How to Think Like An Internet Entrepreneur [Interview]

Readers, we’d like to introduce Gerald to you. We learnt about him from this comment on a previous Like Chapaa article. Gerald is an Internet entrepreneur who has a network of 15 websites. He is also part of the team that runs Mara Gates which is a local tours company that relies on the web to drive the business.

We thought Gerald’s would be an amazing story. I hope you agree.

Q. Gerald, tell us about yourself and what you do.
I graduated from JKUAT university with a Bsc Science degree specializing in Mathematics, Chemistry in 2002. After university, I didnt want to become a teacher so I went to a college in Westlands to learn web design and other IT related studies. It was in that college that I learnt about Internet marketing.

I took it upon myself to learn SEO, PPC advertising etc and other forms of internet marketing. I also read stories of people that were making good amounts of money on the internet and this intrigued me.

The challenge was that there were no colleges in Kenya that taught Internet marketing well and the ones that touched on it were offering very shallow or basic information.

After college, I got a job with a tour company whose main source of business was the Internet and my work was to get more leads for the company through my self taught skills. After a few months business started increasing for that company and they had to move from a house they were operating in to a big office in town. From there on I increased my knowledge in Internet marketing.

I worked for 6ys for that tour firm until i resigned in 2009 to start my own company to help businesses make money off the Internet. The company is called Ebiz Connect Solutions –

In the process of time I also opened up a tour company towards the end of 2009 with a friend of mine. Our main source of traffic/business was from the web. This tour company, for its small size, has been doing very well and is able to compete with the big players in the tourism industry.

Q. How did you find out about selling sites and how did you start?
I stumbled upon selling of sites just by reading discussions going on in the internet. Thats when I came to learn about I needed some money for personal issues so i decided to list one of my sites on and even though i didnt sell it at the price that i listed on that auction site, someone contacted me and we concluded the sale later.

[ For the readers: Gerald built and sold the website: ]

Q. How did that come about?

Since dogs have a huge fan base around the world, in 2007 I decided to built a site where people could upload photos of their dogs and rate them. To make some money, i incorporated Google Adsense into the site.

Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Concerning building a business off the web, the main challenge is that there is so much information to digest on the internet that it can incapacitate you from doing anything. There are too many “experts” out there trying to tell you what works or what doesnt and some of this information contradicts one another.

You also need to be cautious of sites peddling “secrets” that will teach you how to make thousands of dollars per month online. Yes there are genuine business persons that are making millions off the web but there are many more lying to unsuspecting people. Research first.

The other challenge is being consistent. Its easy to build a site but the hard part is marketing it. If one is not consistent and strategic in marketing, you will end up not making money and will end up dropping the project and start another one and this can become an endless cycle

Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?

For internet entrepreneurs some of the challenges are;
– Slow internet connections
– Lack of proper training in Internet marketing
– Limited startup capital to run the business

Q. What was critical to your success?

Not giving up. Also you need to treat making money online as a serious business and not just something you try

Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?

Just like any offline business, for your website to be seen, one needs to advertise. Whether offline or online, you need to have a budget for marketing your business. From personal experience, I prefer marketing my internet businesses online as this is more effective.

There are various methods you can use to market your business online. Some of them include optimising your site and building backlinks to your site in order to get high rankings in Google. You can also use PPC (Pay Per Click) to advertise your services. PPC is very effective if done correctly. My tour company gets a lot of business by advertising through PPC

Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?

You dont have to live in any western country to be a success. You can do it right from the comforts of your home. Our tour company is doing well and we are selling travel all over the world right here in Kenya.

Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?

Making passive income from Affiliate marketing about $3000 per month

Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Create a plan and strategies my income expectations and how to execute each goal consistently in order to reach the expectations that I have set.

Q. What advice do you have for internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
Building an internet business takes time, effort and money. Many want to try and cut corners believing the lie that one can make money quickly and fast.

