ENTREPRENEUR WALLACE WAIGURU AT HIS DAGORETTI CORNER SHOP. PHOTO | FLORENCE BETT | NMG
How frustrations led to a cash-minting leather firm
Wallace Waiguru’s own frustration is what drove him into the leather industry.
“I started my business because I was unable to find quality locally-made leather bags,” says the 31-year old founder of Eden Leather Goods.
Mr Waiguru runs Eden Leather as his side-hustle.
He is the creative director for MoSound Events, an events planning and management firm located in Westlands, Nairobi where he has been working for a decade.
“I started the business in February 2014. All our products are 100 per cent leather. We make products for both men and women,” he says.
Mr Waiguru graduated in 2006 with a Diploma in graphic design from the Academy of Graphic Technologies. A year later, he joined MoSound Events.
Using savings of Sh500,000 from this job, he decided to venture into entrepreneurship to supplement his income. He makes belts, wallets, and laptop and travel bags for men. Women products include clutch, tote, and messenger bags.
His products range between Sh3,000 and Sh15,000.
“I got burned in our first year because we were doing a lot of sampling for the products we wanted to make,” he told Enterprise during an interview.
“I was sourcing my leather from a tannery in Athi River. It cost more than where I source now in Sagana.”
Mr Waiguru buys 600 square feet of leather for Sh150,000. He makes the trip to the tannery to select and collect the leather himself at least once a month.
Dyed leather comes in a variety of colours – green, red and blue.
“Our signature colour is chestnut. We’re working on getting a signature design,” says Mr Waiguru.
Last year the business started accessorising products with other materials like kitenge fabric and sisal to add value to products.
Eden Leather has also been experimenting with waterproof canvas, which has a wider colour range and is easier to clean.
The accessorising materials cost less than leather and therefore lower input expenses.
Penetrating the urban market was a challenge for business in its first couple of months.
“Kenyans love quality products, but they don’t want to pay for them. They wonder why we’re charging almost double what they would get for an imported bag in imitated leather,” he said.
“But people are becoming more aware of why a bag or wallet that’s 100 per cent leather costs more.”
Staffing was also another challenge for the business. Mr Waiguru could not get employees who shared his vision and therefore had to train them extensively to get the quality he desired. The business, which is located in Dagoretti Corner, has three employees.
They operate from a container-turned-workshop in the sprawling market, amidst a hubbub of car garages, bars and restaurants, kiosks and tightly-knit apartment blocks.
Mr Waiguru says they’re looking to move to a more customer-friendly location – one that’s more accessible and befitting to his clientele.
On average, he sells 50 units per month which, based on the cost of each product, means the business makes at least Sh100,000 every month.
Mr Waiguru also has corporate clients, among them Safaricom, Acumen and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).