Last Updated on 9 May 2020 by Gertrude
What are the small profitable business ideas to start with under $1000 in Kenya?
If you want to succeed in running a small business in Kenya, start from the comfort of your home.
The start-up costs reduce because you don’t rent out commercial spaces. Instead, you focus on the growth of your business.
Profitable Small Business Ideas to Start in Kenya for Less Than $1000
The most profitable small businesses to start in Kenya for less than $1000 include the following:
- Direct sales/ network marketing
Network marketing is equated to pyramid schemes, it doesn’t have to be that way. A Network Marketer, Eric Worre makes more than 7-figures per year or in Kenya shillings, he’s a billionaire.
Most Network marketing companies send you products for less than $300. You sign up for the program, get the products then market to your customers.
The niches/industries in network marketing are so many you don’t have to worry what niche you want. The niches include kitchen, health and fitness, cooking, essential oils, natural beauty care products.
A network marketer starts from passion. Your passion will encourage you to stay on when customers don’t want to hear from you.
Network marketers are known to bug the shit out of their customers with comments like, ‘click this link to learn more’. Do different.
Like any other business, you must have a business mindset be resilient, market and network, see an opportunity and fill the gap.
You must do your market research, you don’t want to sign up for a programme that customers have heard about so much they don’t care for the products. You want to join a company with a great reputation.
2. Toy business
E.g wood or using a 3D printer
The toy business isn’t well explored in Kenya and with dropshipping, you can add all the wooden toys in your Shopify store.
I love dropshipping because there’s no suffering the hustle of renting a warehouse. Also, instead of focusing on plush, find wooden toys which look like puppets.
Wooden toys inspire kids imagination and parents would pay for their kids to be ranked as geniuses.
With a Shopify store being $29.99 and dropshipping free, you spend the rest of the money in creating content and advertising.
Content ranks well on Google and your aim is to find organic customers who hype your products.
Most parents hang around on Facebook because it remains the most liked social media by parents to interact/connect, so target Facebook to find your customers.
3. Travel agency / consultant
It feels like cheating when I tell you to begin a travel agency with $500 or less. It isn’t.
You need to find a direct sales company like Disney to get started. You can start by generating leads for other parents wanting to go to Disney.
The goodness is, this gig pays a lot more as parents want to travel to Disney from all over the world, with their kids.
Don’t rely on Disney alone, there are cruise companies like cruises.com. If these direct sales companies don’t work in Kenya, then, find those that do or it’s time to come up with a new idea.
4. Homemade natural soaps and beauty products
Soap makes me itchy so I bath with sugar and honey. People have various skin irritations making them not deal with soap or beauty products.
That’s why beauty product manufacturers are running to natural or organic beauty/soap production. You don’t need a million dollars to get started.
You need Castille soap, essential oils, a natural preservative and organic oils like coconut, avocado, mango locally available to get started.
The money you have is mainly for advertising because the beauty industry thrives on showing results of after and before.
You need to mind your packaging, buy your packaging products from Alibaba/Aliexpress for less than a dollar.
In fact, spend some time figuring out the packaging. You want your products to look appealing in their packages, because, beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, right?
5. Business planning
Most people want to begin a business but they don’t know where to start. So you have run a business for years, create content by building a website or via a Youtube channel.
Help would-be business owners find your website as a resource, referral centre with your wealth of information.
Building a website doesn’t need a million like yesteryears. In fact, you need to focus on buying a domain name only and that goes for only $15 or less. Buy a dot com from Hostgator or Namecheap.
If doing videos, begin with your smartphone. But you can invest in cheaper cameras and a $99 microphone, because sound matters online.
Create FAQs section which can be a short course priced at $10 – 30 dollars and get recurring money. It starts by offering free then graduates to an income.
6. Logo designer
Why are you sitting on your Photoshop prowess? I realised Photoshop doesn’t work in Kenya, if it does, kindly comment below.
Now, you need to pay their subscription of $29.99 or so per month, get all the photoshop for less than $100.
Set up YouTube classes or Udemy classes showing people how to use Photoshop and design logos for their business.
You don’t have to rely on Photoshop, there’s a free graphic designing tool called Canva.
