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By Lilian Wamaitha
My friend Alex is one of a kind.
When I met him, almost five years ago, I was by then living in Thika. If you have been in Thika or any other town for that matter, you know how busy the streets are especially in the evenings, lined up with hawkers merchandizing all kinds of goodies.
Alex was one of them and at that time he used to sell sending hand clothes commonly known as mitumba. He would wake up very early in the morning to go to Gikomba to buy stock.
Fast forward, that young man just out of school who found passion in business no longer sells mitumba but is the proud owner or two majorly stocked electronics shops in Nairobi and Kikuyu.
He now imports his things from other countries and even has links with the likes of Sayona and Samsung where he gets his stock from.
Most people like Alex, have used Mitumba business as a catapult to something better.
If you don’t have a lot of capital to start a business, I strongly believe that a mitumba business is one of the most profitable businesses you can venture into.

So what some it take to start a mitumba business in Kenya today?

According to a report by Reuters, Kenya exports approximately 100,000 tonnes of second hand clothes every year creating not only revenue for the government but millions of jobs for the youth.
1. How much capital do you need?
A small mitumba business can cost you anywhere from 500 to 1000 shillings.
A medium venture will require somewhere from 20,000 to 100,000 shillings and if you are looking for a large mitumba business, you will need more than 100K.
As you can see, the amount of capital you need, depends on the size of the business.
If you are just starting off, you can go for a small or medium venture.
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2. Determining your market
This is one of the initial processes in starting a second hand clothing business.
You can go ahead and create your own target market. Could be your colleagues or neighbors and then you can become the go to person for whatever they need.
3. Determining the location
For most people starting a business, I would advise that you create an online market first before thinking about a physical shop.
The good thing about an online shop is that you don’t have to stress about things like city council licenses or paying rent.
Create a Facebook page, use maybe 1K or less to promote it to reach the target people and you are in business.
Instagram is also a popular site for those who want to sell things.
Ensure that you market you stuff in the best way, provide advantages like free delivery within a given area and be aware of the competition since you are not the only one selling.
Online selling is about what makes your products unique.
It could be you delivery fee or the quality of your items.
All in all choose a powerful selling point and that is how you will keep people coming.
However, if you have the money to set up a physical shop, go with a place that has high traffic and be wary of when you open.
If you are working, it would be set to combine both online and physical selling.
4. Where to get stock
Conduct your research on the most reputable suppliers before you even begin.
You can either buy stock in bales or select desired clothes at a wholesale price.
For a small business it’s always advisable to go for the latter.
Ensure though that the supplier you use is reputable and sells their clothes at a reasonable price enough to guarantee you profit at the end of the day.
Most of the people who venture in mitumba business in Nairobi get their supplies from Gikomba and Muthurwa markets or Eastleigh.
If you are in another town, conduct your research and even ask around where other sellers get their stock.
Buying stock in bales
Some people opt to buy their stock in bales rather than going to the market and selecting the desired clothes. It is not only cheap but you get way more stock.
Most mitumba clothes sold in Kenya are imported from developed countries like Canada, Australia, USA, UK, Japan, Germany, and China among other European countries.
Most traders in Gikomba will tell you that the best quality is from the UK which also makes it a bit expensive. However, you can still get quality from Dubai at a cheaper price.
Most of the clothes shipped from Canada are oversized but will do well when adjusted.
A bale of children’s clothes for instance from Europe can go for as much as 30K, while one from China will go for 10K. The only difference is that the European ones are more quality that the Chinese ones.
Most people who deal with importing children second hand clothes admit that it is the most profitable because the bales will come with so many other goodies except for lighter clothes.
However, if you choose to be buying your own bales, depending on the capital you have you can ship from any country or just go and buy the entire bale from Gikomba.
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Most people are shy to venture into mitumba business they thing that it’s saturated but there are a lot of profits in it. Surprisingly if you have 1K, you can start selling mitumba clothes.  With this kind of business, you can be assured of at least 500 shillings in profit at the end of the day. Isn’t it better than just sitting at home waiting for someone to notice your application letter on their desk?
Lilian is a Communication Officer at Career Point Kenya? Got any business related questions? Email them to