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.
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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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