Charity’s Luxury Boutique
Charity came to us 7 weeks ago with a really exciting business idea. She wanted to sell new luxury handbags in Njoro, Kenya (a market largely saturated with second hand clothing and bags, known here as Mitumba). From an initial scout of the town, we didn’t see anything similar, just the odd bag gathering dust in the supermarket or tucked away in the back of a store, yet all around us were well dressed woman carrying fabulous, shiny new handbags. With this information we jumped straight in, finding a handbag wholesaler in Nakuru, setting up a what’s app group, creating a logo, all within the first week of working with Charity. Confident with our proactive response, we sat back and waited for the customers to roll in. And waited. And waited.
After two or three weeks, and still no handbag sales, we were all feeling a bit crushed. We had expected Charity’s Luxury Boutique to be a roaring success, yet no one had committed to a purchase. We realised that we had not created any trust between charity and her customers. By this time we had come to know Charity really well, yet we were aware of how shy she was around new people.
Taking the US style Tupperware party idea as inspiration, we decided to host an event for Charity where we invited loads of women over, bought small accessories such as earrings, necklaces and perfume in order to have something for people to buy there and then, as well as taking orders for handbags.
We invited all the women we knew in the community, made endless amounts of chocolate mandazi and put the largest pot of tea on to boil. Charity spent the week leading to the event in a nervous state. She was scared no one would come, or that she wouldn’t know what to say to her guests or worse, that no one would be interested in her handbag business.
However, with a little bit of Balloon coaching and cajoling, on the night of the event, Charity totally came out of her shell. She made a speech to welcome her guests, managed to speak to each of the 20 plus guests individually, which helped promote her business through good customer relationships, and sold over 1000ksh worth of stock. Seeing the elation on her face at having achieved something that previously, she never would have dared do was perhaps far more of a success than a loan or a great monthly turnover could ever be.
Polly Edwards, ICS Volunteer, Njoro, Kenya 2015