When Joan Mwangi was let go from her office manager job in 2020, she struggled to find new employment amidst a bleak economy. Short on options, she decided to try an unconventional plan – tapping into Kenya’s emerging e-commerce boom.
Joan began reselling discounted products online part-time using her savings of Ksh20,000. Business was slow initially.
However, through smart lessons and grinding 16 hour days, Joan scaled her side hustle into a booming 6-figure online store within 11 months.
Today Joan’s thriving web store generates over Ksh1.2 million in sales every month, with a profit margin of around 30% after costs. And she did it all through the power of the internet and determination.
This is the story of how a jobless 30-something in Kenya turned online reselling into a lucrative full-time business through passion and grit.
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From Losing Her Job to Rethinking Income Streams
Joan recalls the painful day in April 2020 when Covid forced layoffs at the real estate firm she worked at as office manager.
Given the economic turmoil, finding a new steady job looked near-impossible. Joan’s savings could only stretch so far.
However, having browsed popular merchants like Jumia and Kilimall, Joan noticed small vendors reselling all types of discounted products from China successfully online.
“It hit me – why not try reselling affordable Chinese imports myself using the internet?” Joan recalls.
The low startup costs, ease of e-commerce platforms, and booming local demand offered a unique recession-proof opportunity.
Joan decided to take the leap into online reselling, betting her career on this unconventional path.
Learning Through Trial and Error
Joan started small out of her tiny apartment. Her concept was straightforward:
- Source cheap quality products online from Chinese export websites
- Resell at competitive prices to Kenyan consumers through an e-commerce store
- Leverage social media ads to gain local customers
However, that simple idea proved incredibly difficult to execute for Joan as a total beginner.
She struggled to find reputable suppliers. Her lack of sales skills hampered getting traction. Managing logistics and cash flow proved challenging.
For months, Joan worked 16 hour days trying to understand online selling through nonstop trial and error.
Slowly but surely, the business started growing through Joan’s sheer determination to make it work.
The Keys That Unlocked Rapid Growth
After 6 exhausting months, Joan finally gained enough skills and momentum for her ecommerce business to gain traction. Then it took off rapidly.
She attributes these core changes for enabling her exponential growth:
1) Finding Reliable Suppliers: Through continuous research, Joan found and vetted manufacturers and agents to source quality affordable products to resell locally.
2) Sales Copy Optimization: She studied direct response marketing to improve her website sales pages. More enticing copy and benefit-focused product descriptions rapidly increased conversion rates.
3) Automating Processes: Joan hired virtual assistants overseas to systemize order processing, inventory updates, returns, and other tasks so she could focus on high-value activities.
4) Customer Service Fanaticism: Joan replied to customer emails instantly 24/7, sent handwritten thank you notes, rushed replacements for any issues, and overdelivered across the board. Her exceptional service earned loyal repeat customers.
5) Marketplaces Expansion: In addition to her website, Joan aggressively listed products on marketplaces like Jumia, Gumtree, and Facebook to widen her reach.
Achieving a Dream Lifestyle Through Her Online Business
1 year and 8 months after launching her ecommerce side hustle out of desperation and grit, Joan had grown it into a booming full-time business earning Ksh1.2 million per month.
Even better, the self-made path granted Joan the lifestyle freedom she always desired:
- Joan works when and where she wants, on her own schedule. No more frantic commutes or angry bosses.
- She can put earnings back into growing the business or take lavish vacations – her choice.
- She finds tremendous fulfillment watching her business and team grow from pure grit.
- She sets an example in Kenya that unconventional entrepreneurship is possible regardless of age, education or gender.
Joan has proven through vision and relentless effort you can build the life you want on your own terms.
advice to Aspiring Ecommerce Entrepreneurs
For others in Kenya inspired to start their own successful online reselling businesses, Joan highlights these key pieces of advice:
- Start hyper-small and reinvest all early profits back into growth. Think long-term.
- Study competitors intensely – identify gaps in product offerings.
- Become obsessed with world-class customer service. This builds loyalty and reputation.
- Keep testing new marketing strategies – find cost-efficient channels to acquire happy customers.
- Automate everything possible. This frees up energy and mental bandwidth.
- Persevere through the tough early days. Consistent effort compounds over time.
Joan sees a new generation of young entrepreneurs emerging across Kenya, building location-independent incomes through the internet.
Her journey proves that ecommerce offers a viable path to financial freedom and prosperity for those willing to put in relentless effort and learn each day.
The time to start is now.
With the right vision and grit, the possibilities in online business are endless.