Keep It Simple

I’ve heard it said that there’s nothing new under the sun. There’s even a book that claims there are only 36 dramatic situations; these 36 are used in different combinations to write all stories. For someone who makes a living from writing, the prospect is pretty depressing.

An article I read recently suggests that originality is not about the idea, it’s about how you present it. For example, anyone can eat an ice cream cone, but not everyone can eat it while standing on their heads. The latter would be more likely to get media coverage.

The same can be said for business. Take Tux Cybercafé on the the third floor of the most ubiquitous building in Nairobi. They provide fast internet – just like the three other cybers in that building. They play music, just like everyone else. They have a cooler, and hotdogs, and ice cream. Big deal.

Except … it really is.

I first heard about this place from my brother. I was meeting him at Kenya Cinema and he gave me an ice cream. Now ice cream addiction is in our DNA, so for him to give me vanilla was a really big deal. He offered it to me because he’d had enough. That was even stranger, since the cup was quite tiny.

A while later, my other brother told me about this cybercafé where his college buddies hang out.  It sells ice cream for fifty bob and hotdogs for another fifty, so ex-cands can impress their girls on a budget of a hundred bob. Given the two independent referrals, I decided to check the place out.

I’d had a long day, so I badly needed ice cream therapy. I walked into the building, and at every cyber, asked if this was the place that had ice cream. They politely said ‘third floor’. But I was using the stairs – so I had to keep asking which floor I was on – there must have been six flights at least!

When I finally got to the cyber, the first thing I noticed was light … and loud music. The building itself is dingy and dark, but when you walk into the cyber, it feels more like you’ve walked into sunlight. The place was quite crowded – college kids – but because of the light, it felt a lot less stuffy.

The boy at the counter was very polite, all please and thank you’s. He said the ice cream would take a few minutes, so I decided to have a hotdog while I waited. They’re up to 60 bob.

The hotdog corner was next to the ice cream  maker, which was next to the cooler. So as I watched him assemble the sauces, I decided to have Novida as well. My bill was now up to 150.

I sat on a chair right next to the machines to wait for my ice cream. The seat was isolated, was far from the kids, and there was no computer on the desk, so I knew I wasn’t interfering with anyone’s surfing.

But as I placed my bag on the desk, I noticed it had a see-through glass top … with a monitor beneath. The keyboard was neatly tucked on a sliding panel. Since I was sitting there, I figured I might as well check my email.

The surfing experience was so fast and so smooth that it was an hour [and a hotdog and a soda and an ice cream cup] before I realised how long I’d been there.

Did I mention the ice cream? It’s HUGE! The cup is a teeny weeny plastic thing, and I can’t quite remember what the spoon was like … but the ice cream! It was a mixed vanilla-strawberry and it spiralled up to three times the height of the cup! I had to take coffee-breaks just to finish it!

The taste was a little watered down, possibly because it was assembled in a hurry – the ice cream operator pours this yoghurt-looking liquid into the machine and then it chugs for a few minutes and produces ice cream. There were lots of orders and a long queue waiting, so I guess he got the portions wrong.

In addition to college kids trying to impress, and surfers looking for net, I noticed a few hotshot office types coming by for the ice cream. And the boy at the counter served them all with a thank you and a smile. What really amused me is that I spent over 200 shillings when I’d only planned for fifty, and had such a good time I almost tipped them for it.

There was even a comedic interlude when the frazzled ice cream operator, while mopping up the goo, accidentally unplugged my computer twice in two minutes. Luckily I was done surfing by then and just laughed off the charade.

I’d been in there for quite a while, so as I walked out, the counter boy thought I hadn’t paid my bill; he sprinted down the stairs after me and asked me so respectfully that I really couldn’t be mad at him.

This is a very effective business model – and it all relies on fifty bob worth of ice cream. Fifty bob? At that size, I’d pay a hundred. But then again, if it cost 100, I wouldn’t buy it to begin with.

It doesn’t take a lot to build your business. All it takes is a simple idea that’s spun right, and these guys are spinning it right into the bank.

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

Websites Influence 97% of Online Purchase Decisions

“Your website may very well be the most powerful tool in your marketing kit. Not only is it the place prospects and clients go to learn more about you and your services, but it has a huge impact on their ultimate purchase decision. In fact, only 3% of the 200 buyers surveyed – from companies of all sizes – say a provider’s website has no influence whatsoever over their purchase decision.