Teach non-graphic designers on how to design their own logos. When you click on Fiverr, you will realise how logo designing is popular. It’s an important branding tool.
I knew about blogging in 2012 but never knew how to make money with it in 2017 when I immersed deeper in learning.
My blog, Kenyareview was a hobby blog where I could express myself on things going on in Kenya. I didn’t start my blog with millions of dollars, I use one.com to host this website and it costs less than Bluehost, Dreamhost.
Buying a website these days cost less than $100 dollars, including a domain name. Choose your domain name wisely, you want it to be catchy yet memorable because you can never change it.
And if you do, you risk losing a lot like your ranking. Now, the difficult part of a blog as a business is growing the readership, use Pinterest to market your content.
In fact, in the first year, focus on building your blog as a wealth of information and not the money, focus on the content.
During the second year or half the year you can join affiliate programs like Amazon or monetise with Google ads.
As your readership keeps soaring monetise with online courses or include alternatives like making videos.
Use your blog to enhance your skills like SEO Consulting, Lead Generation.
8. Mobile repair
My phone broke once and YouTube mobile repair school couldn’t help. You don’t need multi-million to begin a mobile repair studio.
You need expertise. Repair as many phones for free or for a meagre amount, then expand your trade by repairing high calibre phones like iPhones and Samsungs.
Mobile phones repair have cases of broken screen glasses or the screen going blank due to excess moisture.
Start your services from the comfort of your home, which is free to begin then you can rent out an office space.
Advertise your prowess on Facebook where most Kenyans hang out.
9. Rent out stuff
This is enabled by the gig economy see Airbnb, Uber successes. You don’t have to rent out your house but tools, dresses, laptops, cameras, anything actually.
Beware of damages, ask yourself how are you going to insure your products against theft or damages? How much is the subscription the customers need per month to use your products?
You don’t need any money to get started if starting from Facebook or Instagram.
To make more money and build credibility, build a simple website costing less than $100 then grow from there.
10. Creating info products
I.e through ebook or instructional videos. Costs include a camera, time, microphone, domain name, web hosting
You don’t all these things at once though, depends on what info-products you want to create.
Is it ebooks or online courses? Your time will be the most important tool used when creating info products.
You will spend time researching and ensuring your website has the latest information on your niche.
The others like the camera come in later when your audience has grown. Info products include videos, ebooks, infographics, blogs, PDF guides like how-to articles.
11. Window cleaning
Kenya is rising higher and higher. Have you ever stopped to ask who cleans those windows of high-rise buildings and apartments? Cleaning business doesn’t have to begin with high capital.
In fact, you need basic tools like vacuums, steam cleaners, soap, table cloths. Cleaning outside the windows, you will need cranes which you can hire.
You can clean for commercial buildings or homes, charge them a subscription per month.
A cleaning business thrives on your great customer service, meaning you pay attention to the needs of your customers.
You also need to pay attention to customer excellence, never leave a premise without a customer’s nod.
12. Menu/meal planning
If you know how to use Google, you can research five-minute meals for busy families, healthy recipes for diabetics, because food blog springs up daily.
You need to know how to use Canva to create those amazing menu/meal combinations to appeal to your audience. Then create an Instagram account where you advertise your meals.
It pays a lot when you can show how to prepare those meals or photo the end result. You need Canva subscription which is about $15 to get started.
13. Resume writer
I have realised after so many years pondering why I never got an offline job was because I didn’t have a powerful C.V.
Let’s face it, you are fresh from college, how are you supposed to know how to write a resume? Who taught you?
Now, you like me suffered this unfortunate start in your career path, help others deal with this dilemma by creating a C.V writing service.
You will gladly take the hustle of looking for a job from thousands of graduates in Kenya.
A C.V writing service requires you to have a Wix website or WordPress if you prefer.
Buy a template or theme to go with the service you want to provide. Then charge per industry, e.g for doctors, engineers. Don’t forget a C.V writing service is like a career coach, offer the services of a career coach to help millions of jobless Kenyan youths.
You can charge a subscription-based service which will be easier on the pockets $10-50 is always a great starting point.
14. Handyman /woman
E.g plumbing, broken electrical outlets
Have you ever seen a competent handyman/woman business in Kenya? Honestly, I haven’t.
