Have you ever walked around in town with loads of luggage that hinder you from running your errands effectively? Well, this is always a nightmare for many people who find that they have to do stuff while in town yet they are heavily laden with bags that they don’t know where to leave them.
It is this reason that saw Njeri Wainaina, 27, start Wachia Agencies Rental Luggage Lockers, a storage facility located along Koinange Street in Nairobi County where people can store their luggage and attend to other matters then come back to pick them.
An individual who has to go to work and later in the evening has to travel could leave their bags at the facility instead of having to go back home later thus saving time.
Njeri describes herself as a conversation starter, a true believer in servant leadership and a problem solver who is committed to solving day to day issues in the storage service industry.
“The name Wachia is a Swahili word meaning “leave it with/leave it to me”. I chose the name so that it could be easy for people to remember and identify with,” she says.
How she started out
Born and raised in Kikuyu town, Kiambu County, Njeri who is from a family of three. Her mum, her younger sister and herself attended Good Samaritan Academy in Nakuru County and later joined Pangani Girls for her high school education.
After high school, she joined the Technical University of Kenya where she pursued Journalism and Mass Communication (broadcast option) though with a keen interest in public relations.
“I ventured fully into business when I was 24 years old after resigning from employment. I had earlier on been employed as a Business Development Executive after which I left to become a Public Relations Officer at a private firm. After nine months, I called it quits and decided to venture into self-employment,” says Njeri.
“I had no clue of where to start from but being the optimistic person that I am, I knew something would come up,” she says.
In one of her CSR trips to Homabay County in 2014, she met her first client, a hotel owner, through a conversation they shared.
“The client was to help me secure a job. Upon returning to Nairobi I sent him my CV and once he looked at it he said it wouldn’t sail through. Fast forward, I worked on improving my resume but never succeeded in getting any job offer. I would later meet the same client in another different setting and he had a problem I could solve. He had an upcoming hotel and needed hotel supplies and amenities. I convinced him that I would do it for him and was to make the delivery in a week’s time. In my bank account, I had only saved up Sh.5,000 and that is the amount I used to start my entrepreneurship journey,” explains Njeri.
According to Njeri, by venturing into self-employment at such a young age when she had minimal responsibilities and still living with her mum, she felt that if she failed then, she would still have a chance to recover rather than doing it when she was much older.
“However, I never considered going back into employment although, at some point when I got broke, I did apply for jobs which turned out to be unsuccessful. Also, by venturing into business, I believed that the product I was intending to offer was going to create solutions to various problems that E-commerce traders/merchants or vendors face.”
Njeri believes in Wachia and the solutions the company is seeking to provide. Their target clientele is an online/e-commerce merchant without a physical space/shop/outlet from which they can sell their goods.
The various reasons for not having a physical shop could be the high cost of goodwill, rent, business permits, paying staff, finding the right location for a business premise, day to day expenses of running a physical shop among others.
“Being a new product we are introducing and our business solely depending on trust, I knew this is where the challenge would lie. Having to convince traders/merchants to trust us with their business, goods and products is no mean task. This made me realise that successful entrepreneurs are risk takers and most of our clients took a leap of faith to trust us and now we have a healthy working relationship,” she says.
Their monthly storage charges vary depending on the size of luggage: Small size costs Sh.3, 000, Medium is Sh.5,000, Large Sh.6,000, Extra Large Sh.8,000 and Jumbo Sh.10,000. For parcels left for others to collect, the charges are Sh.50 per hour. For electronics such as laptops, the charges are Sh.200 for three hours.
As a young entrepreneur, Njeri says the journey has not been without challenges.
“Our current space cannot handle businesses of those with bulky products. On the other hand, since our concept is only four months old, to get more vendors to trust us with their business is still hard hence a lot of effort still needs to be put in,” she explains.
According to Njeri, her goal is to see to it that Wachia Agencies Rental Luggage Lockers becomes the most secure and convenient storage facility in every county in Kenya, with plans to expand it to the East Africa region and beyond.
“Being a young startup, the positive feedback we are getting is overwhelming and we can only thank God. Wachia Agencies is also proud to be currently participating in the Elevate Readiness Investment Programme, the 1st Cohort by one million Start-Ups (Global Programme) East Africa and SME Support Centre Chapter at the Strathmore Business School in order to improve our business model and services,” she says.
Njeri’s word of advice to other women: to those already in business, regardless of the type of business, make sure that you stand out. Don’t get comfortable and strive to mentor others to rise as well.
To those that want to venture into business, start now but have a viable business plan. Be your own cheerleader.