In 2004, Christine Mulwa a Kenyan and owner of a network marketing business, took a Sh30, 000 loan and started a supplies and printing business, She rented a shop and bought stationery worth Sh6, 700 and set off.
“I searched for tenders to supply stationery and printing services while offering typesetting and printing services from my shop. I would have wished for (more), but I didn’t have the capacity to get big supply tenders.” She said.
Nevertheless, she hoped that her supply business would be the fuel to her first million. Little did she know that nearly a decade later, she would be almost as far from making her first million as she had been when she started out.
While she hoped to make her first million in the business, bank loans, operating capital and delayed payments would be major hurdles. The business appeared profitable on the surface but it carried many liabilities that ate into its profits.
“I would see a huge turnover that disappeared into liabilities. It was disappointing,” Christine says. “Sometimes I would supply only for my clients to say they’d pay in 90 days, yet I had more tenders to meet and loans to service.”
In a good month, Christine would make between Sh50, 000 and Sh100, 000. In a bad month, her profits would dip to Sh20, 000.
While she had the option of looking for employment and depending on the safety of a monthly salary, Christine was determined to remain her own boss.
“Although I am a certified computer programmer, the thought of looking for an IT programming job did not cross my mind. I wanted the freedom to chart my own business and financial path.”
Towards the end of 2010, the mother of two began to contemplate closing her supplies and printing shop and venture into a new business. “The business had been struggling to break even; I had to accept it wasn’t going to make me a millionaire and move on to something new,” she says.
In January 2011, she decided to jump ship and start a network marketing business. “It was not easy to recommend and convince consumers to buy goods directly from the company I was working with. But I managed to build a small circle and by the end of the month, I was paid Sh21, 000,” she says.
“Whenever consumers followed my recommendation and bought consumable products from the company, I’d earn a percentage in the five to 43 per cent range.”
The following month, she made Sh32, 000. In the third month, her income climbed to Sh46, 000. Soon, she began to earn between Sh82, 000 and Sh150, 000 per month. “I sometimes doubted my income. In my previous business, I had never made such money with no liabilities to offset,” she says.
Four months after starting her new business, Christine shut down her supplies and printing business. “The two could neither compare nor work side by side. I had no doubt that network marketing would be my takeoff and felt convinced that the supplies business was a monkey I needed to get off my back.”
Eighteen months after venturing into network marketing, she made her first million. However, crossing the one-million mark was not a walk in the park. “It took a gigantic effort to get the Sh1 million. My business had grown into Uganda and South Sudan in 2013 and I had established small shopping circles in United Kingdom. This was my biggest break and the coupon that made me a millionaire.”
Currently, Christine has a marketing network in seven countries. So far her biggest challenge has been convincing consumers to take on her products.
“I’ve found that money doesn’t really sleep and I have to constantly keep marketing my business and bringing in new consumers even as I maintain the already existing ones.”
To keep her high income running, Christine says that she researches and offers what consumers need. “A business that doesn’t meet and fulfill a need is as good as dead. I must offer what is needed in the market if I want to keep rising.
In her journey to making her first million, Christine says she learned to never lose focus of her goal.
“I wanted to make my own million. And although my businesses changed, my goal remained the same.” She adds that many other women fail in their attempts to becoming millionaires due to their own poverty mentality.
“Many of us are driven by the ‘What if I fail?” fear factor! We hardly stop to take a look at the other side and ask ourselves Don’t sit back and be content with a few thousands while a million sits somewhere waiting for you!” she said.