How to start a successful mitumba business

Mitumba as its commonly known in Kenya , is a business of selling second hand clothes imported from western countries such America, Europe, Australia and Canada.

The mitumba business is highly lucrative because of the ever present demand. Majority of Kenyans prefer wearing second hand clothes because of their affordability.

Large scale importers import used clothes in form of bales weighing 45 kg each which are packaged in terms of type, size and quality. The importers sell the bales to wholesalers who in turn sell them to retailers.

The bales are grouped into three categories depending on the quality.

Grade 1-This is commonly known as ‘Camera’. The clothes in this type of bale are a bit pricy compared to grade 2 and grade 3 bales because of their superior quality.

Grade 2-These are clothes of average quality and so is the price.

Grade 3-These bales have clothes that are of low quality and they are often sold at a throw away price.

It goes without saying that the higher the quality of the bale, the more expensive it is.

If you want to start and run a successful mitumba business, below are the steps we recommend you follow;

Raise capital

The amount of capital required will depend on several variables. Some of these factors are;

  • The type and quality of clothes. Good quality clothes are a bit expensive.
  • Whether you are purchasing in bales or individual clothes. Purchasing individual clothes is cheaper than purchasing a whole bale therefore you will require relatively low capital.
  • From which supplier you are purchasing from. Different suppliers offer different prices for bales.
  • Cost of licenses.
  • Cost of rent of your business premise.
  • Transport costs.
  • Security costs to guard your wares.
  • Manpower to help you sell the mitumba.

Identify a suitable location

In the mitumba business a good strategic location is key its success .

When searching for a location, we recommend you look for one that has high foot traffic such as markets. Look for one that your target customers flock to, to help you make a profit and grow. You can take advantage of market days to sell your wares as this is when most people flock to markets to purchase their weekly items.

Based on the type of clothes you are selling, take into consideration the population and the weather of a place, the culture of the people and what is in demand.

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For example you cannot sell skimpy clothes in counties such as Marsabit as the majority of the population is Muslim. The culture therein and the religion abhors such dressing.This will only suit urban areas and places where there are college students.

Also take into consideration the weather of a place. If you are selling second hand clothes in Mombasa don’t purchase a bale with winter clothes as the coast climate is mostly hot.

A point to note is, whether you are selling in an open air market or in a stall, protecting your wares from theft is paramount so that you do not incur any losses. Once you identify a suitable location, search for a secure premise such as a shop or a stall where you can sell from or store your merchandise or both.

Acquire Licenses

To start a mitumba company, get a single business permit from the local authority in your county.

The cost of this license varies from county to county but its average price is Ksh 8,000/= a year.

If you opt to sell your wares in open air markets, the fee is considerable lower as they charge per day. Most open markets charge a daily fee of Ksh 200/=

Determine your business model

Decide on whether you want to start selling a bale or selected single items.

The advantage of purchasing a bale is the possibility of getting high profits, but there is always a risk that the bale may contain low quality clothes hence incurring a loss.

When you purchase single items you lower the risk of purchasing low quality items as you are able to view them before you purchase them for resale. The disadvantage of this model is that the cost per item is higher for individual items hence your profit margins will be low.

Capital is a major factor when determining your business model.If you have a lot of capital, you can purchase a bale as the average price of a bale is Ksh 25,000/= but if your capital is relatively low, it is advisable you start with individual clothes.

Find a reliable supplier

The best way to get a good supplier is to approach people who are in the mitumba business and request them to refer you to reliable suppliers. Finding trustworthy suppliers who will sell you quality bales at great prices is hard hence the referrals.

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Alternatively, you can go to Gikomba (this is the biggest air market in Nairobi) and visit the mitumba warehouses and godowns  in search of suppliers .Be very clear on what you want in terms of type of bale and quality. Build a rapport with them as this will come in handy especially when a new consignment of bales arrives as they will first inform you before informing others.

If you decide to sell individual items, visit Gikomba or any other air market closest to you very early in the morning as this is when bales are opened so that you can get to select the high quality clothes first before other people.

Understand your target market

The first step you ought to undertake is to study the market place so that you are be able to fulfill your customer’s needs. Find out what resonates with your target customers. Is there a particular fashion that they incline to? Are they buying out of necessity or luxury?  What are their preferences? 

