Mitumba is a Swahili term meaning “bundles” used to refer to used clothing donated by people in wealthy countries or imported for sale in African countries from more developed and rich western countries, for example, the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, China, etc. They are usually in plastic-wrapped packages, commonly referred to as “bale” by the locals.
Mitumba is mostly sold in open-air markets, retail stores, or shops, but some sellers have started an online business. They have termed it online “thrift” stores since it deals with second-hand clothes. These vendors sell not only clothes but also shoes, bedding, and several household items.
Mitumba business is one of the most profitable businesses in Kenya.
What are the types of online sellers in the Mitumba industry?
There are three types of online sellers.
1. Mitumba clothes advertised online, sold offline in private shops
Sellers with physical stores in central locations are located mostly in the Central Business District (CBD) for online suppliers based in Nairobi. These suppliers advertise their items online, and buyers can go to the store to pick the item or have it delivered to their preferred location within the CBD.
2. Mitumba clothes advertised online, sold offline on rented shelves
Some suppliers rent “shelves” from other businesses with physical stores. They place their items in these stores, and the buyers, once ordered the items, go to these stores to pick the items. These “shelves” are also located in central locations that are easily accessible to the buyer.
3. Mitumba clothes advertised online, sold online
Some suppliers run their businesses from their homes. They post their items online with the prices, and the interested customer contacts them. The supplier delivers the items to the buyer at the buyer’s convenience. A delivery fee is usually paid by the buyer.
Mitumba clothes sold online is a trending business idea
Online mitumba business is rising rapidly, and competition is extremely high. A supplier in this business needs to be knowledgeable about the industry. They should know the ins and outs of:
- how the industry operates
- how to reach their target audience
- what are the market prices for the different items they are selling
- how to advertise their items to reach the targeted audience
- where to get quality products for their customers.
There are a lot of sellers in the mitumba industry who are trying to improve their business and make it more profitable. The industry is crowded. As a seller, you need to be patient to successfully run an online business in such an industry. You also need to be competent and efficient when running an online mitumba business.
Because the Mitumba industry is profitable, one needs readily available capital to start and run a successful mitumba business, especially online. The best thing about this venture is that you do not need a huge sum of capital. You can start the business with less than Ksh10000. Mitumba bale prices range from Ksh8000 to Ksh50000. For online businesses, one can either buy a bale or buy the stock at wholesale price from wholesale suppliers.
Business Model Canvas of Mitumba Online Business
To run a successful online mitumba business, you need to know the target market. Mitumba is mostly for economical buyers, cheapskates, couponers, and minimalists who want to buy nice and quality clothes and household items for very low prices. As a seller, to know and understand your target market, what the customers want to purchase and where they purchase it from, you need to know where to locate the buyers online and which social media platforms are easy to reach them.
To reach multiple buyers at once, you need to take advantage of the fact that most buyers use social media. Create a Facebook page, Instagram page, or Youtube channel. Post images of the items you are selling with the prices and post them on these platforms. This will enable you to reach more buyers all at once and make them aware of the items you are selling.
You need to be able to separate the buyers and know how to reach the audience who will be interested in your items. For example, if you are selling baby clothes, how can you reach buyers who are parents? you can advertise your stock to different platforms e.g. Facebook pages or groups for mothers, since these are the target audience.
As an online mitumba business owner, you should deliver to buyers products of value should the buyers choose to buy from you. You should convince a buyer why they should buy from you and not your competitor. How are your products different and better than the others from the other businesses?
Online mitumba business being a highly competitive venture, you may want to stand out among the rest and get more buyers. Convince the customers why they need to buy from you and how your products are worth their money and they would be getting what they are paying for. You should aim for customer satisfaction to stay in business and make money.
Quality and grades of Mitumba clothes
To reach more customers, you need to know the different products the customers want. For example, if you are selling mitumba dresses online, you should be aware of the different mitumba grading phrases and the ones the buyer is interested in.
The different mitumba grading is:
The dresses in this bale are new and have never been worn. Some might still have tags and labels from the store. These dresses tend to be a little expensive.
Grade 1 (Grade A)
The dresses have been worn a couple times but are still in good quality and still wearable. They are cheaper than the camera bale.
Grade 2 (Grade B)
The dresses have been worn many times and are not as pleasing as the grade 1 dresses. They tend to be very cheap. Most online sellers do not sell the grade 2 items.
You, therefore, should know what the customers are attracted to and need. They should stay up to date with the trends and fashion to sell more mitumba.
When buyers want to buy mitumba online, they are looking for a really specific item. As a seller, therefore, you should be able to filter the buyer’s search by size, color and price so the buyer can find something matching their taste.
You need to convince your buyers that you have the items they are looking for and why they should buy from you and not your competitors.