The survey was conducted by and included more than 200 buyers responsible for more than $1.7 billion in professional services purchased, such as accounting and financial consulting; architecture, engineering, and construction services; human resources consulting; IT consulting and services; legal services; management consulting; marketing, advertising, and public relations; and training services.” – HubSpot

So, yeah, even as you are working on Facebook, Twitter, or anything else to market your business online, do note that the most important tool in your arsenal is your website. Spend more time and money on it than on anything else!

Stealth Mode?

Sometimes I get a lot of emails from people wishing to start a new business or website. One thing that I almost always get from these nice people is that they want me to assure them of absolute secrecy regarding their project. They are afraid that if other people hear about it, then their idea will be stolen.

But is that really true? The sad fact is that no one really cares about your idea anyway. And I speak this from experience – we’ve been involved in a whole lot of projects and the level of secrecy surrounding a project does not affect its success in the least. In fact, the more secrecy there is, the less your chances of success. I bet some of you never thought about it that way, ama? This is especially true if your project involves a lot of technology.

Why? Because high technology start-ups are very very much shaped by and demand a lot of user feedback. You cannot build a perfect project while tucked away in your basement – you need people to continually test it and give feedback so that your product ‘evolves’ into something that is just perfect for your target market. This is the plain truth, dear readers.

Please have a look at: Stealth Startups, Get Over Yourselves: Nobody Cares About Your Secrets by TechCrunch.

What do you think of all this? – whoooops!

Spot the difference: KissTV Vs JA Tube.

It looks like whoever made the Kiss Tv website used a Joomla template. Joomla is one of the leading content management systems so, at the very least, the Kiss Tv website is build on solid ground (code). However, this means that the designer hired/tasked to make the Kiss Tv site did little or no ‘designing’. What do you think about this? People have made millions from Joomla in exactly the same way…

What do I think about this? Well, it is a little embarrassing when people learn that a major website was made using a publicly available template but I have absolutely no problem with this. Using templates/themes means we can drastically cut website development time and costs as well as have elegant, well designed websites instead of the absolute eyesores that we used to see.

How much do you think the person who made the Kiss Tv site was paid? Why can that not be you? All you need to do is learn how to use WordPress, Joomla or Drupal and you’re well on your way. Making websites using these systems is easy. Good luck!

As a parting shot, will the designer of the Kiss Tv site please fix the top navigation bar?

SEO Success For Like Chapaa

Like Chapaa on the Google gravy train. (Click to see larger image)

Like Chapaa on the Google gravy train. (Click to see larger image)

When we launched Like Chapaa, one of our goals was to get onto the first page of Google search results when you search for “make money in Kenya”. This is because, well, Like Chapaa is about making money in Kenya. As you can imagine, that was quite a task – “make money” is one of the most competitive search terms in the whole world.

Sometime recently, we achieved our goal! Like Chapaa is now #5 when you search for “make money in Kenya” 😀 We also rank pretty well for other search terms that we had been targeting.

Why is this important?

Well, when you have a website, your visitors can come from two main ‘places’: you can have people visit you by typing in your url into their browsers, or you can have search engines like Google refer people to you.

By far, search engines send a well established site the bulk of its visitors. It is therefore important to optimise your site such that when people search for certain terms on search engines, they find your site. This is called search engine optimisation (SEO) and it is super important for any website. For example, if you search for “Like Chapaa” on Google, you will find this website.

So, how do you do SEO?

At the basic level, there are two interlinked factors to consider when you think of SEO. These are:
1. Relevance – this is simple to grasp. For instance, If you want people who search for “golf” to find your site, then your site must be about golf. If your site is about oranges then people who search for bananas cannot find you.
2. Authority – this a bit more complex and is interlinked to “relevance”. Let’s say that in the whole world, there exists 10 sites about bananas. Now, when someone searches for “bananas” on Google, she is going to find all ten sites. But, Google will rank the ten sites and list them sequentially. Why does Google do this ranking? No one really knows. However, we do know that Google uses, among other factors, links to rank websites. Look at it like this, if another site, say writes about bananas and places a link to your website, Google takes this to mean that has ‘voted’ for and vouched for you to be a website about “fruits”. Now, the more such votes that your website has, the better your rank according to Google and other search engines.

To get Like Chapaa to where it is, we first of all made sure that we talk regularly about making money in Kenya. Then, we used any and all means available to us (some of these are here) to get some authority for our voice, our website.