That is all for today, readers. You can get in touch with Gerald by visiting his website:

Introducing MyCDBag [Interview]

Dear readers, today’s interviewee is Paul Abwonji. He is a nairobi-based developer and the man behind MyCDBag, Water Framework, and I-sentIt.

Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you.
My names are Paul Kevin, developer by heart. I enjoy non-cliche media and gamming. I taught myself most of what I know and I develop web applications(Java and php), video games(Mobile and PC) and mobile apps for smart phones.

Q. How did you start?
Well, ever since I was very young I always loved developing products and items that are cool and procatical. I never had a liking for theory in innovation, so I always took a practical approach. My first ever project was, a website that would have all of Kenya’s entertainment in one site in a social network scene. This was back in 2006, I had a team of reporters, developers, marketers and a programmer. It was fun, I must admit, but we lacked direction and discipline.

Q. Tell us a little about MyCDBag
MyCDBag is basically cloud music. This idea came to me 2 years ago, I have love for music and I know afew mucisians. So, its a platform that will allow users and artists to directly interact with each other on their terms. A platform that will change our music industry and show people that music is not just a business, its fun. The name MyCDBag was coined up while working on a project with no name. I had first wanted to call it ‘M’ but domain names cannot be that short 🙁 . Alot can be put in it, and we want to start with music and grow.

Q. What do you hope to achieve with MyCDBag?
I hope to bring out more recognition to the music industry. We have great artists and upcomming artists, most whom lack motivation due to piracy and expenses incurred when producing music. Music is a career, and all careers have their own edge to them. I want the site to help artists become artists. MyCDBag has an anti-piracy tool that allows artists to be alerted when one of their songs or albums is in use by someone other than themeselves. The technology will enable fans to follow artists from any device and from anywhere.

Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
First of all, I was not so good in design. This is actually the second version of the website, with a better design. I partnered with a friend who I think is the best out there when it comes to design, Paul Bombo. The second challenge was mamnagement, so I partnered with another friend, Michael Otieno.

Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?
The biggest challeng I got was laziness. I personally would prefer sleeping over working. I currently have a job and balancing that with code is a real challenge also.

Q. What was critical to your success?
Great friends and a project that I love. Hard work and plenty of research

Q. What about the competition and marketing, how do handle that?
Competition is crucial, otherwise you are not in business. There is alot of competition and big names with alot of funding to do things we cannot do. To handle this, we get personal with the users of this service. Target the artists who are comming up and offer them something we are happy about. Its all about delivery and product belief.

Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?
You can “Make it big” from anywhere in the world as long as you believe in your product and in yourself. Kenya, currently has alot of untapped opportunities. Sometimes you will want to get sponsorship from a company that you know is good for your product/service and they shut you down. It happens, but as an entrepreneur you should know that everything in life is not easy and you should not let others determine your business mood for you.

Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?
I see myself helping others build their business, I know the struggle and I would like to see more online businesses come up. As for MyCDBag, there are alot of plans in play for the next 10 years, a step by step process that is really fun. I hope to chenge the music industry as it is.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Launch sooner 🙂 Version 1 had a simple layout, but I had to srap it off tio make room for new technology.

Q. What advice do you have for internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
Dont limit yourself on technology, follow your dreams and if its done, do it better.

That’s all for today readers. If you’d like to hear more from Paul Abwonji, please visit his website .

  • Water Framework is a php API framework developed to server as an API base for I-sentit – in development
  • I-sentIt – A communications API for all platforms using Email and SMS. It will have a mobile and desktop client.
  • Email : paul.kevin[at]
  • Twitter : @paul_kevin, @mycdbag
  • Want Your Own Online Business? [Interview]

    For the readers that don’t know, Andrew Mutua is one of the founders of

    PamojaShops is a community of buyers and sellers of African handmade wares. We hope through this platform which is not limited to time and/or place, we will open up our creativity and art to the world. PamojaShops is the online version of open air markets, commonly known as Maasai markets that showcase our creativity, our culture, our enterprising spirit, our art, and our unique identity with various influences both from within and outside.