I see small dingy posters on electric poles and those I fear are scams! Setting up a handywoman business is having great customer service and above all excellence.
If you promise your customers to help install their digital television, ensure you do that in a few hours.
Come prepared with your tools and not borrow from your customer. You need about $200 to buy basic screwdrivers and hammers plus drills to get started.
Then, get training and brand your business with a great appealing name. Add your credibility by opening a website where your customers see the kind of work you do before they contact you.
15. Homemade gourmet food
Including soup mixes, jellies, cookies who doesn’t love gourmet foods? They are comfort foods which don’t have to be unhealthy!
Which soup are you proud of making and are known for its recipe? I am known for my beef recipe soup which I blogged about a few Christmases ago, hahaha.
Spread this rumour about yourself by first researching why that soup or cookie is the best option for your clients.
You need a computer, smartphone and internet connection, invest in a crockpot – experiment the soup and its ingredients.
Then package it for the breastfeeding or recovering athlete or those who love soup.
Don’t add any additives which spoil the healthiness. You can do this for all gourmet meals including chocolate cookies, jellies.
Consulting is simply being an expert in your field. An expert doesn’t need a few years under their belt of experience but has also written books, produced videos talked in seminars.
The fields consultants are needed are in most include education, health and businesses.
You need your laptop to create info products in your industry to begin working as a consultant, internet connection, advertising budget to showcase your work to the world.
17. Green / eco-friendly cleaning products
There are champions of the earth like Greta, now, imagine selling green cleaning products to Greta’s Thunberg’s followers!.
You can buy these green cleaning products on Amazon or Alibaba.
Remember, they have to have a cleaning efficiency like the other products. The amount you spend will depend on the products you buy, start with dropshipping to reduce the expenses.
Market your products by showing how they work on ovens, greasy plastic dishes, kitchen floors and how these products clean browned toilets and sink better than Harpic.
18. Affiliate marketing
With Pinterest and Instagram, you don’t need any money to start an affiliate marketer.
You need to have a following, at least 100 to get started and see the flow of money.
You need to find products your customers or followers are using then review them, the bad ugly and good side of the product and explain to your followers why you love or hate a product.
Join affiliate programs like Alibaba, Amazon, Shareasale or in your relevant niche.
Just know that some affiliates don’t work in Kenya, that’s okay move on and find another that does.
And some affiliate has rules like followers and having a website, read the terms and conditions before signing up. Some affiliates make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
19. Tour guide
The travel industry doesn’t seem like it fits to start with less than 10 M shillings.
It doesn’t have to be that way when you are a tour guide. Invest in a pair of good shoes, binoculars, sunglasses, hats and sunscreen. Do lots of walking tours around your town and hiking grounds.
Advertise your walking tours on Airbnb experience, remember to take lots of photos.
Getting accepted on Airbnb experience can be a daunting task, set up your walking tour by creating a website on Wix or WordPress.
Or if you don’t like Airbnb, create an Instagram account and showcase your town away. Kenya has beauty in all its 47 counties, no county is left behind.
Spend $100 to get started, and earn $100 daily if you know the terrain of your county well.
Provide walking tours to tourists coming to your county some need company because they fear getting mugged or don’t know a lot about the town due to lack of advertisement.
20. Computer repair and maintenance provider
I am a sea of broken laptops and wish every day that I could find a computer repairman /woman genuine enough not to steal my computer parts.
Set up a computer repair business from the comfort of your home.
You can start for free by repairing your own or neighbours computers then show your expertise on YouTube by showing how simple static energy can make the computer not work.
Or what to do when a computer refuses to restart. You need a broken computer, an internet connection to learn to get started.
After you hone the skill, advertise on Facebook for free or join many Facebook groups and ‘shout’ from behind how you can do that.
You can start a computer recycle plant by collecting useless/non-repairable computers to recycle plants.
Pay the ones giving you the computers a sum of money so they get encouraged to bring more useless computers.
21. Life coach
You need an Instagram account to get started as a life coach. Offering advice to people for free at first, then behind the scenes create ebooks.
