The Nairobi Project

I Want to Draw a Cat For You! founder Steve Gadlin tells of how a young Kenyan playwright, Victor Gido, contacted him in 2009, offering original scripts.

This is how Victor contacted Steve (unedited):

hello names is Victor Gido from nairobi kenya and would like to ask i fyou people are intrested in any plays for the moment.i can assure you that you wont regret by doing so.please do reply with immediate effect.i will be looking forwad to hear from email adress is

After some back and forth, they agreed that Gido would write one to order for $50. In the words of Steve Gadlin, My gut told me that I was setting myself up to be the victim of a scam. But I was lured in by the possibility of producing the worst stage play, by the most unlikely playwright. Along with his $25 deposit, I sent Victor the following plot synopsis for his play:

A millionaire named Quack Quack Quimby has forgotten the true meaning of the Jewish holiday Tu Bishvat. His daughter goes to great lengths to remind him of its meaning, and make him happy once again….

The Nairobi Project begins with Gadlin at his laptop, trying to decide whether Gido’s email is legitimate, includes a video of cast auditions, and ends with a performance of Gido’s one-act play, The Price.

Victor Gido’s original work, The Price, was be performed VERBATIM, in its entirety, as part of this hilarious show based on a ridiculous plot by a writer with little to no command over the English language.

So, dear readers, what do you think of this? It seems that “success” is still only an email away!

Niche Marketing in Developing Countries

The basic challenges of creating, maintaining, and growing a successful business are the same worldwide. In developing countries, these challenges can be amplified for a variety of reasons, including widespread poverty, lack of infrastructure, and unstable government.

The objective is not to overcome these challenges overnight, but to work within them and make them work for you!

  1. Identify a niche. In order for small business to thrive, it needs to create a product or provide a service that is both unique and relevant to the target community. Creatively thinking outside the box and developing complimentary yet separate services to those that already exist can boost not only your own profits, but those of an entire community!
  2. Begin locally. Often, the best resources can be found at home. Identify partners who understand the needs and culture of the target community. Let them guide you through the proper channels to help minimize vulnerability and maximize opportunity. Consider forming a cooperative with local entrepreneurs who are willing to share not only the business and investment risk, but also the skills and rewards of a grassroots partnership!
  3. Develop your brand. As a small business, you want to build recognition, trust, and loyalty around your product, sustaining its value long after its initial reception. This requires confidence and objectivity to step outside yourself and see your product or service as others perceive it. Only then can you commit to improving your brand with a recognizable logo, a catchy tagline, and an overall image that speaks well of its origin, of its grassroots.
  4. Partner globally. Yours might be a business that started out as local, but if perchance to dream, why not go global? In this way, with proper and careful management, an entirely new market can open up. Products considered essential or custom in one country can take on new meaning in another, where a shrinking world view creates a consumer preference for ethnic goods from far flung places.
  5. Go social. There is no better way to advertise a product then by word of mouth. In developing countries, reaching rural or underserved populations can still pose a challenge, but working within the local framework of community connectivity and tradition can open doors. And, with technology reaching new frontiers every day, going social not only means recommending a product to the neighbor next door, it also means bringing your product to a worldwide consumer base linked via online social networks and video sharing.

Launching a business in a developing country takes courage, foresight, creativity, and a plan that is flexible enough to allow for a little experimentation and risk. Without risk, we cannot reap the rewards!

Author Bio:
Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. They take care of all the necessary information related to “babysitting”. He personally thinks his blog will help finding information on all things related to a babysitter.

To Have or Not To Have a Rates Page

Whenever I visit a shop or stall and see something I like, I ask the price. Usually, the vendor will bring the item down, hold it in a better light, and extol its superior virtues. It’s a good sales tactic, but it makes me nervous. The more the seller praises the item, the more I’m convinced I can’t afford it. It’s almost like he’s justifying its impossible price – before he’s even told me what it costs.

I feel the same way when I bump into a hotel website and would like to sample the services, but I can’t find any estimates. Instead, I find a phone number, and when I call it, I spend endless minutes (and airtime) being told everything but the cost of a room. I suppose the assumption is that if I could afford it, I wouldn’t need to ask.

When you’re working online, you may wonder about whether or not you should have your prices out in the open. Sage salespeople will tell you never to mention money until the buyer is hooked. Make sure your prospective client is so impressed that they will pay whatever price you quote.

I find that doesn’t really work on the web, because there’s so much scope and variety. Unless they like what they see, your client will be looking at your site for mere seconds. It seems unfair not to lay out your terms right from the start. That way, when a client gets in touch with you, you know you have a serious prospect.

