Update: Since writing this post, Kenishia Mais has decided to close Accessories and Essentials and move on to another passion, teaching healthy financial habits via her new business, Thriving Dollars.
With the lessons Kenishia has learned from her time as a online retail store and much more, she uses speaking engagements, one-on-one coaching and special #MoneyMeetup sessions to impart her knowledge and help people make sound financial decisions for their future.
Even with the closure of the business, Kenishia’s story is one I still find very inspirational and impactful, hence I’ve decided to keep it up in it’s entirety for those who might be interested to learn more.
If you check out Accessories & Essentials online, it will seem like just another start-up online store. When you hear that this store is the brainchild of a 22 year-old Jamaican, who built this business from scratch with JMD$600 (US$6 at the time), then it starts to mean something more.
Since high school, Kenishia Mais knew that owning a business was the path she wanted to take. As a result, her subject choices were all geared in this direction. After school, she took on day jobs in several business and marketing areas to gain some work experience and stability. Her last job ended abruptly and she realized that it wasn’t stable after all. She was ready to pursue her own ventures.
So how did she start a business with US$6?
Her method is highly recommended by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. It is also the focus of Chris Guillebeau’s popular book, The $100 Startup. She bought the first few items, sold them to friends and colleagues, then used the earnings to fuel more purchases and income.
Allowing the business to grow organically confirmed her market before she invested major resources and minimized risk. This was an intelligent move on her part, yet she had limited knowledge about ‘bootstrapping’. (Bootstrapping is the method of building a self-sustaining business.) She only knew that building a profitable business was her goal and she had limited resources. So she ploughed through and figured things out on her own along the way.
Running the Business
Many business experts recommend creating a business plans first. Kenishia believes she would have abandoned Accessories & Essentials had she done this. Instead, her ‘see it through’ attitude forced her to continue going, even when things weren’t going well. According to her, “if and when things get really tough, wine helps.” (As the host of a podcast called ‘Social Media: Under the Influence’, I’m also a big proponent of alcohol.)
Though the business has come a far way, it’s still young and primed for growth. To fund the business, Kenishia has other online ventures. She also offers consultation and project management services on a referral basis. The latter she is able to do because of her experience in setting up her own business. Her work day activities include managing inventory, processing orders and marketing, among other things. With no employees, she executes all the daily tasks, but sometimes enlists help through contractors on freelance sites like oDesk.
Of course, with all the effort that Kenishia has put in, she has had a few challenges along the way. When I asked her what her biggest challenges are in operating an online business in Jamaica, here’s what she had to say:
The most difficult part of doing business in Jamaica is that most people seem to have a limited comfort zone. Things that are pretty standard in other countries are unheard of in Jamaica. We’re constantly playing catch-up, and when you’re doing that, you’re not innovating.
When running a business online, the most difficult aspects are proper positioning and building trust in your brand. You need that if you’re going to ask people to give you their credit card and personal identity information. It requires a lot of trust, and trust and credibility takes a lot of time to build.
With all that said, she is still appreciative of all the benefits running an online store has brought:
My online store is never closed. Customers can log on and make their purchases at their own convenience, wherever in the world they are. Within a week of launching Accessories & Essentials’ website, I had visitors from countries I’ve never visited. Not a lot of brick and mortars can boast that kind of diverse and international [appeal].
For persons who want to start a business, she advises, “Just get off your ass and do it!” Research is important, but it’s the implementation that counts. It’s easy to get bogged down with varying opinions and theories. At some point, you just have to make a decision and move forward.
Kenishia also believes in continuous education – which is why she makes time to read business blogs and books. These keep her updated on the latest industry-related news. Some of her favourites include Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal and Kissmetrics. Her inspiration and motivation comes from speakers such as Zig Ziglar and Les Brown. She swears that The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene and The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco changed her life. (I haven’t read them yet but they’re next on my list after that recommendation!)
As for future plans, she doesn’t have everything all figured out yet. Her aim is to grow Accessories & Essentials into the premiere regional online ladies’ boutique. She also plans to establish a few other ventures. As for life plans, she’s just taking things one step at a time.