Business ideas to start today with zero cash

Choosing the path of entrepreneurship and working on finding great business ideas, is without a doubt very rewarding. However, money is needed for most business ventures and may feel like a deterrent to starting your endeavour. You don’t need a ton of startup cash to get a successful business off the ground. There are plenty of home-based business ideas that you can grow with zero initial investment. Here are a few ideas to get you started from entrepreneurs who made it work:

Tours and travel agency

The tours and travel business is one of the easiest ventures to get into, says Nixon Muhia, founder of Zuru Adventures.

“You need the support of friends and family to start you off and that’s about it. With social media, it is easy to advertise. Come up with an itinerary or schedule for the day. My first trip to plan was a Mt Longonot tour. First I called to ask for the charges. Then I found out how much the transport costs would be.  If it costs Sh25,000 for the whole car, make sure all the seats are booked prior.”

He then compiled all the charges plus value addition like lunch or photography to come up with price per person.

“If the total is Sh3000, you can now charge Sh4,000 and if you had 20 people for instance, Sh20,000 is yours and you used no capital.”

Pro tip: Always ask for the deposit first to pay for your expenses.


If you love writing and photography, a blog could be your ticket to a passion-driven career.

Marion Mithamo is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She started her blog Scrapbook Journeys and celebrated four years of blogging this year. She says the first step is doing online research on what you’d like to focus on and zero in on a niche.

“You can then start out with sites like or Blogger where you can sign up for a free Blog. There is no need to start out with a paid blog. With travel blogging, good pictures are key. However, you can start out with your phone and check YouTube for ideas on how to take good pictures with your phone.”

The next step is to identify some of the places you’d like to visit. Approach and propose working with restaurants and hotels to feature their property on your blog. 

“Initially as you start out, you might have to work for free or get paid in kind i.e. food and accommodation. But as you build a portfolio that shows who you’ve worked with, you can use this to pitch your proposals to new paying clients.”

She adds the most important step is to build a social media community. Reach out to potential clients in a professionally worded direct message (DM), with proposals on what value you can add by marketing their business on your blog and social media.


Freelancers are likely to find themselves in more demand in the future. This is due to the sudden need to hire independent professionals thanks to the Covid-19 changes in the working sector. A freelancer is someone who works independently and is hired by different entities to work on particular assignments.

“I started freelancing on UpWork and Fiverr last year. Most of the things I knew weren’t popular on either platforms, so I picked topics that were in demand and that I was interested in, then I went on YouTube and got the necessary training, “says Karanja Felix.

Freelancers like Karanja find work from freelancing sites, the most popular being Fiverr, Upwork, Toptal, Simply Hired and PeoplePerHour.

“The first gig I secured was a content writing gig, and the guy was so impressed by my work we actually connected off the platform. He gave me a few more tasks and within about four months, I had made about Sh23,000 from one client alone. I created more gigs on Fiverr, which worked for me better than Upwork, and kept at it until about July of the same year,” he adds.

 Commercial modelling

Nairobi is one of the region’s biggest fashion capitals and home to many of the best fashion events, designers, garment manufacturers, fashion colleges, and of course, modelling agencies. With little to no experience.

Mwende Mainye has been a commercial model for over five years. It all started with a need to get extra cash to bootstrap her wine business. She got the job on her first audition, but some people have to do up to seven jobs before the first paycheck.

“You need very few things to be a model since you are the product. First, a portfolio with professional pictures of you. Then invest in your body which means work out, eat healthy, moisturise and mind your hygiene. Before you audition, practice posing. Look up how other models do it. You can use YouTube tutorials too. Practise with friends and family, taking pictures and correcting bad form. Following famous models online may also help build the model demeanour," she advises.

But above all, Mwende says confidence during auditions is the most important thing to have.

“You need to be comfortable in your own skin or else it will show. Once you are ready, join forums or groups online like on Facebook and WhatsApp.”

Be careful with the modeling space, especially if you are young, so as not to be taken advantage of.

“With a good job that will air in Kenya only, television content and no print, a one year use of the content will make you about Sh60,000 to Sh80,000 depending on the client and your role (whether main cast, supporting or extra). With the money you make from your first job, invest in a good portfolio and a manager,” she adds.

Some popular agencies in Kenya include Versatile Model and Talent Kenya, City Models Africa, Surazuri, Eyez Modelling and InVogue.

Teaching kids art

Teaching arts and crafts to kids can be a small but profitable business to start up, especially now with quarantine and home-based businesses taking root. You do not need to be a fine arts graduate or have a diploma in art, find easily downloadable books and tutorials like as well as YouTube tutorials that are in millions.

“No investment is required for space if you are doing it at home. Before the pandemic, I taught crafts as well as up-cycled art for Sh15,000 a week. For tutoring actually what you need is just the skill then you figure out how to get to your students. So if it’s online, you will need internet for online videos. Previously I would just meet my students in their schools, says Brenda Onono, an arts tutor.

“Plan a curriculum for at least a year, with 2-3 classes in a week. Every lesson, assemble your materials like colours and drawing books to make whatever you will be teaching on that day. If you are teaching from home, ask parents to provide money for materials as part of your fees. I charge Sh300 a child per day and I always get a minimum of five students everyday.”

She says getting clients; the students is the easiest part. Friends, family, neighbours and social media are the go-to sources. In this age of Covid-19, parents are looking for ways to engage their kids with schools closed and art is one of the ways.

Tax prep

Businesses have to deal with taxes every month, and for most business owners, if they can find a way to not directly deal with this one aspect, they will take it. And that is where the opportunity is. 

Kenyans are also notorious for waiting till the last minute to do everything, and that includes taxes. It’s not the sort of side business idea that’s covered in glory, but if you are good at numbers, all you need is internet to make a killing every June.

“Assuming you do not even have the internet; you can do it at a cyber café. As long as you have a personal computer and the internet, you’re set. If it’s something small, like a one-hour job, even Safaricom ‘power hour bundles’ that cost just Sh20 will do,” says John Ngugi, a law student who does tax preparation as a side hustle.

Learning how to file taxes is as easy as going to the KRA YouTube channel. They have covered all you need to know.

“Also, the customer service guys at KRA will often respond to your questions if you get confused. There are also other YouTube channels that show you the step by step processes. But for beginners, it is easier to learn from someone already doing it, because there are different kinds of taxes, “he says.

This hustle earns John a comfortable income.

“June is when I make the most money. In other months, I work a lot with landlords and companies.”

  Being the errand person everyone needs

Many people do not want to leave their houses or offices to run tedious errands and that is where you come in.

All you need is to be organised, have a reliable phone to communicate with your clients and you are good to go. There are many errands you could consider offering: bank errands, dog walking, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, taking cars to the wash and many, many more.

Jade Errands is one such company, managed by Antony Kamugi. Running in Nairobi, he targets just about anyone for housekeeping, moving services, maid services, janitorial cleaning and fumigation among others. While it is the moving service that seems to have gained steam, the company receives clients who want even menial tasks like having their utensils washed after a party to be done.

You do not need to go his route and set up a whole company to do this. Try asking your family if they need an errand done and you will do it for them, for example, grocery shopping then get Sh300 from it. You can build from there to earning Sh1,000 an errand.