John Muthoka, a father of two, is a hawker in Thika town. He hawks inside passenger buses, around bus stations, or streets. Apart from hawking, he also has a stall that his wife operates. He likes hawking since he can catch customers' attention through how he hilariously describes his products to customers. His wife is busy in the stall where she sells stuff like tissue papers, bottled water, biscuits, soda, pegs, utensils, torch, batteries, socks, buckets and toys.
Since his childhood, John is a comedian, a character trait that has helped him in his hawking business. He says that most of his customers buy goods from him out of the jokes he makes while hawking. For instance, he can describe how well a pen writes hilariously, making customers laugh and buy the pen.
How John Mutoka Started His Hawking Business
Being a father of two, it was difficult for him to get his family a decent life. Before moving to Thika town to start his hawking business, he grew vegetables like spinach and tomatoes in his rural home in Kangema, a venture that helped him save enough to start his stall and hawking business. The business didn't have a lot of growth potential, but it would help him meet his family's basic needs. He wanted a business that had the potential to grow into a large business venture.
To make both ends meet, he moved to Thika in 2012, where he opened a small stall near Thika's main bus stop. The stall is still in operation to date and is operated by his wife. The stall was not making enough sales to meet his financial needs making him start a hawking business while his wife operated the stall. He still hawks and his wife operates the stall to date. He gets the stock for his hawking business from the stall and hawks it around the town to boost sales, a decision he does not regret to date. When he started hawking, he was getting more revenues compared to what the stall was generating.
The startup capital for the hawking business and stall was Ksh 65,000. The following is his business startup capital breakdown:
- Stock – Ksh 30,000
- Rent and deposit – Ksh 30,000
- Business licenses – Ksh 5,000
Challenges John has faced in Hawking Business
Just like any other business, John faces challenges in hawking business challenges. He recounts a time when he lost stock worth Ksh 7,000 when his business was new. There was a demonstration by public vehicle operators and the police started chasing after everyone in town. Such demonstrations are frequent and that day, while he was running to avoid getting caught by the police, he fell while carrying his stock. He didn't get a chance to collect his stock since he had to flee to avoid getting arrested. He had to borrow a loan from a friend to restock his business.
The other challenge he faces while hawking is harassment by rogue county officials who demand bribes from hawkers. Sometimes the county officials go with their stock if a hawker cannot raise the amounts they ask for. To avoid such challenges, he encourages people who want to start hawking only to hawk within the authorized areas. He once couldn't raise the money and the county council went away with his stock, an incidence that left him in financial distress. He was new in the hawking business at the time and he didn't know how to deal with them.
Another challenge he faces as a hawker is dealing with rude customers. Some customers are unfriendly to hawkers and respond rudely. Before getting used to it, he almost quit hawking. He thought he could entertain customers by hilariously telling them how his products would serve them before asking them to buy. This way, many customers buy from him to thank him for making them laugh.
An Achievement John has Made from his Business
John's biggest achievement is having managed to buy a land where he plans to start building soon. It was not been easy to save and buy the plot, especially when he has to meet other needs for his family. His wife helps him to make financial decisions an to prioritize on spending. He attributes the success of his business to the support he gets from his wife.
His wife's stall and his hawking business are their only source of income. He does not regret having started the two businesses. Through them, he has managed to educate his children, the firstborn in class 5 and the second born in class 2. His family now affords a decent life since he can pay house rent and set aside some savings.
Boom Season for Hawking Business
During school opening and closing days, it is the best time for John's hawking business. He can make double or triple his sales on such days. Students buy a lot from him, especially biscuits, soda, chewing gum, sweets, socks and pens.
His stall and hawking business make an average of Ksh 40,000, but in a good month, he can make over Ksh 50,000.
John's Future Plans for His Hawking Business
John plans to open a wholesale shop to start distributing goods to hawkers and stall owners. He says there is a huge market gap that he looks forward to filling. The wholesale business has a ready market since there are many hawkers and stalls in operation, unlike hawking, where sales fluctuate.
Advice to those Who Wish to Start Hawking Business
John encourages those who want to start hawking to ignore the idea that hawking is not profitable. It is tough when one is starting and before you can adjust and learn some marketing skills and how the business operates. Determination and persistence are critical to succeeding in the hawking business.