    Today, Andrew opens up to Like Chapaa.

    Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you.

    I’m a 29 year old tech enthusiast, who loves Jazz (check out my blog). I have been in the IT industry now for 8 years and I recently co-founded PamojaShops.

    Q. How do you make money online?

    I believe you’re asking about our business model. Initially, we had thought of having a rental model, whereby each vendor pays a fee to open and maintain an online stall. Pretty much what happens in the physical world.

    However, this has since changed to commissioned-based model where each product sold will be charged a small percentage over and above its price. (The most unique part is that the vendors acquire their own micro-site and they can use that to market themselves i.e

    Q. How did you start?

    The idea had been brewing for a while now. I think it has been a year since I first thought of having the online version of Maasai Market (African Handicrafts open air market).After some prodding from my sister I decided to plunge in and pursue the dream. She followed that up with a promise to be an investor and partner in the venture. With that major boost it was full speed ahead to making it happen.

    Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

    Initially it was hard getting someone who could translate my idea into a digital platform (site) which could set up and host online shops (E-stalls) and facilitate payment and shipments. But lucky enough I did finally get someone (Nickel Pro) who understand and even further refined my idea – I guess through persistence it finally panned out.

    The other challenge is the target user, (Maasai Market Merchants) is mostly not computer literate. And considering we had hoped to have a system fully automated and within the control of the user we’ve had to step back and evaluate the viability of this approach. What we’re now doing is working hand-in-hand with the merchants taking them through the entire process. So it’s gonna be pretty involving and hands-on at the start…again this is good, it may help in understanding the trade more intimately and to craft a more relevant solution.

    Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?

    Funding is an issue but I believe this slowly changing. I think there’s a lack of support structures to help any start-up out there e.g. have a forum for startups, advisors, incubation centers and low cost administrative support for start-up.

    Again, there’s good news here the development of initiatives such i-Hub and Nailab seek to tackle some of these challenges.

    Q. What was critical to your success?

    We we are not there yet, but Passion in whatever you’re undertaking is very important because when all else fails it’s the only thing that keeps you afloat, energized and fired up to move on.

    The other is a community of people; be they techies or any skilled person ready to rent their expertise; entrepreneurs who offer their advice and inspire you with their experiences. The community helps you where you can’t; gives you guidance and direction and, there are people out there ready and willing to help and I think the i-Hub has doing a great job in fostering this kind of community support and partnership.

    Over and above all, the other attributes of hard work, teamwork and more belief in God has also been key in this venture. When you take the uncharted road and you don’t know what the next step holds, God gives you the strength and bravery to plunge in and keep going.

    Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?
    Marketing is a critical element to any business as a means of putting the word out, promoting, raising awareness, seeking participation, etc., to eventually result in conversions (sales).

    Word of Mouth ranks up there as best means of Marketing. And in this regard we’re leveraging Social Media Tools – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc- to raise awareness; create a community of fans around our product and service.

    In terms of Offline Marketing we’re looking to engage in intense evangelism of our product in every meet-up that we’re part of. And we’re also considering doing some flyer print-outs or some other print marketing materials.

    Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?
    The Internet has since leveled the playing field quite dramatically. And although Western countries have certain advantages (support structures, availability of VCs, etc) I think now, in this day and age, we all have a chance to play in the same league as them. Look at platforms as Ushahidi that were birthed here and have since gone global. This is a testament that we have what it takes to develop world-class products.

    Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?
    I hope we’ll grow PamojaShops to be the world’s largest marketplace for all African Handicrafts.

    I also see myself been involved heavily in various community service initiatives that I’m passionate about i.e. education and social entrepreneurship.

    Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
    No. I think the lessons, missteps, failures that I’ve made in life made me who I am and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You can’t go back, we only move forward.

