Entrepreneurship often emerges as a response to changing market demands and the keen eye to seize unforeseen opportunities.
Elizabeth Nguku’s journey into the world of business is a testament to this dynamic, where her early retirement from a government job led her to an unexpected yet thriving venture
In 1996, at the age of 38, Elizabeth decided to take early retirement from her position as a field extension officer at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Armed with a golden handshake package of Sh300,000, she embarked on a journey that would eventually lead her to establish and successfully run Warembo Gift business in Eldoret town, Kenya.
Initially, Elizabeth’s plan was to open a clothing retail store.
However, as she delved into the world of business, she quickly realized that the market had different plans for her.
Instead of clothing, customers began requesting gift-wrapping services and various items to be presented as gifts.
Elizabeth astutely recognized this shift in demand and decided to pivot her business accordingly.
“We never knew that gifting was a business,” she recalls.
“We used to sell footwear, baby clothes, and inner garments, but with time, we had many customers requesting various items to be wrapped as gifts. The requests kept coming, and we decided to focus on this business, we also bought special gift boxes because that’s what customers demanded.”
This decision proved to be a turning point for her business. Elizabeth gradually phased out footwear and clothing, narrowing her focus to the gift and gift wrapping industry. The transformation paid off. Initially, she would receive about 20 customers a day, but over time, that number grew exponentially, with around 150 customers visiting her shops daily.
Inside her stores, Elizabeth has curated a diverse range of products, both locally made and imported. From jewelry, watches, and carvings to exquisite artworks, her inventory caters to various tastes and preferences.
The success of her business has even led her to open two additional branches in Eldoret town’s Central Business District.
One of the essential lessons Elizabeth has learned throughout her entrepreneurial journey is the importance of building strong relationships with customers and suppliers.
Trust is the foundation of any successful business, and maintaining positive relationships with key stakeholders has been crucial to her ongoing success.
Additionally, Elizabeth emphasizes the significance of prudent financial management, particularly when it comes to offering credit to customers.
She learned the hard way that extending credit, especially to friends, can be risky and lead to significant losses.
“Giving out items on credit, especially to friends can fail your business. I tried that in the beginning and realised they will either take a long time to pay or end up not paying at all. If your business is not based on credit, you shouldn’t let customers buy on credit,” she says.
One piece of advice she passionately shares is the value of not waiting until retirement to pursue entrepreneurship. She believes that starting a business earlier allows for better financial planning and investment in stock.
In her case, her husband played a crucial role in supporting her by providing additional finances to replenish stock when needed.
The gifting business, as Elizabeth acknowledges, is inherently seasonal. Demand peaks during holidays when schools are on break in April, August, and December.
These periods are marked by a flurry of social events, including weddings, traditional engagements, birthdays, baby showers, and graduations.
Despite the seasonality, she caters to clients of all ages and genders, reflecting the universal appeal of her offerings.
“Gifts are seasonal because they are given when there are occasions and events such as Valentine’s Day, weddings and birthdays. When schools are opened, we record relatively low business,” she says, adding, “However, we serve clients of all ages and gender. For instance, you will find an elderly person buying gifts for their grandchildren during weddings and young people gifting friends or relatives during birthdays or baby showers or Valentine’s
Furthermore, her business has garnered a loyal customer base, including individuals from as far as Eldoret, Iten, Baringo, Nandi, Kakamega, Turkana, and occasionally even Uganda.
Some customers who relocated due to job transfers continue to visit her shops, a testament to the trust she has built within her clientele.