A life coach engages with followers on Insta-stories/live Instagram. You need a steady internet connection and a scheduling tool like Tailwind to post your Instagram photos.
Don’t rely on scheduling tools though, post manually so that Instagram doesn’t shadow ban you.
22. Floor installation
With houses rising and rising in demand daily, so does the floor and some flooring are so expensive that only specialists like you can install them.
You need to work as a floor installer first and know how tiles, wooden floors are installed.
Requirements are the internet to learn the trending floors to install, homeowners who you advertise yourself to and experience.
23. Book writing and publishing
If we were talking 2010, you needed to submit your books to millions of publishers to get your book out there. Then sometime in 2010-12, self-publishing became famous and one crime author sold over a million books after self-publishing.
You need a great story to write about, consistent effort and a bit of reading about what works with Amazon Kindle and what doesn’t.
Blogs like Bookfromblog, authorpreneur ELITE and Kindlepreneur help shed light on self-publishing.
Don’t stop learning from these three resources alone. These days authors don’t sleep hungry nor are they dying poor like it was a decade ago.
Remember, don’t stop at one book, write a great first book then before publishing, create a series or a number of other books.
One book doesn’t earn enough money to live off of, see James Patterson, Josh Grisham?
They write and publish books yearly. Invest in a quiet work environment, an office chair, yoga mat for those days you feel tired, internet connection and above all a great story. All which cost $500!
24. Personal trainer
With the coronavirus disease spreading worldwide, the need for online personal trainers and home gyms has increased exponentially.
You need to have created a few training videos in your home gym or the gym you work in. publish the videos(simple) workout videos for people to do without using tools.
It pays to have a niche to focus on, for example, cramped apartment building or workout in a small house, know your clients and what their initial struggles are.
Now, when the customers want more, let them pay subscription money to access the lessons, you can include yoga sessions, Zumba and other forms of dance.
You need your years of experience as a personal trainer, an internet connection to post the workout sessions and consistency.
25. Frame designer
You need tools like a sander, stapler, glue, clamps
You would think that with the smartphone invention picture framing is dead. It is actually more alive than ever.
People realise that sometimes cellphones break and pictures get lost, so they preserve memories the old way, via framing the pictures.
Instead of hanging quotes on the wall, add some spice with pictures from your travels.
The more exotic, the better because you can sell it as a digital print over and over.
Now, you need about $200 to get started and advertise the kinds of frames you offer. Design frames not available in the market and has days like Valentines, Christmas, Mother’s Day or Birthdays in mind.
26. Sell microgreens /plants
Since realising that Kenyans buy plants online, I became obsessed in researching what plants sell, a list we will review in a later blog post.
The plants that sell are ornamental, small and can be used for interior design/decoration. They include beautiful Bonsai, parsley, mints, basil, bay leaves, which can be sold to individuals, restaurants and interior designers.
A bonsai tree costs up to 20k or more. You can purchase these plants or plant in your apartment balcony or garden.
I find controlled gardening, like in greenhouses produces the most reliable yield.
Try staying organic, don’t use fertilisers of growers to speed up growth, your customers will realise and won’t come back. Let the natural taste of the foods develop.
You can offer online courses on how to grow plants in apartments for profit.
I love calligraphy and have done it since I knew how to write.
You need a set of pens and pencils to get started as a calligrapher and if you are an artist you can make more money designing quirky animals alongside the beautiful letters.
You can buy an Apple Ipad to get started, an older version or buy second hand.
28. Sell crafts
If you are a crafter, then read a step by step on how to begin a crafting business and become successful.
You know most crafts are started from a hobby and require only the buying of products. For example, if you are tailor, you need a sewing machine and black and white thread and a few old clothes.
Start with an electronic or manual singer sewing machine costing less than $200 dollars a thread at 60 shillings so two at a 100, those are acrylic threads.
There are so many crafts to do including sculpting, painting, drawing, colouring, calligraphy. The only headache with crafting in Kenya is finding raw materials.
29. Start a home daycare
Home daycare is unlike a commercial daycare where you have to consider your location and expenses increases significantly.
With a home daycare, you need to invest in a crib or two, legos, a small indoor playground for babies.
