Want a FREE Online Shop?

The very first time that I got interested in making money online was around the time when I hit puberty. I was reading this magazine – sikumbuki jina – and there was this story of a woman with three kids who had quit her job to take care of her babies. Since she was home a lot, she started spending a lot of time on the Internet.

One day, she discovered a nice little website where she could set up an online shop for free. At the time, she had nothing to sell online but the idea stuck with her. Weeks later, she started a little duka selling hand-made jewelery (she made it herself at home). According to the magazine article, in a few months her little duka was making her twice the amount of money she used to make at her old job.

This story just spoke to me and I promised myself to one day make money online somehow. I later realized this dream through Like Chapaa and other online businesses that I am a part of.

How about you? Have you ever wanted to make money online? have you managed to do it?

Only you know the answers to that. Today, though, I am very pleased to announce our newest project! OurDuka.

What is OurDuka?
OurDuka is a site that enables you to start a simple online shop easily and for free.

Why are we doing this? because of public demand. Since we launched DukaPress, we got quite a lot of people telling us they love it but also telling us they have no idea how to get started – few people understand how to download it, upload it on a server, bla bla… A lot of you just want to “get a shop” without worrying about the technical details. Well, now you can do just that, just signup at OurDuka and you’re good to go! All 100% for free.

Do you have anything you think can sell online? Why don’t you get off your behind and try sell it? You have no excuses since we’re giving you a shop for free, ama?

The site right now is still a bit crude but as we engage with you, we hope to make it better as we go along. Hop on, make money, be happy! Don’t worry if you get little things here and there that seem out of place, we’re fixing that.

Why would you use OurDuka?

  1. You get a fully featured shop just like this one or this one or this one. Free.
  2. Our shop management software is used by over 3,473 people. Would that many people be wrong?
  3. You can very very easily accept money via PayPal, AlertPay, or even MPESA. We don’t charge any commissions.
  4. We are known for providing top-notch support so you will never ever be stranded.
  5. We will love you forever! Seriously.

How do we make money?
We feel that before we even try to make money from this project, we need to make sure that you make money from it. Therefore, right now, this thing is free. Completely. We’ll be experimenting with how to make money using this in the future (when we have 1,000 users, if we ever do :p).

So, well, the ball is in your court. If you ever wanted an online shop, now you can get one that is very powerful and easy to use, and free. Visit OurDuka and sign up ASAP.

Scientific Advertising (Free Book Inside)

The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of a science. It is based on fixed principles and is reasonably exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until they are well understood. The correct method of procedure have been proved and established. We know what is most effective, and we act on basic laws. – Claude Hopkins

Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins is a timeless classic written many years ago but a book whose powerful principles still ring true to this day.

It contains 21 chapters of timeless strategies you don’t want to ignore in your advertising and marketing efforts.

In fact, David Ogilvy once said: “Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times.”

If you are an entrepreneur, I highly recommend that your read this book, it will teach you timeless concepts behind advertising and marketing.

You know what? We’re giving away free copies of the books. Just leave a comment below and we’ll pick winners in three days. Your comment can be about absolutely anything, but it would help if you added to the conversation. Good luck.

This book is also available at the Chapaa Shop.

How do you do your business advertising?

My last word on Paypal in Kenya … for now

Update: PayPal now works in Kenya! You can also now withdraw from PayPal through Babawatoto or LibertyReserve.

If someone had a dollar [or a sock] for every time I use this word, they could buy me a pizza. Actually, they could buy me a lot of pizzas. We mention Paypal a lot on this site, but Like Chapaa has specifically dealt with Paypal here, here, here, and here. And since most people don’t like to click on word links, I’ll break down a little. As you read the posts, look at the comments as well, they add a lot to the discussion. Sometimes, they give more information than the article itself.

  1. How to use Paypal in Kenya – getting a KCB card
  2. How to use Paypal in Kenya – drama with my KCB card
  3. We can now receive Paypal funds in Kenya – but we still can’t withdraw
  4. Paypal Kenya is advertising – which is a good sign, yes?

This morning, I received a GAF refund on Paypal, and to gain access to this money, I’m transferring it to a friend’s account in UK. Basically, I will move the funds from my Paypal account to his Paypal account. He will then withdraw the money and send it to me via Mpesa or Western Union, which is ridiculous really, but it’s the only way I can get the money.

