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From milk delivery to big time furniture business

At 27 years, Peter Makau, has employed dozens of his peers in his multi-million furniture business located in Nairobi’s Ngara area.

The two years old business which was started with zero capital, with a borrowed two-seater sofa set as his first display, now brings in a profit of Sh2million per month.

Mr Makau started off as a milk deliveryman in Ngara in 2012 where he would buy milk from farms in Kiambu and deliver to houses.

“I used to have a bike and the metal container that is used to transport milk then with a measuring jug I would sell to individual houses around Ngara,” says the father of one.

It was while selling milk that he enrolled for a diploma in graphic design to add onto his Bachelor in Information Science degree that he had acquired early that year.

“After completing the diploma I started working at the Kenya Institute of Education (now Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development) and used the income to open a movie shop in Ngara,” narrates Makau.

The movie business grew to the extent that Mr Makau quit employment and went into business full time.

“The movie business started facing challenges after too many shops were opened and as I result I went into so much debt that I had to think of an alternative,” he says.

SOFA ZETU

It was in mid-2014 that Sofa Zetu was born, as a digital marketing platform for furniture business owners along Park Road to advertise their sofa sets.

“I would act as a broker and advertise the sofas then when a client places an order I would get my commission from the shop that made the seats,” says Mr Makau.

Since production was being done by the fundis employed in the sofa stalls along park road, Mr Makau would sometimes get complains from clients whose orders went wrong and it was those disappointments that prompted him to open his own furniture business.

In August 2014 he borrowed a two-seater sofa and used it as his display earning him a three-seater sofa order.

“I hired one fundi who made the sofa and slowly by slowly orders started coming in from clients who saw our work online,” recalls Mr Makau.

He then used the profits to build his first workshop along the same road where he had started his business.

“I used to plough back the profits by increasing the production team so as to meet the demand and in June 2015 I opened a showroom along Murang’a road,” he adds.

Mr Makau has since steered his business from making sales of Sh200,000 a month with a profit of Sh50,000 after operation costs to selling furniture worth Sh6 million in a good month with a Sh2 million profit.

PRODUCTION CHALLENGES

He ploughs back a larger percentage of the profits to meet the ever rising demand for quality furniture.

“We have expanded the production team to about 12 people and a total of 26 people including the management and now we have one showroom and two workshops; one in Ngara another one in Gikomba market,” says Mr Makau.

Most of Sofa Zetu customers are obtained online with others being referred by a previous client and a few walk-ins.

The business has expanded to not only dealing with furniture but also curtains and interior design fittings.

“In future we plan to go into full home living supplies and venture more into interior design. We are also working on franchise as now we are doing deliveries countrywide which can be expensive but with workshops in major towns business will be more cost effective,” says Mr Makau.

Production challenges are many especially with regards to getting a team that can maintain the quality of sofas that is required.

Mr Makau admits that cash flow can also be a problem where too many customers place orders but with minimal deposit amounts although he is looking for banks that can lend the money based on LPOs.

Sofa Zetu has two delivery pick-ups and during peak months like November and December when most people upgrade their homes the company outsources three other stand-by vehicles.