You need to declutter to get started. A lot of posters/flyers for advertisements and a curriculum which parents can buy for their kids. When you include a curriculum you are assured of money flowing.
30. Fashion designer
I crave to know how to sew designer blouses.
A fashion designer needs about $400 to get started with an electric sewing machine with features like the overlocker already installed for hemming edges.
You need to show your style of clothes, you are your own marketer and model.
Don’t start from a commercial space before getting clients. Join a lot of Facebook groups and help showcase what you have sewn.
You can maximise the income by starting a YouTube channel or a blog offering tutorials.
To record for YouTube, you need natural lights and as our channel expands, you can buy more professional recording items like studio lights, cameras and employ a cameraman/woman.
Don’t forget though, start from a niche, sew from basic to designer blouses or pants or shorts.
Start from a small market then increase or expand from there. Create PDF patterns and sell your blouse designs as digital downloads, a skill requiring the knowledge of photoshop.
31. Makeup artist
I relish the day I will embrace and love makeup. But, show other Kenyan women how to choose face powders for their faces.
How to apply eyelashes, lipstick, eyeshadow and eyeliners. The makeup has made for billionaires and multi-millionaires.
Supplement your income by selling trending beauty products like mink eyelashes or magnetic eyelashes or fake eyebrows.
32. Hair artist
Wigs are used by men and women alike to disguise themselves or how they look. Shop for wigs from synthetic/acrylic ones from Alibaba then add them to your Shopify store using the Oberlo app.
You need at least $100 for advertising and $29.99 for the Shopify subscription per month.
33. Sell snacks and drinks
What snacks do people love to buy?
Cookies, cakes, sodas, juices, hotdogs, bread, cupcakes, sausages, boiled eggs, smokies, tea, chapatis. Why? Because they are cheap, affordable and satisfy easy.
Get a licence first for the operation which can cost up to $20 a month if you are a walking vendor.
Buy a food cart which costs up to $200 dollars or less. Ensure to have gloves and clean water supply when serving people. Also, prepare your foods in hygienic sanitised environments.
34. Sell eggs
Like snacks and drinks above you need about $250 to get started with an egg business.
The structures for chicken. Or if you don’t want to keep chickens start from buying eggs from chicken farms at discounted rates then resell at a $1 higher for retail purposes.
You can sell your eggs to small kiosks, individuals. The key, source for quality eggs to supply to supermarkets, advertise heavily on Facebook and ship all over Kenya.
Stock eggs from quails, ducks, chickens, goose, turkeys to capitalise on your profits.
35. Sell homemade bread and cookies
When I made mandazis and cookies before my online business took off in 2012, made over 10k a day and in profits about 6k because I got my supplies from wholesalers.
I avoided using electricity because of the expenses so I splashed on a charcoal oven from Botto Solar and purchased their charcoal briquettes or used normal charcoal.
Because the oven is used to withhold heat, I would only spend 30 shillings for a 2kg of charcoal.
So I bought sacks of charcoal to use. I used the same oven for cooking the mandazis. When beginning a homemade cookie or bread business, you have to ask yourself where will I be spending my money on? Then cut down the costs but not the quality.
My customers always loved the crunchy hard cookies over the softer versions. I supplied to hundreds of shops a day, meaning I lacked sleep but business was good. I averaged a quarter million a month in mandazi business.
To this day, I am called ‘the mandazi girl’. Don’t go mean on the sugar, eggs, milk, blue band/butter, those are the things some mandazi businesses don’t understand.
Have good communication with the local shops to enable you to make the most money. In other words, network. It’s my mum that brought the business, so we split the profits.
Take care of self as well. I closed the business due to lack of sleep, eating right and well, it’s the same year my online business took off.
36. Create customised care packages for Valentines, Easter or Christmas
If you love gift-giving and when you read a gift guide your nose cinches up a bit, then it’s time you show others how to choose gifts for their significant others for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmases.
You need to invest in packaging materials and wrappings all which cost less than $100 to get started.
37. Start an Ironing service
It’d do a lot of office men and women a lot of services if you could begin an ironing service.
I work from home and wearing my non-ironed clothes is the norm. Plus I don’t have creasy clothes.
