SHEILA IDENYA aka Sheila Importer, a graduate from Strathmore University opted for self-employment by filling a gap in import and export consultancy. She tells CityBiz how entrepreneurs are benefiting from her consultancy work and how she is earning big from this business.
Briefly introduce yourself.
I am the proprietor of Duka Hub, a mother of three, an economics and accounting graduate from Strathmore School.
Tell us about your import/export consultancy services, what does it really entail?
I offer consultancy for import and export and the aim is to make commerce for businesses easier. If you want to get some goods for your business from abroad to Kenya, regardless of which country it is, we assist you with the whole process. We can link you up with the supplier or help you purchase and ship the goods into the country.
We do the purchasing, the clearing and forwarding and taxes on your behalf for a small fee.
We also train people who want to know how to import and this may entail one-on-one consultation. We also have a website where you can do direct purchase of goods from abroad. You can visit and check the items available alongside the supplier prices.
Most of the countries we import from are China, Dubai, UK, USA, Turkey, and right now we are working on Bangladesh connections. We assist merchants purchase such items as clothes, shoes, pharmaceuticals, home décor, furniture and machinery for manufacturing.
How long have you been doing this and what was your motivation?
I started Duka Hub in 2017 and that time I was still in employment but on maternity leave. I was looking around for unique things for my child (I was carrying my second-born baby) and I wasn’t seeing a variety in Kenya. So, I was really interested in getting things that I used to see in movies online when I came across the Alibaba application.
I got serious on how I could get some of those things I saw on the platform to Kenya and I was prompted to purchase a guide on how to import to Kenya.
Luckily, I also got a group of mums who also wanted the unique things we had seen on the online platforms. Since one could only buy the things in large quantities, I partnered with the group of mums to meet the threshold; they paid me to make the purchase and then I shipped the items to Kenya and then I delivered to them.
That has actually been my motivation and since 2017 I have been building on the model and improving it until now that I have a full functional website.
How has the business grown from 2017 until now?
For sure, there has been a lot of growth in the business. For instance, I started with a small WhatsApp group, it has grown and now I have reached over 13,000 members for the import group. On Facebook, I also started with a small following and right now, I am at around 10,000 members and still counting.
How much do you earn in a typical month?
The profit margin mostly depends on the type of items shipped; there are those items that can give you 10% returns and there are also those that can give you 100% return such as pharmaceuticals. In terms of turnover, the months are not usually the same and so I wouldn’t give an exact figure. However, you can easily reach six figures with imports: anything from Sh100,000 a month.
How has this business been of help to you on a personal level?
This is my full-time job for now; it’s able to feed me, take my children to school, and I have been able to acquire my own house where I am staying currently. It’s actually a lucrative business.
Any challenge in this business?
Generally, imports and exports are actually a risk business because you are dealing with someone who is not in the same jurisdiction legally and so you need to learn how to create relationships. Another challenge would be the language barrier which you have to know how to manoeuvre that. There is also the problem of dollar fluctuations which affects the pricing and estimation of shipping and other costs.
There is also the problem of capital whereby you can have a large consignment, but you have no capital to clear. I am currently seeking partners to come on board so that I can be able to manage large-scale shipping.
However, with experience, I have been able to manoeuvre the challenges.
Where did you acquire the skills from?
Most of my knowledge comes from experience. However, in 2021, I joined Alibaba Business School for entrepreneurship training which played a big role in what I do.