Many ask how to start a mitumba business, but only a few take the first step. Do you know what that first step is? Gathering information.
Know how much capital the business needs, where to get mitumba suppliers, and where to sell your mitumba, and you will have a successful mitumba business.
This article is a resource for you. It will give you in-depth information on those three issues. Further, you will learn a thing or two from people who are already in business by watching mitumba success stories through videos embedded in this article.
You can jump to specific parts of this article by clicking on any title below. Alternatively, read the entire article on how to start a mitumba business in Kenya. It is informative. That is a promise.
- Types of Mitumba Bales: What is Mitumba Grading?
- Is a Bale more Profitable than Selecting Pieces from Random Bales?
- How to Find a Mitumba Supplier
- Exploring Mitumba Bale Prices: What is the Average Cost of a Bale?
- How Much Capital Do You Need to Invest in Mtumba?
- The Pricing Strategy for Mitumba Bales
- How to Know the Fast Moving, Most Profitable Mitumba Clothes
- How to Start a Mitumba Business Online
- How to Sell Mitumba Clothes from a Stall
- Problems/market Forces in Mtumba Business
- Mitumba Vs New Clothes: Which Business is More Profitable?
- Final Thoughts
Types of Mitumba Bales: What is Mitumba Grading?
Before we discuss capital and other resources needed to start this business, let us understand what you will be selling. What is a mitumba bale?
Importers grade mitumba according to its wear and tear using categories locally known as bales. Therefore, when you visit your mitumba supplier, you should know the differences between bales as they all attract different prices. Even if you wish to start your business by selecting a few mitumba pieces, learning how they grade clothes will get you the best quality for your market.
What you can sell in an open-air market is not the same quality as the second-hand clothes in most thrift stores on Instagram and upmarket boutiques. Here is the difference.
The items in this bale are new, never worn. Most of them may still have store labels on them. Probably, someone bought those clothes and dropped them at a charity pick-up point months later without wearing them first. Crème bales are expensive and suitable for a high-end boutique. For example, a mixed dress crème bale may cost over KSh50,000.
Grade 1 (Grade A)
The items have seen a few washes, but they are still wearable. The Grade 1 bale is cheaper than the crème bale. For example, a Grade A duvet covers bale costs over KSh20,000, while a crème bale costs KSh40,000.
Grade 2 (Grade B)
The previous owner wore the items severally, so they are not as pleasing as items in a Grade 1 bale. But, Grade 2 is cheaper. Hence, Grade 2 is suitable for an open-air market because the average price of mitumba in such markets is about KSh100, so you will not incur a loss.
What is actually inside a bale? Brie The Stylist explain it to you below.
Is a Bale more Profitable than Selecting Pieces from Random Bales?
Beyond understanding what types of mitumba bales are in the market, you also need to know what is inside each bale, as the quality of items inside is different.
Some pieces in a bale are almost new, and the mitumba industry calls these items camera. Some clothes are gently used and are not as appealing as the camera pieces.
The third variety consists of items with some defects like missing buttons, although not worn out. People in the mitumba industry refer to such items as fagia.
It might be the best choice when starting your mitumba business with less than KSh500 because you can pick a few fagia items for as low as KSh20 each. However, you can only sell these in an open-air market.
Starting your mitumba business by buying a whole bale is more profitable because you get your money back as soon as you sell all camera pieces. Additionally, with a bale, you sell to both customers and resellers. For example, you can sell the best of your stock from a shop and the unattractive items from a stand in a local open-air market.
Mitumba success story – Grace Wambere explains that you can start with a bale as long as you know how to deal with the dead stock (fagia).
Remember, bales are unpredictable. The only person who knows what is in them is the guy who packaged them overseas. Hence, you might get many defective or unappealing items in each package.
If you only have a few thousand Shillings to invest, select pieces instead of buying a bale of mitumba clothes. The only advantage with bales is you can run two shops or businesses: one shop to target wholesale and retail customers who select from the bales you open and a second shop to supply unopened mitumba bales.
How to Find a Mitumba Supplier
Before setting up your mitumba business, find a competent and efficient supplier.
Find a trustworthy supplier who will not tamper with the bale by removing the best pieces and repackaging the old stock.
Secondly, learn as many industry terms as possible. You will hear suppliers talking about chiffon tops, kids rummage, household bale, fancy tops, poly dresses (official dresses), and mixed dresses (a mixture of denim, cotton and other materials).
