Pocketing an extra buck off the back-to-school shopping craze

A woman shops a metallic suit case at Nakawa Market. Parents whose children go to boarding school are required  to buy these metallic suitcase whose price has risen to Shs120,000 in small size. PHOTO / ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • Some innovative entrepreneurs do back-to-school shopping, at a fee, for those who comprehend the cost of convenience. To cope with the stress of last-minute shopping, some parents have delegated this at a fee.

What do you know? One can actually buy their way into an all ticked long back to school shopping list.Yes, very long list, considering it is a new year. Nearly every required item, be it by the school or by the ones going back to school has to depict promotion to the next level.

Some promotions are to next sections such as Primary one, Senior one, Senior five and the next higher levels of education. This implies new items say beddings, uniforms, personal closet change, among other school requirements.

“Before the overly hiked prices give you a heart attack, the thought of the hullabaloo downtown where most items are purchased at fair prices would suffocate you,” Ms Mable Kaboyo, a mother of three ready to go back to school children, hailing from Kirinya – Kampala, says.

Ms Kaboyo is a full time front desk operative at a very busy company expected at work all week long, only entitled to two days off in a month. 

“I hardly ever get time for this tedious begin-of-year shopping. As I was pleading with a friend to shop a few things for my children alongside hers on phone last week, a workmate of mine surprised me,” Ms Kaboyo says.
Spotting the opportunity.

It turns out there are people who do shopping, at a fee, for those who comprehend the cost of convenience. Ms Kaboyo’s workmate had known about this from a WhatsApp group where one of such people was advertising her temp-hustle since it is seasonal.   
Shopping for a fee.

Winnie Nabaterega, the chief executive officer of Walken Online Store, started “Walken Guardian mothers” company to ease shopping for parents and university students during the back to school season.

“I realised this could work as a business after having done some shopping for some clients and being paid for it. They would ask about items outside the scope of merchandise on my online shop as they bought stuff for going back to school,” Ms Nabaterega says.
What started as a customer care special offer, ended up as a side hustle for Ms Nabaterega.

“I offered to help buy those extra items on a client’s list. Before I knew it, another client asked for the same service. By word of mouth, the news spread and before long, I had quite a number of such clients,” she says. 

Services offered 
Nabaterega shops for school going children at all levels including university students residing in hostels. She has also been hired to shop and deliver items to students at their schools on visitation days. 

“Some parents that are unable to make it to schools to visit their children send me the list of requirements, location of the school, and I deliver” Ms Nabaterega says. 

Sometimes what a client actually pays for is Nabaterega’s rich knowledge of item quality in which case she is expected to accompany the client while they do the shopping. 

Her shopping gig has broadened to buying, wrapping and delivering gifts as to the specificities of the client. 

The dynamics of billing are based on very many factors some of which Ms Nabaterega is still discovering on job, therefore prices are generally negotiable. 

Some parents have many children of different ages and sometimes very unique requirements since they are either in different schools or distinct levels of education. 

“Having to go to many locations to purchase the items often plays into the billing. Then there is location of delivery to mention but a few dynamics,” Ms Nabaterega intimates. 

However, generally speaking, for kindergarten level, it is Shs50, 000 per child, Shs100,000 for Primary 1 to 7 per child, Shs150, 000 for O’level, Shs250,000 for A’level and those returning to hostels at university level.

Payment model
There is usually an understanding when it comes to old clients given the mutual trust that has developed over time. With these, Ms Nabaterega can buy and get paid on delivery or the money is sent before shopping. 

Recommendations also have a few benefits to enjoy depending on who recommended. 
“Sometimes I settle for a less than 50 percent commitment fee and receive the rest of the money upon delivery,” she says.
Ultimately, as trust both from the client and the service provider can only be built with time, consistency in quality item deliveries and prompt payments, it is a 50 – 50 payment model.

Hitherto, there has not been need for these kind of services, yet as the world gets busier, people like Ms Kaboyo are very happy clients. Willing to part ways with that hard earned extra cost to the satisfaction of their children’s education whereas people like Ms Nabaterega position themselves to innovatively make the extra buck, a win-win situation.  
Back-to-school shopping is stressful for most parents. 

As inflation rises with the prices of essential requirements following the same trend, these are not the best of times. 
Lots of families are going to have to make some real sacrifices to send their children back to school.