The story of Edgar Otieno is an inspiring one, of a young man who left a well-paying corporate job at Barclays Bank to pursue his passion for hawking on the streets of Nairobi.
Many wondered why a man with a banking background would leave such a lucrative job to sell pencils on the streets. However, Otieno had a simple answer, “In sales, people buy the seller before buying the product.”
Otieno started his sales career in Nairobi some years back, working for a company that recruited sales agents for pencil and cutlery products.
Within a short period, he was already the top-performing sales agent. Although the company closed in 2005, Otieno’s passion for hawking remained undimmed.
He enjoys the flexibility that hawking provides, giving him the freedom to pursue other interests like education and farming.
Over the years, Otieno has learned that people prefer to buy from their own or someone who speaks their language. Therefore, he has learned basic phrases of different languages in Kenya.
This knowledge has helped him to connect with his clients and win their trust.
For 15 years, Otieno has been dressing like a headmaster and heading to town to hawk pencils. He sells the pencils for Ksh 199 per dozen, making over Ksh 30,000 per month.
Out of that, Ksh 16,000 goes towards his rent in Donholm estate, Nairobi, and “I dress well because of the good earnings.”
Otieno’s impeccable dressing and sales skills have made him successful in selling pencils. He has earned the nickname “Mwalimu” from Kanjo askaris (city council enforcement officers) and is sometimes even mistaken for a drug peddler by passersby.
Although some people believe that Otieno is an undercover detective disguising as a hawker, he continues to dress impeccably and sell pencils on the streets of Nairobi.
People buy with their eyes first, and if you dress well, they will buy from you, he says.
Despite misconceptions about his job, Otieno continues to hawk pencils on the streets of Nairobi. He plans to quit hawking and become a stationer, social worker, or corporate salesperson in the future. He has turned down many job offers from his customers who offer him sales and marketing jobs but at lower pay.