    Q. What advice do you have for Internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
    Act on that idea. Don’t get hung up on how unique that idea is and holding on to it like your life is depended on it. The best idea is the one that has been executed. Go ahead and make it happen or as Nike would say – Just Do it!

    That’s all for today readers. If you like what you hear, why not go over to and buy something or become a vendor?

    Check out PamojaShops Facebook Page and Follow them on Twitter.

    Or contact Andrew MUTUA- andy[at]

    Making it as an Online Freelancer [Interview]

    For the readers that don’t know, Linda Cherotich is a writer and freelancer extraordinaire. She is available for hire on and is already making a decent amount of money working online. Today, we get to learn all her secrets.

    Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you
    Linda Cherotich is a young Kenyan woman with little to say but a lot to write about. I’m somewhat an introvert. Above all, I have an independent spirit.

    Q. How do you make money online?
    I write all kinds of articles for online clients; most of them on social issues. I have constant clients who fill my days with work.

    Q. How did you start?
    WOW…that’s a long story. I have always been reading and writing but until I went to college I considered it a hobby; my favorite pass time. It was in campus that I started writing seriously, being a firm believer in giving my all to what I love. This was the first time I had paid close attention to my writing passion and I sharpened this skill all through my schooling. I wrote short stories here and there and I kept a daily journal for three years. Towards the end of my fourth year, I discovered the potential that the internet had and I decided to exploit it. That was a year ago and I have never looked back

    Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
    The biggest problems I faced were internet connection, personal organization, dealing with internet clients who didn’t pay me, among others. It was very hard at the beginning and I recall wondering if I was really up to the challenge. Before I got myself my own internet connection it was hell on earth. The first few months were hard but in no time I was on my feet. I had to discipline myself and make time for work everyday. Before these challenges I was very naïve about the market and freelancing as a career, but there is only one way to learn…take the plunge.

    Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?
    In this field, getting a good client can be hard; akin to sucking blood out of a stone especially if you are a beginner. You really have to prove yourself and demonstrate that you have the abilities the client is looking for.

    Q. What was critical to your success?
    Success can only be brought by a change of attitude, and I had to learn that.

    Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?
    Since the business is internet based, the only way to advertise is having a profile that outshines the rest. Developing trust with a client is crucial to your success when you are beginning

    Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?
    Not necessarily, but you have to agree that they have a wider market and better options than us. Some clients, for example will not hire service providers from developing countries and if they do they will pay a fraction of what they would have paid providers from their own countries. Then, there is the payment method issue, which makes it a liability for them to hire service providers from this part of the world. In order to make it big as a freelancer in Kenya, you have to work twice as hard as a freelance writer in the west.

    Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?
    I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with…watch this space

    Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
    Maybe I would have started earlier than I did, but I guess everything has its day and time. I never really knew a lot about online writing before I went into it, so I would read more about online writing.

    Q. What advice do you have for internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
    First, consult with people who have tread the path before you; they have the experience and you can learn from them. Second, be realistic, do not expect too much too fast. Third, be positive and fourth, since you need to have a skill to make it in your internet based business, take your time to develop them. If you have to take a course please do, it will be worth your while.

    How To Make Money Online In Kenya, 2010 is currently valued at $15 BILLION! That makes the young founder, mark Zuckerberg an extremely wealthy man at such a young age. What about you? How are your finances doing? You could seethe with envy at Mark, or you could try your own hand at making money online!

    Last year, we wrote one of the most popular articles on this website: How to make money online in Kenya. The gist of that article was that advertising as a source of online income may not be the best way to go….that was way back in 2009, though. This is 2010! How does one make money online in Kenya?

    This time, we’re going to do it a little different: since last year, we’ve come across countless numbers of Kenyan who are already making money online! So this article will talk about how those people are doing it in hopes of inspiring you to start making money online in Kenya!

