In Summary
  • I need to keep following all prospects and maintain healthy relationships with all clients. A client may not come through today, but they may do so tomorrow.
  • It is very crucial to have clarity on what I am doing and why. Always know that no job is permanent and plan accordingly.

After losing her job, Amanya Kuchio set up an all-female courier business in January. A month later, the pandemic hit, and she wondered if she will survive. This is how she is wading the times.

For eight years, Kuchio was employed at an educational non-governmental organisation as a Programme Officer.

She earned a good salary and was under a renewable contract. "The contract was renewable and I was destined to have a great long career," says Amanya, who is in her mid-thirties.

All this changed late last year when her contract was not renewed. "It was such a blow. I had not seen it coming," says the mother of one. "But I took it in the chin."

As the reality that she had lost her job sank in, Amanya wondered how she would fend for her family. "I am the sole breadwinner of my family. I live with my parent and two siblings. They all depend on me. I could not afford the luxury of sitting back and holding pity parties," she says.

Barely a week after losing her job, Amanya began to explore what she could do to continue earning a living.

She took a notebook and wrote down potential ideas that she could turn into actual businesses. "Top on my list was a delivery business. I had thought of starting it as a side hustle at one point during my employment but never got to it."

COMPANY BIRTHED

As she narrowed down on the ideas, she struck out all but the deliveries one. "It was the most practical to start. It would not weigh heavily on my pocket," she says.

Already, she had a motorbike worth Sh200,000, which she used to ride to and from work. All that she now needed was a delivery box.

"I had always loved riding and interacting with people. I knew that this would make the transition from employment to business easier," she says.

Apart from the motorbike, Amanya had some Sh10,000 which she had stashed away in a savings account. She withdrew the money and bought a delivery box.

In January this year, she founded Belle Errands, her female-focused delivery company. "My company would focus on providing timely and quality service through offering professional and reliable courier services," she says.

However, getting the business from the ground was not as smooth sailing as she had expected. Her savings were not adequate to fully execute the business.

"I had not saved as adequately as I should have. I had also been pushed into business by the termination of my contract. It was not something that I had planned and set out to do," she says.

VIRUS CRISIS

The recruitment of employees was her next hurdle. Amanya decided to recruit women riders only.

"I am a firm believer in the empowerment of women. The motorcycle courier business is dominated by men. Women riders are often stereotyped for being in a field that is risky and adrenaline-driven. This is what I set out to break with my hiring criteria," she says.

She hired four women, who included one rider on a full-time basis, two part-time riders who own motorbikes, and one full-time administrator. The four would work remotely.

Two months down the line and just as business was starting to trickle in, Amanya was hit by what may be her biggest business challenge ever.

The coronavirus. This sent the world of business and the day to day normal interactions in Kenya in a tailspin.

"The government asked people to stay and work from home. Nobody wanted to spend. Nearly all our customers adopted a wait and see approach," she says.

Nearly three months down the line, the situation has hardly improved. "Some of our clients have shut down or downscaled," says Amanya.

MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS

With 2020 proving to be a tough economic year, Amanya admits there are times when she fears she will not make it in entrepreneurship.

"When I started, I had numerous worries about whether going into business was the right decision. I feared that I would not be able to sustain my family. I even thought of looking for a job," she says.

Her fears still haunt her from time to time, especially as she sails through the turbulent waters of a start-up amidst a national and global pandemic.

"It's not easy to find clients currently, which means that the rate of expansion is limited. Having riders who understand how cash flows are afflicted by the slow rate of business due to Covid-19 has been tough as well," she says.

But Amanya says she is not about to give up. "I believe that great business concepts are founded on the back of economic strains."

To manage her income, she is splitting the money three-way: expenditure, salaries, and savings.

What Amanya has learned five months after starting her business: I will not always close contracts with the clients I pitch my services to.

I need to keep following all prospects and maintain healthy relationships with all clients. A client may not come through today, but they may do so tomorrow.

It is very crucial to have clarity on what I am doing and why. Always know that no job is permanent and plan accordingly.

The world is constantly evolving. I will stay creative and evolve to grasp as many opportunities as I can, without shying away from telling people what I do.