If you want to select camera instead of buying a bale of mtumba, find a mitumba trader who opens bales regularly and is willing to sell camera pieces to you. You may have to pay in advance as assurance that you will show up when the seller opens a bale for you to pick the best items first.
If you do not find it appropriate to pay in advance, visit open-air markets like Korogocho at dawn and select items freely from various traders. Mitumba traders flock to Gikomba as early as 5:30 a.m in search of stock.
Exploring Mitumba Bale Prices: What is the Average Cost of a Bale?
Mitumba bale prices range from KSh13,000 to KSh60,000. The business environment of mitumba importers in Kenya dictates mitumba bale prices. For instance, the cost of renting a warehouse varies from one region to the other. Additionally, some importers have a larger team of employees.
Mitumba suppliers import used clothes from different countries.
The Fashion Parlour enlightens its audience about doing business in the fashion and beauty industry, and mitumba businesses are part of this industry.
Hence, this website is not endorsing any mitumba supplier. This article is for information purposes only, so you have to go further and interrogate the offers you get from the suppliers below. Also, be wary of scams, and always read customer reviews.
This list of mitumba suppliers is not exhaustive; these are a few of the mitumba sellers who have been in the online market for the longest time. There are so many other suppliers to compare.
Premium Bales Africa
Facebook page: Premium Mitumba Bales Africa
Purple Queen Stores
Facebook Page: Purple Queen Stores Kenyan
Mitumba Chap Chap Bales
Best Mitumba Bales
Facebook Page: Best Mitumba Bales
All Camera Mitumba Bales
Phone: 0701 047792
Facebook Page: All Camera Mitumba BALES
Stacey Wa Mitumba
Phone: 0789 473921
Facebook Page: Stacey Wa Mitumba
Some mitumba traders say some countries have better quality than others, while others only buy China bales because they are cheaper. Other sellers claim the country of origin affects the size, so they prefer bales shipped from Canada or the USA because the physical traits of the population in those regions guarantee larger sizes.
Remember, the price of mitumba bales should not be the only factor when starting a mitumba business. Before you select a bale because it is the cheapest or most popular item on sale, think about your target audience, business location, and capital.
Mitumba success story – The story of Stacy Ochieng, who runs Stecy Wa Mitumba, will inspire you to start from the bottom by taking the early morning walks to Gikomba or other mitumba markets. Stacy started her business on the streets of Nairobi as a hawker. She tried other businesses first, such as Mama Fua and selling fish. Then, she ventured into selling second-hand clothes with a capital of KSh1,000.
How Much Capital Do You Need to Invest in Mtumba?
You can start a mitumba business with as low as KSh100 and expect a profit margin of 50 to 100%. However, the amount of capital dictates what you sell, where you get your items from, and where you sell them. For example, with KSh100, collect ties, socks and bras from various sellers, and resell them from an open-air market.
For KSh100, you must select items from another trader.
However, if you have more capital, you can buy a bale and enjoy the freedom to set up your business in a stall or an open-air market.
To know how much capital you need for a mitumba business with a premise, list all the expenses, including your stall rent for at least three months.
The expenses include the cost of stall installations, salaries, a business license, a steamer, a mannequin, hangers and a motorbike if you would like to do deliveries yourself.
Most mitumba sellers say they started in other businesses or employment and raised capital to set up a second-hand clothes business.
Mitumba success story – Winjoy sold boiled eggs (mayai boilo) in Meru for about a year and saved KSh100,000. Her next venture was selling fruits before she started buying mtumba bales in Gikomba and reselling the pieces in Meru.
Now, she sells mitumba bales in Gikomba.
The Pricing Strategy for Mitumba Bales
1. Sell all items of a low-grade bale at the same price.
You can open a bale and sell everything at the same price in an open-air market. The price of each item is a fraction of the cost of the bale and the profit expected.
If you take some clothes home from the first day, sell them at a lower price the following day. You can wait until all the items sell, mix the last pieces with a new bale, or set the old pieces aside and sell them alongside a new bale. Alternatively, get two stands. Stock one stand with a new bale and sell old stock (fagia) at a throwaway price from the other stand.
