My Campus Hustle: How Greed For Smokies Made My Business Fail

My first business venture came around in campus, second year. It was nothing meticulous, or well thought-out. I just chanced upon a couple of seniors disposing stuff weeks to their final exams. It’s a regular comrade thing, to pass off campus ‘survival tools’.

Assorted comrade stuff was on sale, from weathered printers, dart boards, blenders to some quite ageless Pentium 4 computers.

I’d purchase a Smokie trolley – for a side hustle. The trolley was functional, and guaranteed to make campus stay easier with good weekly returns. Plus, I’d inherit business goodwill: a coveted spot at the hostels entrance.

I’d be at my spot every evening after classes, selling Smokies and Kachumbari. The Smokie business was, and is still great. The capital was quite low; just buy a fairly used trolley – at, say Ksh4,000.00. Besides, it didn’t attract other expenses like county permits, rent or utility bills.

Easy enough, right? Wrong! I didn’t last a week – selling Smokies!

I largely blame it on my background – I didn’t grow up around Smokies! I simply found them irresistible! As an investor, I’d often blur the line to become the client.

It’d depend on the day; campus traffic was heavier on Mondays and Tuesdays. On these days, I’d handle three or four dozens of Smokies, daily. The hostels are deserted over weekends.

Once I got the first batch roasted, I’d have one Smokie, to ‘kufungua biashara…

After a few minutes, I’d have another Smokie, to ‘kuskia kama ziko sawa…’

I’d prepare the hallowed kachumbari, the must-have accompaniment. No one, absolutely no one enjoys Smokies without kachumbari.

I’d have another Smokie, to ‘make sure kachumbari iko sawa…’.

In the first quarter of an hour of the business opening, the investor has consumed three Smokies – before the first client has made a purchase. Hey, they were irresistible. I first came face to face with a Smokie in my 20’s!

In the village, we ate leftover Ugali for breakfast – not Smokies, bacon or assorted meats!

Then, friends will either make or break your business. I learnt that business tip, the hard way.

A friend comes, he’d ask to have a Smokie to ‘kufungua biashara, nitakuwa customer wa daily’. In my naivety, I’d fall for the lie. I suddenly had lots of friends! I was popular!

In my first week, I made little from my Smokies gig. The profit was negative, at an almost 100% loss rate. I had to call long-suffering mother to boost my capital. I couldn’t admit it, but I had literally eaten my stock! I loved Smokies! Before you judge, who doesn’t?!

Luckily, the novelty with Smokies had started to wear off into my second week of campus business. It’s like working in a bakery, the smell of bread is revolting. Or, working as a butcher – meat no longer calls the shots.

I started getting weary of Smokies. The smell turned repugnant and the sight revolting.

Unbelievably, that’s when the Smokie business turned around.

As an investor, I was my own worst enemy. I started recording good daily sales and building a solid reputation with clients. Gradually, I’d start a network – adding a series of trolleys and recruiting staff.

Towards my third year in campus I had become a business don, running a miniature Smokie empire! I’d hire a fleet of trolleys to freshers, make supplies and make rounds in the evening making collections.

I opened a Co-op Bank account at a local branch. I wanted more flexibility, so I downloaded MCo-op Cash app from Playstore. I had banking services at my fingertips. Campus environment is quite volatile, I didn’t want the risks that came with handling cash.

As I made collections, I’d immediately send them to my account, via MCo-op Cash. It helps alot that checking Co-op Bank account balances is free. I learnt an easy way to transfer money between bank accounts.

As my safety net, I’d make weekly deposits to my mother’s Co-op Bank account as savings.

Besides making deposits and money transfers easier locally, MCo-op Cash offers a rich boutique of money transfer solutions offered by Co-op Bank on a global level. For Android users, click here to download MCo-op Cash app from Playstore. For IOS users, MCo-op Cash app is available here on Applestore.

Or, just dial *667# to register.

About this writer:

Kibaki Muthamia

Storyteller. SEO & UX Expert. Scriptwriter. CVs & Resumes. Biographies. [email protected]