- Use Instagram page
- Use Facebook page and groups
- Create a website
- Open a YouTube channel
Using social media can act as free marketing for the business. Since you do not have direct contact with the customers, you need to find a way to catch buyers’ attention and stand out. Saying you have the stock is not enough when you are running an online business. Buyers need to see what exactly you are selling.
The best way to do this is to take photographs of the items you are selling and post them on your social media pages. The photos should be of high quality and appealing. They should be eye-catching to the buyer.
Before posting the photos, you should include the color, size, and price of the item. For example, black chiffon top size 6, available at Ksh300. A buyer will be inclined to buy the top if it matches the criteria they are looking for. You should also disclose the mode of payment that you accept. For example, pay on order or pay on delivery. Whether you accept cash or mobile money transfer, for instance, M-Pesa.
If you want to be successful in the online thrift business, you need to create and operate a professional website for credibility and authenticity. This will enable customers to confirm whether you are a legit business and not a scammer. Customers will also be able to view reviews from other customers and your relationship with them. Having positive reviews will enable you to get more buyers.
Your customers are also able to locate you when they want to purchase something from your business of return items that do not fit them. This improves your business operations. As an online seller, you should not rely solely on social media platforms. Unlike a website these platforms crash all the time.
Since you are a supplier in online thrift, you should create and maintain a good customer relationship with your customers. You should be able to leave a good impression whenever you interact with the customers.
You should aim to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the customer that goes beyond the first purchase. You want the buyer to keep buying from you. Therefore, you have to connect with them on a much more personal level.
When you interact and connect with a buyer, you can understand their requirements, what they like and prefer, and create a sense of mutual understanding, leading to a positive customer relationship and good image for your business. Customer relationship is essential as it gives room for improvement. It allows you to understand the buyers as some of their needs and preferences may change. As a seller, therefore, you should still be able to deliver.
The mitumba industry is not constant and keeps on changing depending on the trends and fashion. You, therefore, need to have knowledge of these trends and what your buyers want. This is why connecting with the buyers and having a personal and positive relationship with them is crucial.
To set up a successful and profitable mitumba online business, you need an efficient and competent supplier. You need to be aware of the terms used by suppliers in the market, for example, camera, referring to the new clothes.
Since the mitumba online business is primarily on a small scale, it will not be wise to buy a bale because not all the clothes in the bale are in good condition, which may lead to extra costs on repair. Some might not be in any shape to be sold at all, leading to losses.
Suppose you want to select a camera instead of buying a bale of mitumba. In that case, you can find a mitumba supplier from the open-air market who opens bale regularly and would be willing to sell the pieces at a reasonable price. You can look for a trustworthy supplier who will not tamper with the bale by removing the camera and replacing it with the grade 1 or grade 2 pieces.
Creating a partnership with such a supplier will ensure you always get the good pieces for your business.
You could also forge a partnership with an offline seller, who isn’t tech-savvy, but knows the industry well and has trustworthy suppliers.
As an online mitumba business owner, you need to have pieces that are always appealing and attractive to the buyer. Most online shoppers are always looking for specific items, you, therefore, should be able to deliver the pieces the buyers are interested in.
To run a successful and profitable online business, especially mitumba clothing, you must learn how to properly exhibit the items to catch the buyer’s attention. You can use mannequins, style the clothes, take a photo, and post it on your social media page. You can also display the clothes and add accessories, for example, handbags, headbands, jewelry, and scarves.
You can also involve the buyers and viewers by filming yourself going to the open-air market, for example, Gikomba market, and choosing the pieces you want to sell. You can also wear the clothes and style them to show the buyers how to style different garments.
The seller can also pay to have their business advertised by social media influencers and bloggers on their different social media accounts. They have a huge following on these accounts, and therefore, many prospective buyers will see and go to your page to check your stock and buy the clothes they are interested in.
Different sellers have different modes of payment for their business. You can decide on cash on order or cash on delivery. Most online mitumba businesses prefer cash on order to ensure the customer is really interested in the clothing. Some sellers, mostly those who do delivery, agree to cash on delivery. These modes are better because they are a one-time payment, and the seller cannot make losses if a buyer defaults in payment.
The online thrift business is mainly about the exhibition. How are you able to exhibit your stock to appeal to buyers? You might incur extra costs in buying accessories that you use to style and display your stock. Furthermore, paying influencers and bloggers to advertise your business may be costly. For the sellers doing deliveries, they incur extra costs in fare.
To run a successful and profitable online mitumba business, you need to be authentic and maintain a good customer relationship. You should always include a description and prices of the clothes you are selling. This makes it easier for the buyer to decide what to buy according to their taste.
Where I can learn more about Mitumba?
You can join our free and open for everybody Discord server called Mitumba Business and find sellers, suppliers, clients and partners!