2. Set different prices depending on the quality.
It is the best pricing strategy for high-quality bales like Grade A and B. This strategy suits stall owners, whether selling in retail or wholesale. First, sort the items into camera, middle quality, and fagia. For instance, a poly dress bale bought at KSh30,000 and delivered in Nakuru for KSh1,000 means it cost KSh31,000. Hence, the 150 pieces in that bale must yield KSh31,000, plus profit.
Out of the 150 pieces, you realise 70 dresses are almost new, 50 are in good condition, and 30 are not pleasing. Divide the cost (KSh31,000) by the 70 pieces, and you get KSh443. Consequently, sell the 70 pieces between KSh450 and KSh500 to get your money back. Next, sell the remaining 80 pieces between KSh300 and KSh200 for a profit of about KSh20,000.
When using this pricing strategy in an open-air market, state clearly that each item has a different price so that your customers know before they rummage through the pile.
How to Know the Fast Moving, Most Profitable Mitumba Clothes
All second-hand clothes sell. However, more mitumba traders specialise in clothes and shoes for women. Shem Spiess, one of the top online mitumba bale suppliers, says chiffon and t-shirt tops sell fast.
Factors influencing mitumba business in your local market include the weather and demographics like age and income status. For instance, when targeting girls in high school, selling bras at KSh50 is more profitable than buying an expensive bale to retail each piece at KSh200.
How to Start a Mitumba Business Online
There are three types of mitumba businesses. You are either a retailer, a wholesaler or both. A wholesaler needs a few million Shillings to ship a container of mitumba wear with about 550 bales, so let us leave that for another day.
As a retailer, sell exclusively online, set up a physical shop or sell in a make-shift stall (kibanda) in a local market. Whichever platform you choose, be patient and resilient.
Mitumba is a good side hustle. You can make deliveries during your lunch break and over the weekend. Also, wake up early on weekends to buy your stock in Gikomba or elsewhere.
Irene Oduor started her business in June 2016, and it meets all her financial needs.
“I chose to sell kidswear because after doing my research, I found that selling kids’ wear is lucrative because babies outgrow their outfits fast. Most importantly, I love children, so dressing babies is fun, and I do it effortlessly.
She is active on Facebook, continually posting baby wear on her business page – Timeless Kidswear. Irene makes deliveries throughout the region, as far as Malindi and Busia.
Besides, by selling online, I reach even those around East Africa, and the more customers access my page, the more it boosts my sales, as long as I stock the right outfits for them. I would choose online any day.
Mitumba success story – Norah Muendo is an inspiring businessperson. From failure in her first venture to taking maternity leave and having to start all over again, Norah has experienced it all. Now, Nila Baby Shop has three branches.
How to Sell Mitumba Clothes from a Stall
You can sell your items from a specific open-air market or explore a variety of local markets near you. For example, if your stall is in a city council market in Nairobi, you can visit other markets around Nairobi on some days. Here is a simple guide to open-air markets in and around Nairobi (most local council markets charge between KSh20 and KSh50 per trader).
Githurai 45 – Sunday
Kikuyu – Sunday
Ruiru – Wednesday, Saturday
Kitengela – Sunday
Limuru – Wednesday, Saturday
Kenol – Sunday
Dagoretti – Wednesday, Saturday
Wangige – Monday, Thursday
Athi River – Tuesday, Saturday
Mokongeni in Thika – Tuesday, Friday
Githunguri – Monday, Thursday, Saturday
Kiambu – Tuesday, Friday
Gachie – Sunday
Kawangware – Tuesday, Friday
Korogocho – Wednesday, Saturday
Selling mitumba clothes in Gikomba and other large open-air markets is profitable because of the thousands who tickle in for supplies or to buy mitumba for personal use. However, all mitumba sellers cannot fit in Gikomba, so you get a kibanda or stall elsewhere.
To sell in a stall or kibanda,
- Find a premise that is suitable for the items you want to sell. For example, sell Grade 2 bales in an open-air market because they are cheaper, and on a good day, it takes a few hours to recover your money. On the other hand, when selling in a classy mall, you need enticing apparel like crème and first camera pieces from Grade 1 bales.
- How will you attract foot traffic to your stall? Some sellers use digital marketing platforms like Facebook to make sales or to inform area residents about the shop. Unless you expect to sell online, there should be sufficient foot traffic around the stall or kibanda you rent.
Mitumba success story – Julius Gutu runs a stall in Toi Market. He explains how to start a mitumba business: selecting a premise, supplier, market fees, and average capital needed.
