I earn more from my hustle than from my day job


How I started

I am an IT engineer with a local company, but I’ve always had a passion for design. I was not sure how to actualise the vision until a friend introduced me to a group of people who were selling clothes. I started with office deliveries in October 2014. Three months later, I visited Kariokor market in Tanzania where I collected supplier contacts. However, I got my first regional stock from Kampala.

Finding a name

My business used to be called Wa-Kujaribu (basically, one who tries). This was a Facebook name I got from my father who used to sell second-hand clothes in Machakos. But due to client diversity, some could hardly pronounce it. In fact, they could not even tell that I was in fashion. To some, the name sounded like someone selling home utensils or Jua Kali items. In any case, Wa-Kujaribu only gave the impression that I was just trying things out.

When I got into online marketplace Jumia, I decided to rename my business Gianna Moda, which is Italian for good fashion, in mid-2015. We now had a real identity in the market. And rather than use fashion images from the Internet, we decided to take our own serious photos that gave the business an authentic feel.

Building a brand online

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The online business is not for the faint-hearted. I went with Jumia because of the regular campaigns the platform runs, such as Black Friday. These tend to increase sales.

To boost my profile on this platform, I started out by growing my Facebook page. I’d use about Sh5,000 a week to market it. I learnt that it’s better to boost your page at the end of the month when people are more inclined to spend cash, rather than in the middle of it when few make big purchases.

And instead of promoting an entire page, you can promote a particular product for maximum impact – but the product has to be visually appealing for it to attract clients.

When I started out, I’d close one or two sales a week. Today, I can easily do 10 sales – and that’s not counting the end-month spike. Further, I went from 50 likes to 20,000 in under a year.

Today, Gianna Moda has a strong presence on Facebook and Instagram. I have optimised my page on Facebook by tailor-making it to a specific clientele. I also create content that appeals to different regions, like Nairobi or Mombasa.

Additionally, I manage a customised website that imitates online platforms that have a shopping cart system and online payment platforms. And since I can’t always travel for imports, I let the Internet do that for me.

Despite my brand’s strong online presence, I still needed to open a stall in Nairobi’s CBD for that customer who wants a physical interaction with products. I normally have two people manning the stall. I only get involved over the weekends as I don’t want to compromise my day job.

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How IT engineering and fashion converge

IT engineering is very technical, while online vending requires a lot of creativity. I connect the two by making use of systems like Google analytics and search engine optimisation features to verify things like codes, retailers and suppliers. The IT skills also come in handy in driving traffic to my online stores.

The returns

Well, let me just say that I’m not complaining – in fact, my brand pays more that what I earn from my day job.

Going forward, I want to establish Gianna as an exclusive brand. I’m already in talks with manufacturers and designers, working towards a personalised product and accessories line. I want to keep my customers happy and excited.

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