There is a meme that says errands are for the rich, but for the rest of us, we go to town to do one, two, three or more things. It is perhaps this thinking that George Gichuhi has shifted over the years with Errands Guy, a business that does exactly what you think it says it does. Founded on the tail end of a series of unfortunate, unsuccessful, deeply frustrating struggles and a wife who pragmatically told her husband her family of five “could not eat smartness,” – George would spiffily dress up every morning and go to work selling insurance – a side hustle was born.
He started doing things for other people. Things that freed up their time, allowing them to reschedule their overly busy lives. “You have a challenge, and I will come swiftly to your aid. And that is how I started my entrepreneurship journey,” George begins. He figured this did not require any skills or education. Just “some virtues that people could rely on, you can talk to someone and explain yourself, and they can trust you. That is when I realised what I do could create opportunities if looked at carefully.” And just like that, he identified a gap.
“For me, entrepreneurship is having something that is needed by somebody, and what you are offering this person, brings value into their life.” With this thinking, George found another niche. Kenyans in the Diaspora often need things down for them, and there have been tales of relatives squandering money that was designated for projects. Here is where George shines, transforming this need into part of Errands Guy. “If somebody is in Dubai, and they need their child’s school fees paid, they will need somebody trustworthy to take to the bank. They need someone they can put to task.”
“For me, entrepreneurship is having something that is needed by somebody, and what you are offering this person, brings value into their life.”
An errand business is not something we grew up with. We proudly run our own errands, setting aside time to shop, bank, visit, collect and take stuff to those who are expecting it. We don’t entrust what seemed like personal services to what can only best be described as a random stranger. How, for instance, do you know the person who collects your dry cleaning won’t steal your clothes and take off with your money, never to be seen again.
And for all you know, that pay bill number they gave you at the imaginary till you are envisioning could belong to a thug in a stealing business. But the more hectic life became, the more hands the middle class suddenly needed to get everything on their to-do lists done. Perpetuated by something every human understands which is the survival instinct that put food on the table, he was led into the life of a hotel owner in Kisumu Ndogo – twice, failed both times, the proprietor of a cosmetics kiosk that flopped, to applying for employment opportunities that brought only self-doubt. With this experience, he has learned that having a business idea is very different from having a business. “Business is about relationships and networks. You make money from fulfilling your promise in a relationship.”
While at this moment in time Errands Guy has five employees and a host of freelancers should the need arise, George’s business was not exactly beloved. His parents, especially his mother-in-law, would think his work was simply going round “kumaliza kiatu” (wearing out his shoes) and would keep pressuring family to please get George employment. “My biggest challenge was trying to prove to people that what I am doing is a viable business.” And since the idea came from a well-intentioned wifely challenge, he realised he needed resources. He has bootstrapped so hard his shoelaces are squeaking.
The money he makes goes back into the business as do any savings he makes trading, as well as using his integrity. His clients trust that if he says he will show up at 9 am, he will turn up. He cashes out on trust and reliability. Great customer service gets him referrals, and there is one particular client who opened the door to over 100 new clients. Errands Guy thrives through word of mouth.
His parents, especially his mother-in-law, would think his work was simply going round “kumaliza kiatu” (wearing out his shoes) and would keep pressuring family to please get George employment.
This includes literally one person to another, and the loudest mouth of them all, social media platforms. This, he notes, has been even better than personal thank yous. Aside from that, some of his best mentors, he says, have not given him a cent. Instead, they have shared worthy advice.
Technology now amplifies their story. It brings in clients from unexpected geographical locations. He is also able to dispatch errands by chunking them, something that would wear him out were he to attempt it himself. “We have a company in the UK that does business with a multinational in Kenya. We are the ones who do their running up and down. That is my dream. My goal is to be able to impact at least 1 million people over the next five years.”
Another dream that has manifested is hiring a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and a Business Developer. He concludes mightily that “Just being smart in itself is not enough. Put in the hours in what you are doing, If you are going into entrepreneurship, ensure you have enough commitment to what you do. Why do people come to you? Because you offer something that is unique.”