Guess what? Being on the first page of Google results for several nice keywords has really boosted the number of visitors to Like Chapaa. This Google thing really does work, hehe 🙂

We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Sunny Bindra’s – What It Can Be

So I’ve been poring over Sunny Bindra’s articles really heavily recently. I love his writing and he makes excellent business sense every time he writes. I always, always end up comparing his ideas to those of Seth Godin. In all honesty, they think quite alike on how a business should be properly run. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at their websites and decide for yourself. For those who don’t know, Sunny Bindra writes in the Sunday Nation. Seth Godin is based in the USA and is a renown best-selling author.

So, did you have a look at the two authors’ sites? What do you think? I’ve followed both writers for some years now but it was only recently that I noticed that is, in my view, not all that well developed. I say this with all due respect to Sunny Bindra – I don’t mean to bash him in any way! However, I am an avid reader of his writings and I just wonder, why isn’t his online presence as big as it could be?

Just think about it. How many people LOVE his Sunday articles? I bet a whole lot of people love and respect his work. This is his introductory blog post. See that? 46 comments on day one! However, the rest of his 100+ entries (all beautifully written) have just a handful or no comments. Contrast this with bloggers such as Shiko or Mama whose comment count goes into double digits regularly.

Okay, okay one could argue that gets a lot of visitors but very few leave comments. That would explain things, right? I thought so too, until I had a look at sunword’s visitor stats. According to Statbrain (hint: Statbrain is really useful to carry out e surveillance on other sites), Sunwords gets 320 visitors a day. Now, I’m nowhere near as popular as Sunny Bindra but Like Chapaa gets 570 visitors a day.

Now, I don’t know about you but I think that Sunwords should be a lot more successful than it is. I have my own thoughts on how to build a successful website but I bet Sunny has access to people much much better than I am at doing this. The big question in my mind is this: why isn’t Sunny doing more with his website? I do not know. There are probably very valid reasons for this. I would, however, like to point out some reasons why it may be of benefit to make more successful.

Sunny Bindra is already very very successful by any means. However, more success won’t hurt, surely. Ama? Let’s take a look at Om Malik. Om Malik, in my view, is a classic example of the opportunities that the internet can bring. I’m no authority on this but Om Malik has been a writer for a long time. At some point, he set up a website and grew it. Then he set up another, and another……now he owns GigaOm, which is among the top 50 blogs worldwide by Technorati Rank, and is part of CNet‘s 100 Most Influential Blogs. And what about Seth Godin? I believe that, over the years, his blog has been one of the key, if not the key, ‘things’ that sell his books so widely. One of his books is even based on his blog’s writings.

I believe in Sunny Bindra’s wisdom so much that I know he can do something similar. He is already popular, all that’s needed is a little more focus to build an online brand. The possibilities would then be endless. What do you think?

Picture by arturodante.

Case Study: Alice & Kev (Make Money Blogging)

About a month ago, I wrote about an interesting blog: Alice and Kev. Alice and Kev is a blog about life in the fictional world of “The Sims 3” game. Basically, the writer (Robin Burkinshaw) is playing The Sims 3 and then writing about his gaming experience. Pretty simple, right? Well, Robin is a master storyteller and his blog has become wildly successful. So much so that that each “installment” of Alex and Kev has more than 100 comments (this is rare for even the most successful blogs) and it enjoys a very very passionate readership.

Note that this particular blog started out low key as a personal project of Robin’s but because it was just too damn good, it exploded onto the scene and is now very popular. That’s how you build a successful blog: you offer something that is just too damn good; something that is remarkable.

As I’ve always said (to anyone who cares to listen 😛 ), once your website or blog has a dedicated group of people that actively visit/read it, then you can make money with that site/blog. Alice & Kev has a huge number of people who actively and passionately follow it. Therefore, of course, the blog’s owner is making money off it.

How does Alice & Kev make money?
The writer of this blog never intended it to be a commercial money maker and so has not really tried to make as much money off it as he can.

Since the blog is about The Sims 3, Robin has set up a system in which he earns a commission if anyone buys The Sims 3 game after reading Alice & Kev. He’s done this through Amazon’s affiliate program – you help Amazon make sales and they give you a cut of what the buyer pays – this is called affiliate marketing and it is how Alice & Kev makes money.

With his thousands of readers, I’m sure Robin has made some good money. Can you do something similar and earn money too?