The next challenge becomes what exactly you should charge. There’s no sure-fire way to do it. I once sat down to write a quotation for a client. I had a complex system of per-page billing based on word counts and time-shares that had me charging him 5,000/= for a high-end security website. After my complicated calculations, I decided 5K was too little, so I added a 1 before the 5 and sent off the invoice. The client never called back.

Wondering whether I had made a major gaffe, I called some friends who did similar work. They all felt 15,000/= for a website was massive undercharging, claiming that they billed their clients anything from 50,000/= to 200,000/=. I’m not sure what that prospective client ended up doing. He may have written the content himself, or got his high school nephew to do it.

For me, it was a lesson well learned. It’s not about how much or how little you charge – it’s about being transparent and consistent. When you have your rate card plainly listed on your website, your client knows exactly what he’s getting into. He might still think you’re overcharging him, but at least he won’t feel you hiked the price based on his outfit, office space, or mobile phone model.

I’ll tell you what someone told me about choosing your price range. Think of your ideal salary. Figure out how long it will take you to finish that task. Then divide your ideal salary by 22 to figure out how much you should earn in a day. Divide that figure by 8 to average your hourly earning. Then calculate the cost of the task based on how many hours (or minutes) it will take. Of course the downside of this method is that you have to finish the task within the set time, but at least you’ll be a lot more organised.

You could work it out the other way round, multiplying your ideal salary by 12 to get your annual figure, then dividing that by 40 to see how much you should earn in a week. Then you can base your rates on the volume of work you can get done in a week, assuming the task takes 7 days at the very least. But for math haters like myself, it sounds like an awful lot of work. A handy shortcut is to use an online rates guide like this one. You’ll still need some conversions, and it’s a tad generic, but it’s a good place to start.

Anyway, after months of procrastinating, I finally created a rates page on my website. I’ve used it to bill a few clients, but as clients often do, they think I’m overcharging. Meanwhile I’m tempted to review everything and add a 1 before every figure. Or maybe I could multiply the numbers by 5. Either way, I’ll let you know how that goes once the first client pays…

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


A Time To Sow

Internet usage growth rate

Internet usage growth rate

Have a look at the graph above. Go ahead, you can click on it to make it bigger. As you can see, the internet usage rate in Kenya is growing rapidly, especially when compared to other countries which are slowing down. In those countries, the internet is already mainstream meaning that a lot of people make money online. However it also means that it is much harder to make money online because there is a lot of competition. Compare this to Kenya and you realise that while at the moment you may not be able to make much money online, it is much easier to launch something and have it do well in Kenya. But this will not last forever.

I think that now is the time for aspiring internet entrepreneurs to attack and completely own internet business niches. It may take a while before you get super-impressive results but if you invest in online business now and take root, you will be reaping huge rewards as more and more people and businesses get online in Kenya.

So what are the best niches to invest in? Going by what works in other places the following, in my opinion, are some of the most lucrative areas to invest in:

Online shopping in Kenya is nothing to write home about at the moment. But as the number of people who are online grows, it will definitely become very lucrative. Just as grew from nothing to one of the largest and most powerful businesses, you can grow a small little online shop to massive proportions and potentially millions in the bank.

Food, recipes and cooking tips are traditionally very popular. This is a saturated market in more developed countries but is quite accessible locally. You should get creative but the basic idea would some website that provides tips on cooking and recipes from around Kenya and possibly the world.

Making Money (or Saving Money)
I think it would be safe to say that literally everyone has an interest in how to make more money, save more money or reduce their expenses. Why not position yourself to cater to this need? There are so many different ways to approach this. Some are:

  • Insurance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Loans
  • Investments
  • Personal finance

Self Help
Almost everyone has some thing that they want to improve about themselves. In fact, in developed countries, there are countless online “gurus” providing information and guidance on things as diverse as healthy living, career advice, money management, relationships, etc. Your job would be to motivate and instruct others on how to improve their lives in a certain way.

The “Supernatural”
Believe it or not, this is big online. I’m thinking that as big as it is in other countries, it could be even bigger locally. I put the word supernatural in quotes because it can cover many different things from horroscopes to planets aligning with your birth date to psychic readings and even witchcraft/wizardry.

Like me, you may not believe in this stuff but lots of people do and an opportunity exists for you to fill their need. As usual, do not do anything illegal. 🙂


So there you have it. We are at a point in time where you can take root in an industry early and absolutely dominate it as it grows. I am sure a lot of smart people are already diving in and establishing themselves. What are you waiting for?