Places You Should Know in Gikomba Market
There are two ways to shop in this market: either buy Gikomba bales to take to your shop or select pieces from the multitude of traders in this market. Gikomba deals in second-hand utensils, clothes, shoes, books and bedding.
You can tell which side you are on by the type of items on display. For example, if there are clusters of vibanda selling shoes, you are close to the bridge and Kamukunji grounds.
Frequent fires and relocation of traders to create space for new buildings change the market layout every so often. Here is an overview of sections of Gikomba Market based on the type of items on sale.
Gikomba shoe traders line the road opposite the Mosque and the D.O’s Office. On the perimeter of the D.O’s Office, shoes on sale are mainly rubber shoes and bathroom slippers. Another section to explore is the Majengo area.
You could also look for boots, high heels and sports shoes on the second row of vibandas opposite the COTU Headquarters along Digo Road. The first row has hats, socks, bedding, etc. The prices are mainly retail, going as low as KSh100 and as high as KSh800, but you can always bargain when buying wholesale.
You can also try your luck along the main entrance to Gikomba from Ladhies Road. Just after Equity Bank, on Sundays, you may spot a handful of traders along the road selling shoes for as low as KSh50.
The main section dealing with handbags is accessible from the Nairobi stage just before you turn towards COTU Headquarters. Follow the road lined with traders dealing in kitenge and other fabrics, through a stuffy, narrow path of chicken coops and into a shaded pathway with new clothes. You will spot handbags along the route, and you can explore the rows of vibanda on either side.
On the right, the vibanda end at the riverbank. The handbags vary in design and size. A clutch bag goes for KSh200, while a large leather handbag may cost about KSh500. Purses and makeup bags cost about KSh100. Nevertheless, Gikomba Market is about bargains, so haggle until the price is right.
You can reach the open-air market dealing in baby wear from the Mosque or the Nairobi stage just next to the COTU Headquarters.
Branch off that main street into a path lined with vibanda selling curtains and bedding. After a short distance, there is a road to the right, with traders selling curtains and bedding.
This road proceeds to the fish market and the new market building. Stay on the main path, and just opposite the stands with heaps of handkerchiefs and undergarments, you will spot a passageway to the open-air market.
Alternatively, walk from the Nairobi stage to the Pumwani Mosque opposite the Kariobangi and Dandora Bus Stage. Just after the perimeter of the D.O’s Office, turn right and walk along the shoe market. A short distance into the market, make another right turn where there are piles of towels, and you will walk into the open-air market. Baby clothes sell for as low as KSh30.
You can find these in the open-air market I have explained above (where you will find baby clothes) or just next to the handbags area. Official trousers or jeans cost between KSh30 and KSh200. If you need to make alterations to the items you buy, tailors dot the perimeter of the open-air section. Alterations cost about KSh20, depending on the adjustments you need.
Stockings, socks and hats
A handful of vibanda along Digo Road, opposite COTU Headquarters, sell stockings, socks and hats. Socks cost about KSh20 a pair, while hats go for about KSh50.
Coats, jumpers and trench coats
When you proceed along the road that takes you to the handbags section, there are dozens of vibanda with light jumpers and trench coats.
Official skirts and blouses
Between the vibanda with coats, jumpers and handbags, you will find heaps of skirts and blouses. You could also try the open-air market that sells trousers and baby clothes to get chiffon tops, skirts and blazers. These skirts go for as low as KSh40. On Sundays, you can get chiffon tops for KSh10 and blazers at KSh50.
Gikomba Market Days: When to go to Gikomba
Mitumba traders in Nairobi, and other towns, get supplies from Gikomba Market, Toi Market, Korogocho or Kawangware. Of these flea markets, Gikomba is the most popular. Gikomba is a landmark. Your first time there might be a nightmare if you get lost in the maze of vibanda, but you will go home happy with the bargains.
Gikomba Market opens all days of the week. Nevertheless, on some days, most traders sell old stock from other busy days. On average, Tuesday and Friday are great days to visit Gikomba. Also, you can get good stuff on Saturdays, especially in the open-air areas.
When you become a regular buyer, ask your supplier when they open new bales so you can get camera pieces. On Saturdays, buyers throng the market, so most traders open new bales. Some sections are closed on Sundays, and the ones open mainly sell Saturday stock. Therefore, Sunday is the best day to visit Gikomba to buy items for as low as KSh10.