This will heavily impact on your choice of the type of bale to purchase for resale. The clothes therein have to resonate with your customers or else you will be stuck with dead stock that you cannot sell hence incurring heavy losses.

Determine your pricing

As much as customers consider quality when purchasing clothes, they also take into account the price. You cannot purchase an expensive bale or clothes to sell in rural areas as their purchasing power is low. The best place to sell such a bale is urban areas because most of them have disposable income thus are able to purchase expensive clothes with ease.

Determine your specialization

Build a brand around what you are selling. Let the customers identify you, with what you are selling. Do you want to sell children’s clothes, ladies wear or men’s attire? The bales are packed in terms of gender. Specializing helps you to retain customers and to master the products you are selling.

From our research we found out that children’s clothes move faster than adult clothes .So to get off on a good start, consider selling children’s clothes.

Fashion is everything when it comes to clothes. If the skinny jeans are trending consider selling them. If it is a rainy season consider selling trench coats.

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Bear in mind that the demand will always change therefore ensure you clear your stock fast so that you don’t end up with dead stock.

Determine your profit margins

Different factors come to play when determining profit margins. Some of these factors are;

  • The type and quality of your clothes.
  • The price you purchased the bales or the individual clothes.
  • Your selling price.
  • Expenses incurred in running the business.
  • Your target market and location.

Below is classic illustration of how these factors can determine your profit margin;

  • Let’s say you purchase a bale of chino pants a Ksh 20,000/= and it contains around 100 pieces.
  • Therefore the average buying price of one chino pant is Ksh 200/= i.e. 20,000/100
  • If you sell each chino pant an average price of 600/=, your revenue will be  Ksh 60,000/= i.e. 600*100
  • From the calculations above, your gross profit will be Ksh  40,000/= i.e. 60000-20000
  • To get your net profit, deduct the rent of your business premise, transport cost, security cost and wages.

We recommend you price your items in such a way you recover your costs and be able to make at least a profit margin of 30%.

 It goes without saying, the more bales or clothes you sell, the higher your profit.

Keep accurate records

From the onset of the business, endeavor to keep an accurate record of your expenses, purchases, sales and income.

This will help you track your revenue and also know if you are making a profit or loss and be able to make the necessary adjustments.

How much does a bale of mitumba cost?

From our extensive research, we sampled a range of bale prices and came up with below findings.

Mitumba bale prices-2021

Bale TypeNo of Pieces insidePrice (Ksh)
Baby Rompers Heavy100+23,000
Baby Rompers Light200+16,000
Baby  Light Clothes450+28,000
Baby medium Clothes180+18,000
Baby Blankets180+16,000
Children Hoods120+15,000
Children trench coats80+12,000
Children jackets100+15,000
Children trousers120+18,000
Children tshirts200+22,000
Children rubber shoes70 pairs23,000
Girls dresses250+28,000
Boys jeans120+18,000
Boys shirts200+30,000
Boys shorts150+30,0000
Ladies tops300+15,000
Ladies chiffon blouses280+21,000
Ladies spaghetti tops and vests400+12,000
Ladies Sweaters200+14,000
Ladies dresses140+28,000
Ladies handbags100+14,000
Ladies khaki trousers200+16,000
Ladies palazo pants150+24,000
Ladies denim jackets80+18,000
Ladies bras600+32,000
Ladies rubber shoes50+18,000
Men’s Khaki  Pants100+21,000
Men’s shirts200+30,000
Men’s tshirts200+22,000
Men’s jeans100+20,000
Men’s trench coats40+14,000
Men’s trousers100+16,000
Men’s hoodies80+15,000
Men’s sweat shirts100+12,000
Men’s jackets40+14,000
Men’s tracksuits100+18,000
Men’s rubber shoes50+23,000
Other Items  
Bed sheets65+19,000
Bed covers50+13,000

Bear in mind that the prices vary from supplier to supplier and the prices below are just an estimate and therefore should be used as a guideline rather than the actual prices.


Every business has its challenges. To everyone starting a mitumba business you need to know that it takes hard work, determination, patience and persistence for one to be successful.

If you are up to the task, your income will soar and there will be no stopping you. The sky will be the limit.

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