This needs a little background. I get writing projects through GAF and Elance. Elance allows me to wire funds directly into my bank account, which takes five days, and costs about Ksh 200. GAF allows me to access money either through my Payoneer card or my Moneybookers account. Moneybookers wires the money directly to my bank, which also takes 5 days, and costs about the same as Elance transfers. Moneybookers accounts can be opened instantly by simply going to their website. There’s no charge to run the account, as long as you transact at least once in 18 months. Idle accounts cost $1.50 per month.

To get a Payoneer card you need to be registered with an affiliate site like GAF, and fit the affiliates requirements. For GAF, you must have earned at leats $30 to apply. GAF has jobs for writers, artists, IT people, architects – pretty much anyone can join, and it’s free unless you want a premium account at $24.95 per month. Totally worth it by the way.

Payoneer applications don’t recognize P.O.Box addresses, so you need to apply using your physical address, then as soon as your card is approved, you email them and ask them to change the shipping address to your P.O.Box number. There’s a charge of $9.95 to change the shipping address, and I received my card within a month. I can now use it at any local ATM that accepts Mastercard, and so far, I have made a withdrawal at a Barclays ATM. The ATM charge is about $2.

GAF only issues money on Mondays/Tuesdays, depending on your time zone, and to get money on Tuesday, you have to make a request by Sunday. Once GAF issues me the money, I can load my Payoneer card and withdraw it at any Mastercard ATM in Kenya or elsewhere.

Some clients prefer to pay through Paypal. I attached my Payoneer card to my Paypal account, thinking I could access Paypal funds that way, but it’s not allowed. I then transferred my Paypal funds to my GAF account, thinking I could withdraw from there, but GAF blocked the transaction. It’s against their policy to perform money exchanges, and they showed me where to find that on their FAQ. The back-and-forth process took two weeks.

So now, finally, I’ve decided not to load funds onto my Paypal. If a client insists on paying me that way, I’ll just put it down as spending money. I can use it on Paypal-compliant sites to buy stuff, but there’s still shipping costs to consider. Sadly, I can’t use it on Amazon, because it doesn’t give me  Paypal option. It prefers to go straight to my credit card. *groan*

James mentioned in the comments that it’s possible to get a virtual US account using my Payoneer card, so I asked Support about that. They said it’s a service dished out to selected customers on an invite-only basis, and reiterated that I need to fulfill some requirements, like having three loads on my card. So far, I have one load and one refund. Still, I wrote to feedback@payoneer.com for details, and I’m still waiting on a  response.

According to James, the virtual account would allow me to withdraw Paypal funds to the virtual US. These funds would then revert to my Payoneer card automaticaly, ready for withdrawal in Kenya. We have also heard rumours in the comments section that Equity is working with Paypal. I already have two bank accounts and a KCB credit card. I’m not sure I need more banks, but Paypal access is a pretty good reason to be a member.

Until that happens, my Paypal account is purely for decoration. I suppose I could use it as a savings account, since I technically can’t spend anything that’s in there – unless I spend it online. Hellooooo Kalahari! It accepts Paypal, right?

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

Founders at Work (Free Book Inside)

If you are interested in entrepreneurship, innovation or you are just fascinated by the special chemistry and drive that created some of the best technology companies in the world, this book offers both wisdom and engaging insights—straight from the source.

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea? Founders like Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail) tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.

Where did they get the ideas that made them rich? How did they convince investors to back them? What went wrong, and how did they recover?

Nearly all technical people have thought of one day starting or working for a startup. For them, this book is the closest you can come to being a fly on the wall at a successful startup, to learn how it’s done.

But ultimately these interviews are required reading for anyone who wants to understand business, because startups are business reduced to its essence. The reason their founders become rich is that startups do what businessesdo—create value—more intensively than almost any other part of the economy. How? What are the secrets that make successful startups so insanely productive? Read this book, and let the founders themselves tell you. – Amazon

This is an absolute must read if you’re job, your passion, or both (if you’re lucky) has anything to do with creating technical innovation. “Founders at Work” is a wonderful meander through the stories of successful company founders – across several decades. Far from focusing on just those who made it big during the first dot-com boom or those who are profiting from Web 2.0, Jessica (the author) also includes some of the true pioneers in the field. She recognizes that, not only do these industry veterans have valuable stories to convey but, since many of them are helping to steer companies and venture capital funds to this day, their advice is quite topical and current.

You want to buy this book, trust me. Head over to Amazon.com to get it from about $5 (plus shipping). It is sadly not available (and probably will never be available) in our Chapaa Shop.

Alternatively, dear readers, you can get a copy of this book free from us. We recently gave away 4 copies of “The Richest Man in Babylon” and, today, we’re giving away a copy (or copies) of Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days. Interested?