    1.How we make money online in Kenya

    We run and a number of other websites. Of course one of the main goals of running all these sites is for us to make money online. How do we do it?

    • Advertisements – Like Chapaa has these adverts on the side (you see them?). They make us peanuts. Honestly.
    • Consulting – as it happens, a lot of the people who read Like Chapaa tend to email us asking for help in setting up online. We make a tidy some from this. How can you do this? It is not a hard concept: just pick out a topic that you are interested in and know a lot about then start a website to talk about that topic and set yourself up as a “consultant”. It works, trust us.
    • E-commerce – this is unbelievable even to us. DESPITE not having an online shop yet, we do sell a few books from our site Jua More. The lesson here seems to be if you have a website talking about a certain product that people want, then you can probably sell this product to those people. Jua More is a book review site which is still very small yet it already makes some money. Can you replicate this with a site of your own and another product? I bet you can! Just pick out something you have passion talking about (and marketing). I’m thinking things like movies and music, clothing and other such stuff can do pretty well! We even built DukaPress for you so this is super easy to do with no technical skills whatsoever!
    • Web Design – Wambere, one of the founders of Like Chapaa, also runs Nickel Pro which is a web design and development company. Like Chapaa drives a whole lot of customers her way. How can you do this? This is all about marketing, if you offer a service and want to make money online from it, you need to find somewhere (online) where the people who would buy your service hang out and then talk to these people and subtly showcase your skills and experience. They’ll buy.
    • Referrals (Affiliate income) – incidentally, most of the things we recommend you use – akina, AlertPay, etc – have affiliate programs. This means that if you sign up to those sites after reading about it on Like Chapaa, we get paid. How to do this: this is pretty easy, in my view. You shouldn’t start the process by looking for companies that offer affiliate programs. Instead, look for what interests you. If you love shoes and want to start a website about shoes, you will come to find there are tons of sites out there that will pay you good money to drive people to them. Affiliate programs exist for almost everything under the sun – just find something you love, start a blog/site around it, and voila!

    Also see: How to make Money With A Blog.

    2. How Other People make Money Online

    We realise that we aren’t the only Kenyans making money online (hehe) and so this section is dedicated to everyone else that we have come across this past year.

    A. Advertising
    Like Chapaa sucks at making money from advertising but these sites do it amazingly well:

    1. Career Point Kenya – this is one of the most visited sites in Kenya and, rightly so, they make a lot of money from Google’s Adsense program. This means that whenever any of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Career Point Kenya every day click on the Google Ads, the guys running that site get paid. Sweet! To replicate this you just need to build a website that gets huge, HUGE, numbers of visitors and you’ll get paid like you won’t believe. This is not as easy as it sounds, though, and I would caution against betting on advertising as your sole means of earning online.
    2. Bankelele – the ever popular Kenyan blog. I think this is one of the oldest blogs in Kenya. It has only survived this long because the guy who runs it is a master at what he does. Unlike Career Point Kenya, Bankele makes advertising money by selling his own ads at his own price (you get this luxury when you have a site as good as his). Here’s how to do this on your own site!

    B. Selling Stuff
    Jua More, mentioned above, is just a lucky occurrence. If you want to really make money by selling something tangible (or digital), then you need to look at, and learn from, the guys below:

    • Mama Mikes – Mama Mikes is one of the first e-commerce sites to serve Kenyans. It is a site that excels at selling Kenyan stuff to Kenyans who do not live in Kenya. For example, you can pay power bills for your family in Kenya while living in Spain – or buy them gifts and groceries. Brilliant idea, eh? I think so too. Mama Mikes found a niche market very early on in the game and took it over.
    • Fab Guru – a fascinating business run by a lady off her Nairobi apartment. This is the face of “make money from home”. Fab Guru sells ladies shoes, bags and other items. She particularly excels at marketing her wares on Facebook where she has a large following of “fans”. Fab Guru makes quite a lot and the ingredients seem to be: a)find something to sell (preferably something that you love) and b)find a group of people who love what you have to offer (in this case, Fab Guru didn’t find those people, she built a place for them to come to).
    • Career Point Kenya – these guys have written a book that resonates well with the people who visit their site. I’m not sure of the sales figures, but I’d bet they do very well.