If I missed any important opportunities, don’t worry. My list is not conclusive. 😉

Disrupting The Kenyan Movies Industry

I just read a very well written and thought-provoking article on how piracy affects the Kenyan movie industry: Secrets About Piracy Revealed By Jitu Films Director. It seems that a very interesting problem plagues our industry:

  • Piracy is apparently illegal in Kenya.
  • However, all those “DVD for 50 bob” shops in town sell nothing but illegal pirated stuff. But they sell foreign films and so no one bothers to go after them. (An instance of how the law fails local film makers).
  • Those shops in town can never dare try to sell Kenyan movies because they need a special license to do so and because if they did, the city council will be on top of them quickly.
  • This presents an interesting problem for local film makers: they cannot hope to compete on price with foreign films. Would you buy “The Rugged Priest” at 100/- when “Avatar” is available at 50 bob?
  • To add to that, there is no local DVD factory hence local film makers have to import these and pay import taxes on top of all the other ‘normal’ taxes int heir industry. Essentially, they are unable to sell their movies at 50 bob and remain financially viable. The illegal shops in town selling pirated stuff pay no taxes.
  • This creates a situation where locally made movies are more expensive than foreign movies. They are also harder to find because to sell them you need a special licence which the 50 bob shops typically do not get.

Of course this creates an industry in which it is difficult to make much good money. What do you think can be done to overcome these problems?

IN my mind, piracy is a problem that can be best solved by offering a more convenient alternative. However, I am not to sure what, exactly, can be done to bring up such an alternative.

Through my brief work with Space Yangu, I read numerous emails from people asking us where they could buy Kenyan movies. I believe there’s demand here and money to be made – someone just needs to figure out the logistics. I can think of two approaches to a solution:

  1. Someone to open a chain of little shops in Nairobi (and eventually elsewhere) to sell Kenyan movies. (this was suggested in the linked article)
  2. Someone could open up a huge online shop that sells and delivers a wide selection of Kenyan movies. Perhaps it could eventually lead to a Netflix like service.

What do you think can be done?

Freelancing is Dangerous

I remember when I was employed – I use to hate it. I have always thought of myself as a free bird who must not be tethered to one place or one job. And so I dreamt. I dreamt of the day I would be free of employment. So when someone told me to try out freelancing, I jumped on the idea.

Who wouldn’t want to live the easy life as a freelancer? Think about it. No 8-5 hours, no workplace politics. Just you working at home or from Java and closing deals on the phone. Sounds nice, eh? Except it’s not.

From my experience freelancers typically work way more hours than you’d think.

Rob Walling put it best in his manifesto “The Micropreneur Manifesto“:

With freelance work, you essentially trade your one boss for many—except now they’re called clients. And they don’t pay for health care or vacation days, or worry about your job satisfaction. Some won’t even feel obligated to pay you for the work you’ve done.

So as you dream of leaving your job, be careful not to get stuck in a new rat-race. What you should work towards is becoming a business owner (as opposed to becoming “self-employed”). That is, putting structures in place that will ensure that you are not the one-man behind the whole show. Hire freelancers/employees. Do not become your own slave.

No Sir, Don’t Get A Website!

Hands up if you are a “web designer” in Kenya. These days it seems that every other person on the streets does ‘websites’. Good for you, good for you (us?) all! It seems that it is boom time in Kenya as far as websites go. As many web designers as there are, there seems to be even more people who want websites….

So this year I have come across many people who want websites and are willing to pay good money to get one. trouble is, most seem to have LITTLE idea of how to use a website for their business. For the web designers in the room, I am sure you have met that guy who wants a quick website up in a week. They send you their company profile and bam! one week later you have them up and running. They then ask you to create a few email accounts based on their domain name and every thing goes well. Or so it seems. One year later, when it is time to renew the domain name, the guy is:
A. shutting down the website (what does this even mean?); or
B. renewing the domain name (for the email addresses) but does not care much about the website (and will try to get away with not paying for the web hosting); or
C. ignoring your emails and calls

So what happened?
Simple. Most people and businesses in Kenya get a website because it is the “in” thing. It is just what people do – you “have to get” a website dammit! But once they actually have their website, they have no idea what to do with it. It will forever remain an expensive “brochure” lost in a sea of millions of other websites and the hefty amount paid to the web designer will be a painful reminder.

You think I am over-generalizing things? Want a quick test to prove my theory? Good, because I have one. Ask three random people who recently had websites made for their business if they ever earned a single shilling from their website. How many of these websites even get more than 20 “hits” a day consistently?

Sadly, in Kenya, we build websites and then we forget about them and get busy “running the business”. The website was just something we knew we had to do.

Think about your business. Do you have a website? What, exactly, does your business gain from it? Is having your website address on your business card enough return on investment for you? If yes, then good, I am happy for you.

If the answer is no. Well, then, you’re in trouble. A website, in my humble opinion, is meant to sell your products and/or your business. You should have a reliable way to measure how much of your revenues were directly or indirectly attributable to your website.

Otherwise, you should not have paid so much for that flashy beautiful site. Maybe next time you should get a picture of your business card as your homepage and leave it at that!