Yvonne Ngugi is the proprietor of Shoe Story Closet, an online fashion store that sells footwear. She is in her early 30s.
What is Shoe Story Closet about?
It is an online shoe shop for ladies who want to look good from the feet all the way up. About three years ago, I started a blog called Shoe Story. It was a platform for me to tell the story of my passion for shoes, and to share fashion tips for wearing different types of shoes. It is from this blog that my current business, Shoe Story Closet, was born. People often asked me where I bought my shoes and so in 2017, I decided to try and sell a couple of them. The outcome was good and within a short time, my passion for shoes had turned into a profit making enterprise.
Had you always thought about getting into business?
No. In fact, I was employed for eight years working at a digital marketing agency based in Nairobi. The pay was good but when my online shoe business picked up, I took a leap of faith and quit my job. This allowed me to run something that was totally mine, and now I hope to make a positive impact on those that I interact with, especially my customers.
I’ve always had a passion for fashion. When I was younger, I used to sketch women’s outfits on pieces of plain paper, and had named my then non-existent design business “YSM”. As time wore on, I realised that I was fascinated more by shoes than anything else. I have never succeeded in shaking off this fetish.
How much capital did you have when you started out?
I spent Sh50,000 from my savings to ship in my first consignment. I had formed a habit of saving money when I was still employed, and this is what helped me turn my hobby into a business.
What challenges did you face?
Shipping the shoes wasn’t easy because it involves a lengthy, expensive process that sometimes eats heavily into the business’s profit margins. This is a challenge I’m still dealing with now, but I have found a shipping company that transports the goods within a shorter period, and at a cheaper cost. Everything I do has to be planned and budgeted for in advance, but I am constantly looking for options that are easier, faster and more cost effective.
Have you suffered any major losses? What did you learn from them?
There are times when I have tried to bring unique types of shoes thinking they will sell out as quickly as the other batches, only for me to end up with dead stock. To avoid this, I mostly bring in shoes that have already been pre-ordered by my customers.
Do you miss your days in employment? Are you scared of failure?
I do have worries, especially with regards to capital. When you are working, you know that a salary is coming every end of the month, and there is some comfort in that. But as an entrepreneur, you have to stay alert and involved every day of the year, because there is no salary at the end of the month to fall back on. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I intend to keep promoting my shoe business through my shoe stories.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Sometimes, the secret to success lies in your passion. Find out what you’re passionate about, and find out how you can turn it into a money-making venture. But don’t expect success to come overnight simply because you’re passionate. You should strive to turn your passion to profit.