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Five most lucrative small businesses in Nairobi

By Silas Nyanchwani | June 24th 2019 at 10:17:02 GMT +0300

1. Selling shots

Not the ones you are thinking. Selling whisky, rum, brandy and gin shots is a rewarding venture. Just in case you wondered why every restaurant teems with young and agile women wiggling their way around with wine belts and shoving tot glasses to your face, it is for a reason. Even without diluting and insulting your drunken inability to distinguish tastes, they will make scandalous profits on a good day.

Picture, a tot-glass is about 40ml. That means a litre is 25 shots. In upscale bars a shot is Sh 200. That means a bottle can fetch Sh 5,000. And to think that most whiskies cost less than Sh 2,500. Sharon Njeri who sells shots in a popular club along Kimathi Street confirms,

"Yes, we make double the money for every bottle. But that is if people buy. Sometimes you can walk around the whole club, the whole night without selling," she confirms. But that is a minor problem. It is not something hot-pants and a charming smile will not solve. Men will buy. And she knows another secret;

"Selling creamier stuff to ladies, especially those in the company of men. Men mostly buy to impress the women, or to get them drunk faster," she confesses. And it works, most of the times.

2. Selling snacks (to drunk people)

We all know the addictive nature of Mishikakis, smokies, boiled and samosas after a night of bingeing. When high, the cost is the least of your concerns. Now those who sell snacks, especially at night always laugh to the bank the following day, thanks to the ravenous appetite of Nairobi drinkers given to drinking on empty stomachs.

Noel Mutua* who sells eggs at the Bus Station at night makes a tidy sum.

"On average I sell 300 eggs a night. Mostly to drivers, conductors and revelers going home," he says. He buys eggs in bulk for Sh 10. He will get tomatoes and onions for Kachumabari and will definitely part with a few hundreds to the City Council askaris for 'protection and license'. A good night can fetch a profit of Sh 2,000.

3. Selling Movies

There is no doubting about the profitability of the movie business. Otherwise, there will not be so many stalls dedicated to selling movies, mostly American TV series and movies. But the many stalls, compounded with faster internet connection have watered down the business in recent times. Still those in strategic places, with faster and reliable means of downloading the latest Hollywood offers in real time and have invested in a larger customer base, there is a lot of money. At one point in the past, one of the leading suppliers of the pirated movies would make up to Sh 40,000 a day. That was before stalls swarmed town.

"Now, we make but not as much as three or four years ago. Then, we would make at least sh 5,000 a day," says Nelly Kiong'a who runs a movie selling stall along Tom Mboaya.

"But it is going down. Nowadays, we are lucky to make even Sh 2000," she complains citing the mushrooming of similar stalls in estates and availability of fast internet connection that has seen many Nairobians opt to downloading the movies themselves.

4. Fruit selling

Nairobians lately are eating healthy. And the people supplying fresh farm produce are some of the happiest small business owners. Some of the best movers in this category are fruits.

"Those who do it on large scale, more so supplying to supermarkets and other outlets, it is profitable. In a day we make anything Sh 500,000 to 1 million from sales depending on the season. That translates to some good profit that we have even employed at least 50 people in the business," says Aman Singh* who is one of the main importers of fruits and sells mainly in Westlands.

5. Condom, cigarettes sweets at night

If you are a reveler, you have probably bought a condom, a cigarette or a sweet and chewing from a vendor in the streets. Moi Avenue and Kimathi Street in particular are thronged with several revelers. The stretch of Moi Avenue from Ambassadeur Hotel to Haile Selasie Roundabout, better known as the beer belt and the corresponding part of it along Tom Mboya Street are the most active at night, more so from Thursday to Saturday night. And the volume of people guarantees good profits, made all the more rewarding by overpricing and the mostly drunk Nairobians.


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