    Do you see a trend here? If you want to make money online by selling things, then you need to first find a good product (or products) – something you love working with and which is likely to have a market large enough to support you. Then you need to find, or build, a place where people who would be willing to buy your product(s) can be found. If you manage to do that, you’ll be home free!

    C. Freelancing
    Of all the ways people make money online, this is the one way used by most of the people we have come across. Quite simply, this is nothing but being a hired hand. That is, being paid to do something for someone because of your expertise, experience or both. Here are examples of Kenyans who are already doing this: Wuogard, Linda Cherotich, Maria Maina and our very own Crystal.

    How do you do this? Well, first off you need to be able to do something better than most people can do it. It can be anything, from writing to art, to web design.

    Next, you need to build out your portfolio and then try your hand at finding jobs/gigs at some of the more popular freelancer sites such as

    To put it in a way that it is more easy to relate to, I’ll give the example of Kenyan Freelancer. She’s a brilliant writer. She set up to do business online the smart way: she set up Smurt Notes which is her ‘business profile’ used to ‘seal the deal’ – but that’s not all – she also has a somewhat less formal site, Kenyan Freelancer, which I would say does more of the ‘marketing’. A nice little one-two punch to get her clients.

    Seems very do-able, eh? Good luck!

    See also: Interviews with Maria Maina, Kenyan Freelancer, and Crystal.

    In my personal experience, and as seen and proven above, you can make money online in Kenya by:

    1. Selling adverts on your site
    2. Consulting
    3. Selling other people’s stuff (affiliate marketing)
    4. E-commerce (selling your own things)
    5. Freelancing

    I am sure there are more ways through which people are actually making money in Kenya, but the above are what I have actually seen proven. What about you? Are you making money online? No? Need help?

    Good luck, and God bless you!

    Photo by timbrauhn.

    Online Freelancing [Interview]

    For the readers that don’t know, Maria Maina is a writer and freelancer extraordinaire. She is a graduate of the first edition of Biashara 30 – where she started her online freelancing career. Right now, Maria does something quite interesting: her online freelancing has grown to the point where she now has a team (of siblings and neighbors) who do all the work that she manages to get online through sites such as The set up very much resembles a BPO company, but on a smaller scale.

    Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you.

    I’m just a kawa girl. If you met me on the street you would not think that I employ ten people from my home, LOL. I am a shy and private person. I think I am very talented at being hard working and ‘driven’. Also, “they” say that I’m quite young. I’m a girl who simply loves life! I love to live life to the fullest, you know? I take each day as it comes and I give it my absolute best, every time! Many people say I’m cheerful most of the time and pretty easy to talk to. I love my life and I love what I do.

    Q. How did you start?

    There was a time, in B30, that Kelvin was encouraging us to go out and try get online jobs so I was eager to try something out. A friend of mine had been using Elance for about six months, and she turned me on to Elance. She was behind on a project and asked me to help her with it for part of the payment, and I agreed. After working with her on it, I figured Elance was something I could do, so I checked them out, signed up, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

    When I started out, I had no money in the bank and no access to any money. Things were thick! I used to live from hand to mouth month after month – every little bit of money that came in was already spent. But I gradually overcame this as I became better at getting clients and started saving.

    Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?

    I do not know if everyone faces this one – but not many people took me seriously. I kept hearing people tell me to get a job until my other business picked up. This is good advise and all but I believe one can only be successful if they focus sufficiently. One cannot focus sufficiently on both a full time job and a business – you have to choose. Atakaye yote hukosa yote.

