Five thousand Shillings is a lot of money. It can pay a month’s rent in some estates in Nairobi and in most towns across the country. For a lady who does laundry to earn a living, it may take her about 10 days to get KSh5, 000, and only if her customers feel she is worth paying KSh500 a day. The young men who walk from Kawangware to Industrial Area, on the other side of the city, would do anything to have KSh5, 000 to start a side hustle.
1. Sell African beadwork ( earrings, necklaces & pendants)
There are so many scenarios I can give that will make you see the potential of KSh5,000 savings. Therefore, with five thousands Shillings, you have capital to start a business. What you should be worried about is finding a small scale business to invest and sustain comfortably.
The beauty of starting small and watching the business grow is learning how to cushion your business from various market forces. Think about all the successful businesses around the world. Manolo Blahnik, whose shoes are on the feet of the high and mighty around the world, took about ten years to gain hands-on experience that built his present empire. FUBU and Adidas are also success stories of businesses that started from nothing.
There’s always self-doubt before you venture out of your comfort zone. You might spend hours or days wondering what your friends will say or whether the business you have in mind is suitable for someone who is highly educated like you. But when you ignore all the voices and focus on financial independence, the profits from your small scale business will make you feel like you walked on the moon and kissed the sun.
To sell online, use your personal Facebook account or open a Facebook business page. A personal account gets you immediate sales because you can easily convert your friends into customers. On the other hand, a Facebook business page markets your business beyond your neighborhood. However, if you want to reach customers who live beyond your neighborhood, make sure they cater for delivery costs.
To start a small business with KSh5, 000, spend at least a quarter of it on setting up your business whether to buy stock or materials. Use the remainder of your capita to sustain your business until it is profitable. Here are a few business ideas in the fashion, beauty and interior design sectors you can implement with just KSh5, 000.
There are two ways around this small business idea. Either design the items or buy readymade pieces and sell them. If you decide to start from scratch, you need skills and supplies. The materials are relatively cheap. You can find good suppliers in shops along Biashara Street in Nairobi. Read Ruthie Nyamu’s interview as she explains how she got into an African jewellery design business.
Alternatively, if you would like to buy readymade items, there’s Kariokor Market, just outside the city, where you can buy African ornaments in bulk. Beautiful neck pieces that retail in Nairobi’s city centre for KSh1, 000 go for KSh250 – KSh400 at Kariokor Market.
2. Design and sell sofa pillow cushions
This list of small business ideas in Kenya is inspired by my love for creativity. Kenya has so much of that. Since you are among the creative lot, why don’t you design sofa pillow cushions and retail them online or in estates?
First, find a fundi. In Nairobi, visit your estate council market or go to Gikomba. The price per pillow cushion may fall between Ksh30 and KSh200. It depends on the fabric, the design and the geographical location of your fundi. In Gikomba, if you find one near the upholstery stalls along the main entrance to the market, the price will not exceed KSh60 per pillow cushion because that’s their specialty. Ask the fundi about the size of fabric needed for a standard pillow cushion, and what else you need to buy such as a zipper.
Next, find the type of fabrics used in sofa upholstery in your area. Pass by a furniture store and see what the fundis are using. Ask the sofa fundi if you can collect a few samples from his waste basket. This will be your sample collection. Pin all the pieces together so when you meet a client, you will have a variety of sample fabrics to show.
Next, go to an upholstery seller and search for the materials you identified. Most of the materials retail at between KSh250 and KSh400 per metre. Buy one of the most appealing fabrics to make two sample cushions, a zipper, and anything else your fundi suggested.
Take pictures of the cushions at home, or go to the sofa fundi and request to take pictures using their sofa sets. You don’t need a professional camera; use a smartphone. If you don’t have seat pillows of that size at, stuff clothes or anything else that defines the cushions shape.
Next, market your small business online or in your neighborhood, and when a client places an order, run back to your fundi. Always ask for a down payment when a client places an order and use the money to buy a fabric and pay the tailor.
3. Create Africa-themed wall hangings
I once bought a set of gorgeous African themed wall hangings that I assumed were actually pictures of wildlife drawn by hand. When took a closer look later, I discovered they were a mixture of papers of different colour and dry banana leaves. Isn’t that close to what we learnt during art and craft lessons in primary school?
Someone took the lessons seriously. You could do that too. Create wall hangings from local materials like cereals, seeds and dry leaves or blow-up one of the quality pictures you have and frame them. There’s no limit to what you can turn into a wall hanging.
4. Design and sew eco-friendly shopping bags
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is dancing in hula skirts since the plastic bags ban and so will you when you take advantage of this environment policy. All you need is a fundi and fabrics.
5. Sell eco-friendly packaging and shopping bags
Make cash fast before everybody imports NEMA approved packaging and shopping bags. Buy eco-friendly packaging from importers and local manufacturers, and retail these bags in your estate.
In Nairobi, packaging suppliers are in Kamukunji, in shops behind Equity OTC, and several shops along Temple Road behind St. Peter Clavers Catholic Church. Endeavour to be the main retailer in your estate by doing shop-to-shop deliveries of various packaging bags.
6. Sell cosmetics like nail polish and lipstick
There might be a population that only buys cosmetics supplies from large retailers, but there’s also a group of buyers who don’t mind visiting small scale businesses in estates. Have you spotted that guy who sells nail polish, hair bands, hair pins and rings from a stand at your estate bus stage? You too could do the same and make some money.
7. Customise clothing and accessories using African print fabrics
If you have seen hoodies with dashiki fabric, you know what I am talking about. You could to the same. For example, buy new doll shoes and customise them using Ankara fabric. Alternatively, to reduce cost, make a few samples then request customers to bring their own items for you to work on. They could bring old shoes that need a new upper or just a revamped toe cap. Your business could customise shoes, bangles and handbags.
8. Sell second-hand clothes
Selling mitumba is one of the booming businesses in Kenya, and you can set it up anywhere in the country. Go to a market like Gikomba early in the morning, select a few pieces of clothing or shoes at wholesale price and retail them at your local open-air market or on foot in your estate. For example, buy items at KSh30 and retail them at double or triple that price. You could start with socks, scarves, handkerchiefs, blouses, stockings and bras.
9. Sell new undergarments and socks
Buy undergarments at wholesale price from traders in Eastleigh and retail them at your local market, to friends and family members.
10. Offer delivery services to small traders
Start a delivery service by approaching local traders who run online businesses. There are so many traders who don’t have the time to make individual deliveries around the city or town. The commission from each delivery you make should be inclusive of transport.
These are the simplest business opportunities in Kenya for the youth, and those who want to test the self-employment world without investing a fortune.