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Five great tips on how to start a car wash in Kenya

By Killiad Msafiri | July 9th 2020

Choose a name

It goes without saying that any successful business must have a name; otherwise, how will your customers identify your services? Choosing a unique name for your business way goes a long way in ensuring that you stand out from both direct competitors and other businesses in your locality.

Most people struggle when it comes to choosing a name for their businesses, well that’s a whole different story but for starters, choose a name that is easy to spell, pronounce, and memorize. Make sure that the name conveys some positive meaning about your business.

You can also come up with a list of names and ask your friends or other business associates what they think about them. This way, you can scale down to one or two names that most of your respondents find catchy. From there, you can choose the one that makes you happy.

Choose a suitable location

The location of your carwash is a huge factor in determining how your business will turn out. First, find a place with high traffic volume and where there is little or no competition. It doesn’t make sense to start a carwash in an area where there is little or no traffic and where such businesses already exist.

In some cases, however, the demand is still high even when similar businesses are available in the same location. Such was the case when Hillary Gathambi started his ‘Sparkle Carwash’ business three months ago at Imara Daima in Nairobi.

I asked him why he chose a location that had many carwash businesses to open his own, and “it’s simple,” he said. “Over the years, this place has become popular in this area for having carwashes. So when I spotted an unoccupied space suitable for the business, I had no doubt that it would work. There is something for everyone here,” he told me.

Also, find a location with retail or shopping centers nearby, you can be sure that some motorists stopping by will spot your business. Sparkle Carwash is located within a residential area where most working people have their cars, “sometimes we pick their cars from the estate and return them after we’ve finished washing them,” he says.

An extra tip is to check the speed limit of the particular area you want to open your carwash, an average speed limit of 45 mph will tell you that drivers are not too much in a hurry to make stops while passing by.

Market your business

It is crucial to have a marketing strategy in place as you open your business. Getting your customers might take time, but one way you can achieve this is through referrals. Excellent customer service will automatically earn you more referrals.

Also, look at your network of friends, relatives or neighbors who have cars and inform them of your plans to start a carwash. You could start by giving discounts or even free services, and in turn, they could refer you to more of their friends or colleagues.

Like Hillary Gathambi, your recruitment could also be a good marketing strategy if you are planning to employ people in your carwash. “I got people who had already done the job before, and since they are from around here, they brought some of their long term customers with them,” he said.

Invest in the right equipment

Before starting a business, take time to consult other entrepreneurs, especially those running businesses that are similar or related to what you want to start. This will help you to avoid mistakes that beginners commonly make.

Getting the right equipment for your carwash will be easier if you talk to other carwash owners. For instance, when choosing a pressure washer, consider its amount of PSI (pound per square inch).

Generally, car washing is made quick and easy using pressures ranging from 1200 to 2100 PSI. Depending on your business plan, decide on how many washers you are going to need. Also, determine whether you are going to use an electric machine or one that is powered by petrol. 

Hillary Gathambi has both machines for his carwash business. “I mostly use the electric one because it is cheaper to operate, but the petroleum one really comes in handy during outages,” he tells me.

Just start!

No business is without risk. Hillary has had his fair share of fortune and trouble that has now been brought by the Coronavirus pandemic. One important thing is you have to start from somewhere; sometimes, you don’t have to have everything figured out.

Car washing is not a skill you acquire from going to school; anyone can do this job if they are willing to learn. “You must be keen to details,” Hillary tells me. He started the business with his small home tank for water storage purposes; now, he has managed to buy extra ones for the business.

As we conclude our brief conversation, he informs me of plans to construct a shed after most clients expressed the desire to wait as they had their cars washed. Still, a long way to go for him!

How much did you start with? I curiously ask as we step away from the noisy pressure washers, “About 150K to set up a simple business like mine, the machines are quite expensive,” says Hillary.

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