Meet Janet Mgendi- Mruttu, she is the proprietor of Just 9 Maternity that ensures women maintain their sense of style during pregnancy- with a wide collection of clothes and accessories. She shares her journey in business, her passion and lessons learned. Read her story below.
“I’m a working mum of 2 and a wife, and like most mums in everything I do, family comes first. In everything I do, I aim to improve the lives of my family and those around me. I am quite the traditional woman in many ways- I guess thanks to my upbringing. I’m crazy about my family.
I had a normal childhood, it was quite lovely. I was born and bred in Mombasa. Our dad ran his shipping company and Mum was a banker. I have 2 great brothers –Elvis and Joe- and one amazing sister- Mshai. Our parents worked extremely hard to provide a wonderful life for us, so I would say we were pretty fortunate.
My siblings and I loved each other and fought with each other as kids-nothing new there. We were fiercely protective of each other and still are. As cliché as it sounds, our parents instilled in us the value of hard work, integrity, humility and fairness. We each had our chores to complete, failure to which the belt would be waiting for us! Academics were priority in our family and we were constantly encouraged to give education our best shot.
MY CAREER JOURNEY
At first, I wanted to be a lawyer. As I grew up, I realized that that may not really be my calling. Then came a time when I decided I wanted to be a nurse. Half-way through high school, the confusion ended and I knew for sure I wanted to join the Tourism Industry.
At 19 years of age, I joined an airline as a Flight Attendant and rose through the ranks to become a Flight Purser. Most people don’t know what happens in the background. Being a Flight Attendant, I realized just how tough the job is but I totally loved it! I got to visit places I never dreamt I ever would, and met lots of wonderful people from diverse backgrounds. I learned a lot about different cultures and how to deal with different people.
I worked there for almost a decade and l have utmost respect for the work Cabin Crew do. While I was working there, I pursued my undergraduate degree and graduated.
My dad was in business for the better part of his life and I learnt early on that as much as being self-employed seemed easy with lots of time to boot, it was actually quite the opposite. One has to put in extra hours when starting off to succeed. A lot of hard work and sacrifice goes into establishing a successful business and one has to learn how to handle both the good and not so good. I never thought I would ever venture into business but during the time I was pursuing my undergrad, I realized it was something I was keen on giving a shot.
STARTING JUST 9
I knew I didn’t want to start a business that was already over-saturated. I wanted to provide something to our community that was lacking or in acute shortage of. After much thought, I toyed around with the idea of getting into the maternity world.
As I was testing the waters, I got pregnant with our first child. That is when I realized first-hand how difficult it was to get fashionable, practical and comfortable maternity outfits. I searched all over but the ones I was lucky to find meant sacrificing fashion over comfort. That didn’t please me much and needless to say it spurred me to seriously work on starting the maternity wear business.
So in 2009, my husband Nick Mruttu and I decided to start Just 9 Maternity. Nick is really instrumental in this journey; he is brilliant with the greatest ideas and helped me get over my initial jitters.
Just 9 Maternity aims to provide expectant and nursing ladies a wide range of outfits to suit different styles, sizes and comfort levels. We cater to ladies’ diverse functions of life- different occasions such as official wear, evening wear, swim wear, casual wear are all covered at Just 9 Maternity. We aim to meet and exceed expectations.
We understand that a pregnant woman already has a lot going on, the last thing we want them to worry about is what to wear. Nursing mums are also well taken care of. We provide stylish outfits that a nursing mother is able to wear and nurse conveniently and comfortably.
I would say the difficulty my friends and I experienced in getting maternity wear is what pushed me to start Just 9. I would also pick a conversation with expectant ladies during Lamaze class and later with nursing mothers during our baby’s clinic visits and it was quite apparent that the maternity world didn’t leave one with much choice when it came to outfits. All ladies I talked to expressed the same desire to have more variety and options. It strengthened my resolve to ensure just 9 succeed.
Some of the top tips I can share with women shopping for maternity wear include:
- When choosing maternity wear, as much as possible pick fabrics that are comfortable and allow your body to breathe. We generate a lot of heat when pregnant so we can get pretty uncomfortable pretty quick.
- Choose designs that will take you through the months if you don’t want to keep updating your wardrobe on a monthly basis.
- Above all, make sure you love what you see in that fitting room mirror before making the purchase.
7 YEARS ON …
The journey has been quite exciting, being my first proper business venture. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, had a number of successes and overall learnt quite a few lessons.
I love it when I meet an expectant lady on the street who is rocking Just 9 Maternity. Most of them don’t even know me so I’m sure they usually wonder why this strange woman is grinning at them! I have come to learn what the average woman in Kenya wants and how best to cater to that. It is usually a great boost when our clients appreciate our products.
We have also had a number of lows. First off, finding the right suppliers to source from was tricky as well as getting the right products that appealed to the ladies in Kenya. We have our own unique needs and we just can’t just settle for anything less.
When Just 9 was an only online shop, customers had to come to our home to have a look at our products. Back then most people were wary of making purchases on line, understandably so. Constantly having strangers at our home wasn’t very ideal for us so we had to find another way to make this happen. We were also making free deliveries to the clients wherever they were in Nairobi, and we were still not guaranteed any sales.
We finally decided to find a convenient location and set up shop there. We settled for Mini-mall at Valley Arcade, which is on Mbaazi Avenue- Valley Arcade Nairobi.
I would say what makes Just 9 Maternity different is the fact that we aim to provide outfits that one would wear during pregnancy and whilst nursing as well.
They are designed in such a way that they function during both phases of a mother’s life. We also try to make ourselves available to the client as much as possible, so for instance we normally don’t open on Sundays but if a client calls us and tells us that is the only day they are available then we plan with them and we open the shop for them.
My favourite business quote, which I always remind myself of, is: to succeed in business, one has to do more than is required. What is the difference between those who consistently achieve their goals and those who spend their entire lives and careers merely following? That extra mile.
My advice to women thinking of venturing into business: other than the usual true talk of taking calculated risks and being passionate about what you do, is simply always pick-up and/or return calls.
I know how frustrating it is to try contacting a supplier and they don’t get back to you yet you want to give them business. I also came to understand that it is true that all progress takes place outside our comfort zone. So just go for it.
Finally, I would like to say that even if it seems hard; just give it your honest-to-God best shot. You’d be surprised how things fall into place once you start working on something. The opportunity is often lost by deliberating