Njoki Waigwa quit well-paying jobs to venture into business, a risk that not many have the guts to take. While many would choose to remain employed citing the job security among other benefits, these allures were simply neither enough nor satisfying for Njoki. She opted to leave it all behind to chart her own path.
According to Njoki, 31, the proprietor of Haraka Delivery Services, the parcel delivery and courier business she ventured in is not just a pick-and-deliver sort of thing like many might presume. She shares what it takes to run her venture and why she is determined to give the industry a different face
Playing with numbers was my passion from an early age but getting into business was more out of necessity than passion. I desired to embark on a business to earn money in order to improve myself and my family. Having lost my father when I was 15, I took it upon myself to support my mother in any way I could. I am the second child and we are seven.
I noticed how women in the village in Nyeri County where I grew up were struggling to move to different places and I immediately saw a business venture. When I was 22, I used my savings and, with the help of an uncle, bought the first motorbike and employed a rider.
Looking back today, I chuckle that, almost a decade later, I would own my own motorbikes and use them to positively change my life and the lives of my clients.
My plan to venture into motorbike delivery business was well-calculated. With a Bachelor of Commerce degree in finance, CPA qualifications and lots of experience from local and international finance-related companies, I wanted to come up with a motorbike delivery service with a difference.
My primary research showed that some of the major challenges in many motorbike delivery businesses was getting trustworthy riders, reliability and proper handling of parcels.
I also found out that many clients held back their valuables such as cheques or jewellery from delivery businesses for fear of theft or lack of discretion. This is the difference I purposed to bring to my company.
What happened next
Turning this idea into reality wasn’t easy. While I consulted with a few professionals such as IT experts and designers, the main task lay in my hands. This was my baby and I had to endure the labour pangs on my own.
First, I had to come up with a name that reflects exactly what the company was going to do. Haraka is Kiswahili for “fast” and my mission was to provide fast and reliable services.
My initial target was professional women for whom we would make any delivery — from groceries to cosmetics or something a woman forgot at home.
As part of my competitive strategy, I bought two motorbikes, installed tracking devices on them and insured them. This was to ensure that none of my riders would delay a delivery because they diverted from the route or got in trouble with traffic police officers for lack of insurance.
I also had to market the new business by establishing a website and creating awareness on social media.
I interacted with my clients personally and built a rapport to gain their trust so they could entrust us with their confidential information. I would go to a client’s firm and pledge my loyalty to them as a service delivery company.
It took me several months of research and preparation to establish the gaps I would fill in the business venture.
Running a startup
Within the first month, I got twenty stable clients all through word of mouth marketing and my Facebook account. Within a short time, my clientele expanded to law and accounting firms, clothing and cosmetics shops, chemist shops and gyms.
Having been a Senior Finance Officer at one point, I know the value of sending invoices and cheques in good time and the importance of being discreet and reliable. This is part of the training I give both my staff riders and casuals.
Where I am now
Although I have registered immense success and lots of good feedback, I wouldn’t say that it has been smooth all the way. There have been challenges which I deal with daily.
For instance, many are the times that I am forced to outsource for riders when there is too much work. This is a challenge because I am not able to track the hired riders or entrust them with confidential deliveries.
In as much as I have received several proposals from investors, I am hesitant to accept the offers right now because I want to be the mother to my “baby.” People have offered me more motorbikes as investment but it’s not about the number of motorbikes but the reliability and sustainability of my long term clients.
Another challenge is the Covid-19 pandemic. This has affected 90 per cent of my clientele but there is always a light at the end of every tunnel. Although before the Covid-19 pandemic, prevention measures were put in place, my riders were not wearing masks and hygiene is something we have embraced from the day we started working because we deliver foodstuff too.
Now, I have ensured that my riders and those I outsource wear masks and have hand sanitiser at all times. My riders have also become advocates because they advise clients to take precautionary measures.
We are making more deliveries to people working from home. For example, one client who deals with gym equipment seems to be getting more deliveries at this time.
My advice to people who want to engage in start-up businesses is a quote from Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group: you should learn from your competitors but never copy them.
Sometimes I engage in mentorship programmes and I always encourage my mentees to better what seems to be their competitors’ best.