During the week, the market is open as early as 5 a.m. It gives a new meaning to the cliché of the early bird as scores of buyers jostle for camera pieces before dawn, using all manner of illumination from torches to phone flashlights to inspect the items they grab. The vast section that sells handbags often opens later, around 7 a.m.
How to get to Gikomba Market from Nairobi Town
From Nairobi, pick a matatu to Gikomba at the Majengo Stage along Luthuli Avenue. The fare is KSh50 to or from Gikomba.
Problems/market Forces in Mtumba Business
Selling mitumba is a lucrative venture. This sector supports a significant population across the country. Getting into this sector is sometimes plagued by problems like extortion by brokers and supplier scams. However, these problems should not stop you from earning a decent living.
Some issues are manageable such as losses from buying a bale unsuitable for your market. The mitumba industry calls such losses kuchomeka because you sell the items at a low price to recover your capital. Other market forces are out of your control, such as calamities and political influence on the industry. Mitumba sellers in open-air markets like Toi Market and Gikomba incur losses annually due to unexplained fires.
The best precautionary measure is to insure your stock against theft, fires and political upheavals. That is all you can do.
Since 2015, the East African Community (EAC) has held talks to ban mitumba. However, none of those discussions was conclusive, so until Kenya or the region bans mitumba imports, hustle.
Mitumba Vs New Clothes: Which Business is More Profitable?
If you have been weighing your options between starting a mitumba business and a new clothing store, here is some information to save you the nerve-wracking thoughts of wondering what business suits you.
Arguably, there are many mitumba suppliers in Kenya. You can buy from mitumba importers directly or from resellers who buy bales.
On the other hand, there are fewer suppliers of new clothes, and they are only in major towns like Nairobi and Mombasa. The only way to increase your profit margin while selling new clothes is to import from Kampala, Turkey, Dubai, China or another international market.
You would need more capital to start a new clothing store than a mitumba business.
Mitumba clothes have more affordable wholesale prices per item or bale than new clothes.
On top of that, the wholesale price for new clothes and shoes applies several rules, such as a minimum number of pieces. You also have to select several colours and sizes per item to enjoy the wholesale price.
Mitumba terms are more flexible.
You can use offline and online marketing platforms when selling mitumba or new clothes. Open-air markets are suitable for cheaper clothes, whether mitumba or new.
You can sell both types anywhere.
Mitumba clothes may give you a 100% profit per item because you can sell some items double the buying price or pick a few of the best clothes and sell them thrice the purchase amount.
There is a good profit margin in selling new clothes, but since the buying price is high, you may not double the selling price to get a 100% profit.
For example, a second-hand handbag can cost KSh100 in Gikombato retail at KSh200 – KSh1,000, depending on the quality and the market. On the other hand, a new bag from Eastleigh will cost between KSh1,000 and KSh2,500, so your retail price might be only KSh500 above your buying price when selling to the middle-income population.
They are both profitable.
Mtumba is unique. A bale might have several similar pieces, but they will go to different customers. ‘Kenya uniform’ is the best description of the lack of creativity in new clothes imports.
Mtumba is unique.
Competition is stiff in both new and second-hand clothes markets.
None is a smooth ride.
Mtumba needs as low as KSh100 to start. On the other hand, you need more money to start selling new clothes.
Anyone can start a mitumba business.
Both mtumba and new clothes are quality products. However, mtumba quality depends on the number of washes before importation as second-hand clothes. Therefore, unless you buy crème bales only, expect to have a few worn-out pieces in a bale.
Mtumba bales may disappoint you.
Mitumba success story – Jugan (Njuguna) Paul has been in business since the late 80s. At the time, he was selling plastic shoes in Lotoktok besides farming. Now, Njuguna sells mitumba blouses, dresses, etc. However, he also sells new trousers.
He has tried hawking, set up his business in different parts of the city, and finally found his current base. He sells the best pieces in his shop and the rest to resellers targetting open-air markets.
You can succeed as a mitumba seller. It is one of the most affordable businesses to start in Kenya, and you do not need a lot of capital.
Additionally, it has simple management requirements, such as tracking daily sales and customers who buy on credit. If you want to learn more, visit Gikomba and other markets and watch Kenyans already doing it. Alternatively, join social media groups to see what others are selling and hear their stories. Do it!