The team behind Totally Toto, Kenya’s leading online store for children’s clothing, has come up with another brilliant idea – Totally Tumba, an online shop that sells secondhand clothes and books from Nairobi’s mitumba markets and end-of-stay sales.
“Don’t trek around in the hot sun or get soaked and muddy in the rain. Let us do the hard work and you can relax and shop from the comfort of your own home or office,” says Totally Tumba, which describes itself as Kenya’s first green online shop.
Totally Tumba was set up by Paige Faulkner, who with her husband Quentin is the brains behind Totally Toto, and Zarah Webber, who co-founded the lingerie, jewellery and beach clothes website, Maridadi.
“We’re saving people the hassle of going to the market. They don’t have to haggle or bargain,” Faulkner told KenyaBuzz.
But more important than the business rationale, for her, is the charity aspect – with Totally Tumba, Faulkner wanted to give something back. “I wanted to do a (web)site with a social conscience and an environmental angle,” she said.
Buying secondhand clothes and books helps cut the amount of waste going to Kenya’s increasingly stretched landfills and reduces energy and fuel consumption (and probably even stress levels as you don’t have to drive across the traffic-snarled city to get your mitush).
It gets better. Not only will you be getting bargains (always fun!), doing your bit for recycling and the environment, but also for every order placed, Totally Tumba will donate an item of clothing to a local children’s home and a pair of panties to an underprivileged girl through the Panties With Purpose campaign.
Started in January by Maridadi, this aims to support 6,000 girls in 32 schools across Kenya by giving each girl four pairs of panties and a year’s supply of sanitary towels. Many poor girls in rural areas miss several days of school when they menstruate because they do not have clean underwear or sanitary towels. Shoppers can opt to add an extra pair of panties (30 bob) to their orders when they buy at Totally Tumba.
The online store also fills a gap in the buyers’ market. “There is a huge middle class here which still doesn’t have the money to buy clothes in the bigger brand-name shops,” Faulkner says.
Totally Tumba went live at the beginning of July, and in one week it had 75 registered users.
“It’s been a much quicker uptake than Totally Toto or Bagalicious. It’s a really strong start,” said Faulkner, who set up Totally Toto four years ago and the online bags store Bagalicious two years ago.
Faulkner bought some of the clothes for Totally Tumba in bales at the Gikomba market but she found that quality can vary and she couldn’t use some of the stuff. She has just been to Toi Market, behind Adams Arcade, to handpick new stock. There are other sources too.
“There is an awful lot of stuff here that you can pick up at school sales or end-of-stay sales and it’s very cheap. People are mad for this,” she said.
Totally Tumba stocks clothes for men, women, children and babies. The clothes have been washed and ironed, and will be delivered the next day.
There is also an extensive collection of books – and we all know how difficult it is to get reasonably priced books in Nairobi! The books sell for around 200 to 250 bob. For adults, there are best sellers from novelists like James Patterson, classics from greats such as Vikram Seth and thrillers by Patricia Cornwell.
There are books for young adults and children, including favourites like Commotion in the Ocean and the Kenyan classic Owen and Mzee.
Nairobi’s best known and most accessible mitumba (the word means ‘used’ or ‘vintage’ in Swahili) is Toi Market – if you do like the thrill of unearthing your own retro bargain or that perfect pair of jeans from a pile on a rickety table head down here. But don’t carry much cash, and bring Wellingtons if it’s been raining.
Faulkner, who has also worked as a teacher in Kenya, said her experience visiting The Nest, a children’s home in Limuru, made her want to set up a business with a charity element.
“I would go (to the Nest) every four to six months (as a teacher) and it really moved me. Some of these children have such harrowing things happen to them. I wanted to do something of my own. I sent a letter to parents at the school to get them to donate clothes and then we priced them and had a sale. We raised 50,000 shillings and it all went to the Nest.”
Now, she and her partners have taken that initial idea a step further with Totally Tumba. Faulkner hopes it will take off so that she can do more for children’s homes, especially those outside Nairobi, which lack even the most basic services like water and electricity.
“The bigger we get, the more we can do,” she said.
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