Teenage passion brews booming business
At the age of 16, Omar Mahmud started selling clothes to friends and relatives to quench his desire of running a business.
Unlike many youths of his age who would rather indulge in buying luxury items, he saved the little pocket money he got from his parents and started trading in second hand clothes.
“While I saw a thriving business in what I was doing, people could not understand why a Form Two student would engage in such an activity.
They concluded it was a fancy undertaking that would go away with time,” Mr Mahmud told Money in an interview.
Today he is the founder director of Limitless Reload, a clothing shop with its roots in Mombasa and which last December opened its first branch in Nairobi.
“Ever since I started thinking business, I was so drawn into fashion that I knew there was nothing else I could do. Even with second hand clothes, I was selective and my clients would be surprised at how I was able to obtain unique ones.”
While in Form Four, his business partner, Mr Faisal Hassan, discovered that the young man was serious and asked if they could partner.
This was a positive move, he says, since it was evident that people had started taking him seriously; he quickly brought him on board.
After completing high school and alive to the fact that he needed exposure early enough if he was to make a mark in the fashion world, Mr Mahmud decided to venture out of the country.
In 2007, he spent part of the Sh200,000 he had saved for more than two years on an air ticket to United Arab Emirates, Dubai, where he had been promised a job at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
On arrival, he shopped around and bought some clothes that he sent back to Mr Hassan. It is while working as an airport transfer representative at the hotel — one of the modern hotels in Dubai with 598 rooms and suites, 19 private villas and over 20 restaurants and bars — that Mr Mahmud says his mind opened up.
“Here, I interacted with people from all parts of the world especially Europe. Since my interest was selling clothes, I gathered good information including the best places to source clothes,” he said.
He kept sending Mr Hassan money to revamp their business and a year later when he felt he had saved a good amount to open a shop, he came back home. With an initial capital of about Sh1 million from his savings, he set up his first shop within Mombasa’s old town.
“It was a humble beginning because if you consider all the related costs, the stock was worth very little money so we set out to grow sales by advertising aggressively,” he says.
The business grew so fast that two years later, he relocated to the current location along Digo road, Mombasa’s main business street.
Today, wha started as passion for a 16-year-old has blossomed into a big business. He employs 10 people in total five in Mombasa and a similar number in Nairobi.
In order to maintain a rich choice for his customers, he sources new clothes from more than 200 shops in France and Turkey, he says.
Adding that he specialises in unique outfits to ensure Limitless Reload provides different products from the competition. He also sells other items including handbags, wallets and belts.
“One of the hallmarks of our success is serious marketing which we embarked on after we branded our company complete with a slogan “Dress to Impress,” he says, adding that they have put up billboards in Mombasa and Nairobi besides using the social media.
As for the new branch in Nairobi, he attributes it to “public demand” because when people from the city on holiday at the coast popped in and liked his outfits, they always asked if he had a branch in Nairobi.
Some of them were disappointed because after holidaying and exhausting their budgets, they could not purchase the clothes.
In response to this, they quickly set up plans of a branch in Nairobi and settled on Westlands as the best location. “We spent about Sh5 million on the shop and opened doors in December last year. So far, we have not been disappointed,” he says.
“This is a vibrant area where there are activities all the time and we operate 24-hours a day to give our clients a chance to sample the outfits,” he says, adding that they plan to open branches in other countries in the region including Uganda and Tanzania.
His dream is to transform Limitless Reload into a fashion house incorporating designers. “We are at the moment not thinking of huge profits so whatever money we earn we plough it back,” he says.