All you have to do is leave a comment below. You can say anything at all (but it helps if you add constructively to the discussion). We’ll pick a winner randomly in three days. Good luck!

Update 25/10/2010: This competition is over and the winners have been picked.

Have you ever started your own business? Why not? What was it like?

How To Increase Your Site’s Visitors by 60%

Over the last two months or so, the number of people who visit Like Chapaa per day has increased by roughly 60%. This increase has resulted in more business for us and we are, naturally, incredibly happy at the fruits of our labor. Today, I wanted to share the things we did to make this increase a reality. (We hope that it is the things listed here that the actually resulted in our site-visitor surge but it may well have been caused by factors beyond our control).

How we increased our site’s visitor numbers
1. We invested in social media
We built a Twitter Application and a Facebook Application. This has resulted in increased numbers of people from those social networks coming to Like Chapaa. See, normally, people wanting to grow in social media just create quick profiles in Facebook and Twitter and start getting friends, etc. We realised we did not have that kind of time so we chose to build applications so as to automate things a little bit (everyone should do this!). This resulted in us being able to do some really cool things: for example, you can leave comments on this site using your Twitter/Facebook profile, among other things.

Twitter and Facebook combined now send us about 30% of the visitors to this website.

2. Continuous SEO
Our strong point, of course, is search engine optimisation and making sure everything that we do earns us favorably as far as SEO goes is a priority.

I must say we have done pretty well as far as this goes. For example, when you search for “make money in Kenya“, our website dominates the Google search results pages. Search engines, and Google in particular, send us 60+% of all the people who view our site.

If you are looking to grow your site, please do not forget Google. Social media may be sexy but you just cannot afford to ignore Google!

3. Uniqueness/Creativity
I do not know how to fully explain this. It seems that the Internet “rewards” you for uniqueness and creativity. Like Chapaa is, strictly speaking, a blog. You would not expect us to create or be involved in projects such as DukaPress, yet we are. The “side projects” have earned us both money, and countless new visitors to our websites. Two examples:

  1. Our involvement in DukaPress has “side-effects” that just never cease to amaze. We get hundreds of people who come to use by searching for “DukaPress” on Google or directly from DukaPress.org
  2. Also of note is Biashara30. For a project that has largely failed, there are still lots of people who first come to Like Chapaa looking for information regarding Biashara30.

4. Getting Like Chapaa on other websites
Well, perhaps surprisingly, Like Chapaa is now listed at both Mashada and KenyaMoja. It seems that these two sites get quite a lot of traffic because they send us quite a lot of visitors. We were only recently listed on Mashada and that resulted in a visible bump in the number of people who come to Like Chapaa. Like Chapaa has also found its way onto Wazua, Kenya Unlimited, several Kenyan blogs and other smaller sites. The traffic that these nice websites send to us is significant!

I would not say that this is our doing because we did not ask anyone to include Like Chapaa on their sites. I would put it down to “if you create good and useful content, people will notice you”.

5. Email Marketing
Perhaps not many know this: Like Chapaa has a self-grown email marketing list of about 800 people. We do not send newsletters out often but all the articles published by Like Chapaa end up in the inboxes of our subscribers. Most of them always click back to Like Chapaa. This is a steady and stable source of website visitors for us.

Conclusion
The story of how we have grown Like Chapaa should inspire you. We have never ever spent any money to market this website and we started very quiety and, for months, got about seven visitors a day. But we persevered and, now, it is almost on autopilot – we just grow bigger. I put most of it down to luck and good fortune but here are some tips that may help you:

  1. The number one priority for your website should be your site’s content. Invest all your resources in this. It is what will distinguish you and win over your first few visitors. Always remember this: people already have favorite websites and things like Facebook which eat up their time – they do not want to visit your site unless you compel them to do so. Only your content can do this. Amazing content will make your site memorable and will make people want to talk about you, even include your site’s stuff on their sites. Do not mess this up.
  2. Social media is tricky. You typically need to invest a lot of time into it for it to pay off. However, we have proven it to be that you do not have to follow the grain (what others are doing) for it to work. My advice would be for you to pick your own social media strategy that will work to your strengths instead of just slapping on Twitter and Facebook like everyone else does. Also, 99% of Kenyan social media “gurus” are crap and are learning, just like you. Be hesitant to hire anyone.
  3. Search engine optimisation is easy if you know what you are doing and need not be expensive. But it is a very slow and gradual process. Do invest into it, heavily. It will pay off eventually.
  4. They say email is dying. We say that email is still the first place that Kenyans go online. If you can get your stuff inside people’s inboxes, you win.
  5. Lastly, keep in mind that there are billions of websites today. many of these websites are absolutely amazing. Therefore, the competition for website visitors is the stiffest kind of competition that has ever been known. It may not be enough to just create good content. You have to be creative and unique – do not just do what everyone else is doing; make your own mark on this Internet; think outside the box.

