high standards in terms of machinery and ambience.
One of his machines, which are imported from Alliance Laundry Group in the US, goes for between Sh500,000 to a Sh1,000,000 depending on size. He said these machines are durable and of good quality.
The businessman pointed on the need of having well trained staff and try to retain them as long as possible. Trained staff will give quality services and create consistency. He said there are difficult clients and sometimes things go wrong. At times, the power may go off or the water may not be as clean as expected. The key for them has been contacting clients incase of a mishap.
Mimi Fua has also invested in making clients feel welcome. They offer tea and web surfing. Hence, clients can watch, respond to e-mails and print in their locations.
The ambitious businessman hopes to expand the operations of his business to other countries across East Africa even while keeping his dream to open a home for the elderly alive.