A steamer iron box costs $50 or less plus a steady ironing board costs at least $100 or less. You must buy wooden ones to have flat and even surfaces to work on or use a table, big and wide enough.
This is a great service to offer to corporate staff, so market to them, in their offices.
You can take their clothes, washed and deliver to them ironed every Sunday or before the work week begins.
38. Music instructor
I would love to play the saxophone, I find it classy and hard to learn. Do you know about pianos, guitars, violins and saxophones?
Help others learn how to play these musical instruments. You can start from an instrument at a time and create space in your living room to begin the classes from.
The only catch, tell others you are available via social media. You don’t have to scare people away by saying you live in Mombasa and they are in Nairobi.
Create online classes from simple, basic to advanced learners.
39. Clothes alteration
You have a designer dress and instead of getting it repaired that broken seam, you toss it away either because you’re scared the fundi will ruin it further.
You must be a great seamstress/tailor to begin a clothes alteration business.
Apart from a sewing machine, industrial one and lots of cotton and acrylic thread have experience of repairing and altering clothes.
Alterations go beyond fixing a few basic errors, it goes deeper into changing a clothes appearance and design without using extra pieces. You must also have a vast collection of different fabrics, from textures, colours to get started.
About $300 or more dollars are needed or start by advertising yourself through alterations you have made like Coolipra did with her sewing empire called Thrifted Transformations.
40. Online dating consultant
These days people are looking for spouses online. No matter what people say, dating websites and online dating aren’t going anywhere.
You need to be a relationship expert to know what people are looking for or research.
You need to have proven the various ways of finding a serious spouse online.
Provide services like writing profiles and finding dates for either single mums/dads, college graduates.
You can create a website like eHarmony and help others find their dating match using bots.
How to Start a Successful Business With $500 in Kenya: Success Tips
- Domain name
It’s simple, where do people start their search for business services these days? On Google.
Have a domain name matching the name of your business. Choosing a brand name goes hand in hand with the keyword in this day of Google, choose your brand name(domain name) wisely.
2. Create Engaging and value-adding content
Where do you find information? On the web, on Google about any question you’re looking for.
You want to be the business that’s at the forefront of creating engaging blog posts which answer questions your customers ask. That way they trust your brand and become loyal to you.
3. Niche out
When I heard about niching out, I literally puked. I am a multi-passionated person.
In the end, I felt like I spread my wings too wide and lacked focus. I had to ask myself what is the one specific thing I never get tired of talking about and want to shine about?
I love talking and educating others about working from home and earning legitimate incomes from their homes in Kenya. And BINGO, I had a niche focus.
The aim is to explore all the possible topics within your niche until you become the expert, the go-to person.
You can always come back to your passions when you’re recognised in one. It’s easier to establish business empires when customers put you with a successful brand.
4. Set aside an advertising budget
Most business owners in Kenya forget about marketing. You don’t need to learn how to market, you can always pay others. My mantra these days is, I am proud of what I create how about screaming about it. After all, you are the best hype about your products there is, nobody’s going to hype better than you.
5. Get a camera and a microphone
In the day of video advertising, I have seen my businesses soar due to my YouTube channel, which I became consistent on it in 2019.
Create content about the products you sell, it’s free marketing. Show your products in motion.
6. Start from passion then provide value
I am all for passion, going for what I love to do with my passion. If I don’t like doing it there’s no joy in it. What do you love? And does what you love to have a sizeable market which you can capitalise on?
7. Don’t forget about branding and its importance to any business
I don’t talk about business without talking about branding, it’s important to have a signature and a brand is your signature.
What’s your mission and vision and why must customers come to your business than go elsewhere?
Since learning about networking when I was 13 from my dad, I have come to realise what a network connection can do to my business. Let those in your network be related to your niche, or let them be people willing to help you achieve your aims.
In conclusion, these 40 businesses to do with $500 in Kenya isn’t an exhaustive list.
Before beginning any business, conduct the market research, understand what the market yearns for, then fill in the gap.
I have also realised, to succeed in running any business, start with your brand in mind.
What’s your mission/aim, what do you hope to achieve and do you have the stamina to sustain objection and opposition?
Which of these 40 businesses to do requiring $500 to start will you begin as a Kenyan?