Good luck with building your site. 🙂

PS, Incase you do not know, you can hire us if you want help to grow your website.

The Richest Man in Babylon (Free Book Inside)

The Richest Man in Babylon is the kind of book that I would give/recommend to anyone regardless if their interest is outside of business/finance. Since finance can seem daunting these days due to its complexity, the book simplifies it through short stories. The insights that it provides allows me to step back and look at finance in simple terms. It opened up my eyes by introducing new possibilities, and adds positive reinforcements as to what a person can achieve in her lifetime. The wisdom that the book teaches is financially enlightening and it can change how you view your finance in many ways. Although the messages are delivered in a very unique fashion, the underlying nuggets of wisdom are direct and concisely to the point.

Clason, the book’s author, uses parables set in Babylon to make his points throughout the book. One chapter does a really great job of encompassing several financial points, The Five Laws of Gold. Each of the five laws are very simple and if used can work wonders in building your wealth.

The Five Laws of Gold

  1. Gold comes gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put aside 10% of all he earns to build an estate for his family and future.
  2. Gold labours diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds it profitable employment.
  3. Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
  4. Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses that he is not familiar or is not approved by those skilled in its keep.
  5. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the advice of tricksters or schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

The concepts in the book may be a refresher to individuals who already has a solid grasp of their finance, but nonetheless, it solidifies what you already know in many ways. This is a book that I can refer back to time and time again. If you apply some of the concepts that are presented in this book to your life, you will definitely be on your way to financial freedom. If I can sum up the book in one word, it would be “refreshing.” I recommend this book to everyone regardless of your interest or age. Read, apply, then repeat.

Do You Want A Copy Of This Book?
We’re giving away a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon to one of you, dear readers. What do you need to do? Just leave a comment below – anything goes (but it would help if you added to the discussion in some way). We’ll choose a winner randomly in three days. Good luck!

Update 21/10/2010: This competition is over. Here are the winners. For those who missed you can get the book here.

What do you think of the book? How do you manage your money? Need help?

6 Reasons Why Your Website Sucks

You’ve been working really hard on your website; You’ve made sure that every pixel is perfect; every image magnificent; and every word amazing. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to make a beautiful website that, well, sucks. Here are some reasons why your shiny new website may suck:

  1. Bad design – unfortunately, this is all too common. We may not say it out loud, but web surfers actually do prefer well designed sites that are easy on the eye. Use a good color scheme and a proper contrast between the background color and the text color. A simple site re-design may increase your site’s usability (and likeability) greatly.
  2. Your website isn’t findable – if people cannot find your site on search engines or elsewhere then they cannot possible view your site and appreciate all the hard work you put into it. Some of the biggest companies in the world have websites that aren’t well optimized and they still get found. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that isn’t an option. This is especially a problem for gorgeous sites that are all flash and only have one page for Google or Bing to index. Please take time to do SEO.
  3. Your website only talks about you and your achievments – it is nice to tell visitors all about you. But, honestly, most people do not care all that much about you. They care about how you can solve their problems. Don’t just talk about who you are and how cool what you do is – take time to also include information on how you can help me, examples of how you have helped people in the past, etc. It is important in winning visitors over.
  4. People do not know what to do – people surfing the Internet have a very short attention span. If you make your website so “cool” and so “unique” that people do not know where or what to click on to get more information, you will not engage your site’s visitors, you will lead them away. No matter how unique you want the site, take a moment to think how to make it easy and intuitive to use.
  5. Your website automatically plays sound or video – Maybe you have an auto-playing video or some funky background music, but it plays instantly. Your prospects probably don’t suddenly want a blasting presentation to come out of their computer speakers while they’re sitting in quiet offices or a library. They’ll quickly close the browser tab rather than becoming engaged, filling out lead forms, and eventually buying your product or service. It also wastes bandwidth for people using services like Safaricom’s bambanet.
  6. Outdated information – If I’ll enter a website and I see in at the bottom that it says “Copyright 2004”, I will be quick to leave. No one wants outdated information. Not only that, it gives users doubts about you: are you careless enough to tell me that the date is 2004 when we’re in 2010? I won’t do business with you!