When Talib Ibrahim from Makina, Kibera travelled to Egypt to pursue further studies in Nautical Technology at the Maritime Academy, he had no prior knowledge of what was to befall him which later became a game changer in his life..
At the university, an opportunity for exporting flowers from Kenya to Egypt came forth and he grabbed it and made best of it. For now, he looks back with satisfaction at the strides he has made in uplifting his economic status and those of his Nubian community at Kibera slums through the venture.
“I developed a good relationship with the local Egyptians who soon wanted to find out how to buy flowers directly from Kenya,” says Mr. Talib.
He became the contact person since he was a Kenyan and his ability to converse in Arabic was icing on the cake. Knowing that this was a golden opportunity that would probably never come back, Talib went to the internet to research on how the business works.
By the time the client was contacting him, he was armed with contacts and price offers from various flower farms willing to do business with him. “Within 10 days I had four price offers. I entered into a deal with an Egyptian client but my first attempt at the business was very disappointing,” he recalls.
He exported 17 boxes each containing 5,400 stems of medium-head roses instead of premium roses to the displeasure of the client. But the customer took the blame as he had not specified his requirements and duly paid for the order. And that is how his flower exporting company Abdulmuttalib Holdings was born.
It is located at Kibera’s area, which is regarded as the slum’s central business district. He opines that ‘Makina’ in the Nubian language means ‘getting together’ after dealing with the Egyptian client Talib learnt the finer details of flower exporting. He has since developed close ties with Magana Flower farm which delivers most of his orders.
Most of his clients are in Arabian countries and they get his contacts from an online portal he has been operating since he opened business. Arab clients prefer premium roses and that is what he strives to export to them in various colors and assortment.
“Currently I am working with recurrent clients; I know every week I must have 4,000 stems of roses on standby,” he averred.
There is always a possibility that the client might want more,” he says. On getting an order from the client, Mr.Talib drafts a profoma invoice guiding the customer on payment and then does a purchase order to the flower farms.
As is the rule in the trade, the consignment should be made up of a mixture of rose petal colors. With 30 per cent of it being red. The other 30 per cent should be white and the remaining 40 per cent made up of all the other color mix distributed evenly.
Business is fast picking up and he plans to expand to other ventures, including trade in beauty products and fabrics. While the business is still at its infancy stage, Talib who is the chief executive officer, says it can fetch a pre-tax profit of Sh120, 000 in a good month.
The high seasons for the business are in February owing to Valentine’s Day that is celebrated globally. In the Arabian market, March draws some good returns as the locals celebrate Mother’s Day. The days after Hajj and Ramadhan also offer some good returns.
Talib has four employees but hopes to employ more people as the business expands. He says if an investor comes forward with as little as $50, 000 his first step would be to establish a cold room in Kibera where the flowers can be preserved. He would then use the rest of the money to employ more staff to run his business, he says.
“My aim is to improve the economic status of my community who have been marginalized for too long and denied opportunities to develop,” says Mr.Talib.
Currently his company has focused in growing of Gerbera and contracted farmers to grow outdoor summer flowers. He urges young people to think first before declaring there are no employment opportunities. He says he has seen people who started small making it big thanks to their patience and hard work.
This article first appeared in the Hortfresh Journal (March – April 2018 Edition)
To contact Talib pls email [email protected]