    Q. What was critical to your success?

    I’m just a tenacious person. When I get into my stride I never give up. I think that is a quality that all business people need to have. Believe in yourself and never give up – no matter how dark and gloomy it gets.

    Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?

    I’m not sure how to answer this. I get all my clients online and the only form of advertising that I would say works is that all or almost all the clients I get really talk well of me. I would say word of mouth. It is the most important, anyway.

    Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?

    Hey, people should wake up to the fact that if one is focused enough, then it does not matter where in the world you operate from. When you go to these online freelancing sites you will quickly realise that they are chock full of people from India. India is just like Kenya….why can’t we do it too?

    Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?

    Right now my whole team consists of semi professionals and we work from my home. I love that I can help my friends and family earn something. In the future I’d like to see it evolve to a point where I can hire more full time professionals who can help me manage the (hopefully) much bigger team. I want to see my little baby grow to the point where we can easily do five or six hundred gigs a month worth $30 each from sites like Elance and oDesk. That would be something, eh?

    You always hear about BPO in the news and it is described in a way that makes you think it has to be a company getting huge contracts from big companies in America or Europe. Why can it not be a little business getting hundreds of tiny jobs from individuals all over the world?

    Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

    It takes time to build up a client base and portfolio with references. You have to be willing to take a few jobs that are not exactly what you want to do or pay a little less than what you want to receive in order to gain that all important feedback and history built up so that people will trust you with the higher paying jobs. Initially I only did the very well paying gigs, I feel that if I did all and any jobs earlier, I would be much more ahead of where I am right now.

    Q. What advice do you have for Internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?

    Freelancing is a business, not a hobby. In order to make enough money freelancing as your sole source of income, you have to treat it like the business that it is. You wouldn’t expect to be paid a full-time salary on a job for working part-time hours, right? And quality in your work are essential to being a successful freelancer.

    That’s all for today readers. If you’d like to hear more from Maria Maina please visit her website: Miss Maina wrote a book early in her freelancing career, you can find it here.

    Online Business Done Right [Interview]

    For the readers that don’t know, Wainaina is the brains behind Corporate Staffing Services, an innovative recruitment agency that delivers! He is also one of the partners behind the massively popular Career Point Kenya. The really interesting bit, though, is the fact that Wainaina uses the power of the internet extensively in his work. A good number of his clients are as a result of his savvy internet marketing efforts.

    Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you
    My background is in finance and HR. I am a certified public accountant and hold a higher diploma in HR. I attended my undergraduate studies at University of Nairobi six years ago. I began my career at a local bank rising from a teller to a finance officer but all along I knew finance was not my thing. While working at the bank I realized how much potential was out there. I interacted with young folk who were making it despite not have a graduate education. That’s when it hit me that college education in Kenya can sometimes be a hindrance to achieving your life goals, especially when you look upon yourself as privileged simply because you are a Bcom,CPA,CFA or whatever. I remember a friend from high school who was a client of the bank and I could see how profitable his computer business was. And here I was earning less than 35K a month with little or no chances of career progression. There and then I decided to learn all I could about self employment as I look for capital. While still at the bank I started consulting on HR on part time basis. Later I partnered with a colleague and the firm has two directors.

    Q. How did you start?
    I started with one client at a time. I would say my contacts at the bank came in handy. Actually I would advise anyone wishing to go into business to try this route. Obviously without antagonizing your current employer you can use the contacts you have gotten at your workplace as a launching pad. These are the chaps who know you and as long as you have a solid reputation it is very easy to make inroads. I also chose an industry which I understood – I didn’t need much training in HR, I knew the do and don’ts and, most importantly, I had a workable business model in mind.

    Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
    Money was and has always been an issue. To establish yourself as a credible brand you have to splash a few thousands by way of advertisements or engage a PR firm to put a good word out there. To achieve recognition we have endeavored to provide exceptional service and this way word of mouth and referral is the main source of business. There is also the issue of ethics. Recruitment firms in Kenya have been known to charge candidates for services even when they don’t deliver. We did away with some charges i.e. CV placement and this way we have established ourselves a credible firm that keeps it word. We have also utilized ICT a lot and as earlier stated most of our clients find us through this method. We noticed having a website and a functional one at that matter would greatly reduce our cost. Most jobseekers are online on facebook or using google search engine to look for latest jobs in Kenya. By having a website where we post vacancies we didn’t need to pay exorbitant cost to advertise in the mainstream media.

    Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?
    There is little support from the public. A lot of people will look down upon what you are doing preferring to deal with recognized brands. Big does not necessary mean better results. Remember Nakumatt started as a small supermarket somewhere in Nakuru and two decades later they have expanded to the whole of East Africa. It is high time we started rooting for the underdogs so long as there are delivering. Funds are also an issue. I may have this computer idea but if I don’t have sufficient capital my idea will remain grounded. That’s why I advice one to start small and choose an area which is not capital intensive.

    Q. What was critical to your success?
    Not giving up. I left the secure world of employment to chart a new course. On several occasions I have come to the verge of going back to employment but then when I look back and see how far we have come I encourage myself that the future is bright. I have a strong network of friends who all happen to be in biashara and this way I get support and ideas on how to make it. It has also been a trial and error thing. We have lost money on ideas that didn’t take off. Some ideas have been successful beyond expectation. We have also utilized the power of internet and consulted with experts like Nickel Pro who have been instrumental in our internet marketing efforts. All in one we have allowed ourselves to grow a step at a time and looking for creative ways to solve most problems that afflict start ups.

    Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?
    We tried putting adverts in the main stream media and this was a cropper. Those things don’t work! We haven’t tried print flyers but with our earlier experience with newspapers, I wouldn’t put much hope here. Conferences do work especially if you target the right market and also inform the attendees in ample time. The best marketing method so far is a satisfied client. You don’t need to pay someone to put a good word out there. Just perform the task or duty procured to the best of your ability exceeding expectations where you can and the clients will go spreading the great news about your service. For an SME this is the only tool you have in dealing with competition from the big boys who as we know in Kenya offer awful service.

    Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?
    Kenya does offer more. I am extremely lucky to be in this moment. Many business owners large and small in Kenya haven’t realized the power of internet as a competitive advantage. Anyone who has recognized this is already doing good business. The internet world doesn’t recognize how large you are on the ground. Provided you are able to articulate your message well online and your services are impeccable customers will troop to your door. Many Kenyans are now researching for opinions on anything over internet and if you have positioned yourself well the future is bright.

    Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?
    We will be one of the most recognized brands in HR consulting offering a wide range of services. We still want to concentrate on the mid sized firms and SME’s. With the success of our online HR campaign I am also looking out for another business model that can utilize the presence of the improved internet services now that the fibre cable is here.

    Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
    Much of what I know in internet marketing is self taught. The disadvantage of this is that you might take years cracking it up. Myself I took a cool three years from the time I took it seriously and I am still learning! However if we had outsourced this service earlier maybe we could be far. I am a firm believer in engaging experts and Nickel Pro have been instrumental in our internet marketing efforts. Always consult the experts and you will save yourself money and valuable time.

    Q. What advice do you have for internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
    Learn continuously and be patient. Internet marketing and SEO is not a magic pill that will work instantly upon implementation. We have done a lot of work, toiling daily and engaging experts. Lastly, internet business is it’s infancy stage and the market is waiting for any bold entrepreneur.

    That’s all for today readers. If you’d like to hear more from Wainaina, please visit their website: or

    Corporate Staffing Services offers HR consultancy services to medium sized firms in the areas of recruitment and training. They also offer soft skills training for job candidates in the area of CV writing, Interview preparation and career coaching. They know their candidates personally and vet who they are, ensuring there are no surprises. Talk to them and let them run your HR docket freeing you important time to concentrate on your business. Email them at jobs[at]