Benard was born and raised in Nairobi. He likes football and reggae music, and has been selling shoes since he was 14. Initially he sold them informally, to teachers and fellow students at school, but now he has a small market stall— shared with three other friends and fellow shoe merchants—in Gikomba.
While he uses his store to attract new customers, he relies on WhatsApp to communicate with existing clients and market new products.
He finds it faster, cheaper, and easier to communicate with clients through 1:1 WhatsApp messages than phone calls, especially given WhatsApp’s ability to send and receive multiple pictures at once. WhatsApp also helps him communicate with customers who live outside Nairobi.
He promotes new shoes, and receives customer requests through a WhatsApp group he created for his customers. He is also a member of another WhatsApp group that he uses to source shoes from suppliers (see image).
After closing a sale through WhatsApp he delivers the shoes in-person and receives payment. He prefers to be paid in cash, but will accept M-PESA if a customer doesn’t have cash on them. In sum, he dips in and out of offline and online worlds as he completes a sale.
He had a Facebook page at one point, but he stopped using it for business due to concerns that some Facebook users are “just not that serious.” Also, he would have been willing to pay to promote his Facebook page but was unsure how to do so and how much it would cost. These digital challenges pushed him off Facebook for business use. He now only communicates through WhatsApp.
He also uses Instagram for inspiration, and sometimes posts photos of shoes on his Instagram account. However, he is concerned that he doesn’t have a good enough camera to post high quality pictures.
In five years time he hopes to have expanded his shoe business to be selling all over Nairobi.