Making Money from Your Ideas

Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.

That’s what I tell people when they ask me how they can sell their ideas. There’s a general misconception that ideas have some sort of market value, if only one can find a buyer. Sadly, that is not the case. Everyone reading this blog is full of great ideas. But usually we don’t have the time, talent, resources, or risk tolerance to pursue them. So we keep our wonderful ideas squirreled away in our heads, where they remain until dementia eats them.

If you do nothing with your idea, then it is worth nothing.

Event Management 2.0

So, suppose you run an event management business. How do you market it online? Do you just slap on a website and sit back? I think not.

For you to get meaningful and sustained business online, it is not enough to have just a website, you need to have a website that establishes you as an authority in your field of business. You want it to be that if someone is online and thinking of event management in Kenya, they will not miss to think about you. Now this is quite hard to achieve, do not get me wrong. However, the Internet is an equalizer and you can accomplish this by pursuing a steady well thought out and bold plan. In my estimations, it can turn out to be a really cheap (relatively) but efficient marketing strategy and while you may not be the biggest in the industry, your marketing will make you seem just as big if not bigger than anyone else.

The big idea
If I was planning my wedding, I would be so very excited and I would want the whole world to know about it. If I could, I would have a column in the newspaper about my wedding plans and the day itself would be splashed all over the papers so that the whole world sees how wonderful my big white wedding was. And my relatives all over Kenya and possibly the world would see.

Of course I am not some Prince so I cannot have my way like that. What may work to achieve similar objectives, is a simple website. What if I had a very simple site, like a tiny blog, where I could update the whole world – including all my friends and family all over the world, of my wedding plans and share photos as I move closer and closer to the big day? Then on the big day itself I would chronicle the whole day on my little site (vua a live blog or live tweeting). That little site will live forever on the Internet as a “digital journal and photo album” of my wedding. I will tell almost everyone about it and they will all come visit – probably even my kids’ kids.

Now, most people aren’t web savvy enough to do this, and they may be too busy to do it anyway. What if you, as their event manager, offer such a service for all the weddings and other events that you organize? You would immortalise your clients’ events on the Internet and they will probably share the links to those mini sites with all their friends. Now, of course, on each mini site you will make it clearly known that the event was organised by you. The more events you immortalise this way, the more people share the mini sites with their friends, the more your name spreads on the Internet.

On the wedding/event days themselves you could even announce that the day’s proceedings and pictures will be available online at some web address, on Twitter, Facebook, etc so everyone will go away thinking “wow, these organisers are thorough” and they may visit the sites and find a link to you, and so on.

You will probably also be one of the very few event organisers that do this and it may turn out to be a major selling point and perhaps even a source of additional revenue – not to mention that once you get a number of event mini sites up, you will establish your name online and get precious “viral” marketing.

Can you imagine a gleeful bride showing off her wedding on Twitter and facebook and in all the conversations your name as the event organisers comes up again and again? Can you imagine one of the really really hot parties in town having a website where there is a live update for all that is going on at the party (with pics, music and snippets of video) – won’t the people who did not make it wish they were at the party?

What would it take to do this?
Contrary to what you may be thinking, all the above is quite cheap and easy to do, if you partner with someone who knows what he is doing. Believe it or not, making this happen can be done for under Kshs 15,000/- per event (at least going by Nickel Pro rates). The idea is to make a mini-site for the event, and offer live blogging and live socail media updating on the day of the event itself.


  1. After doing a few such events, you may actually be able to charge extra for this
  2. Your customers will be probably “wowed”
  3. You will get material cheaply for your company blog
  4. You will be an event organiser at the forefront of technology
  5. Your customers will be effectively recruited as people who market you online by telling their friends and family about the mini sites you created
  6. You will quite possibly get “viral” marketing effects
  7. Your name will spread in the online space
  8. It is quite probable that you will get many new customers who learn of you solely online

This is not a short-term marketing strategy.

What do you think of this idea? Could it work? More importantly, who has the guts to try it out? No balls, no babies!

Photo courtesy of AZrainman.

Opportunity: Online MPESA Agent?

If you look at the sidebar here on Like Chapaa, you will notice a “Most Popular” section. This lists 10 of the most popular articles, ever, on this website. If you look closely, you will see that FOUR of those 10 most popular articles are talking about How to Receive Money Online in Kenya. What does this mean?

It means that there is a very great amount of interest on how to efficiently and conveniently receive money online in Kenya. This is probably because if you are doing any kind of business online from Kenya, you know that getting the money you earn has been and continues to be terribly difficult. It seems to me that people would jump at anything that would make this easier. It seems to me that there is an amazing opportunity that no one has addressed very well.

What would the ideal solution be?
I have done no sort of extensive research on this but I believe that the ideal solution would be a service that:

  1. Allows people to easily and cheaply transfer their money from services like PayPal, MoneyBookers, AlertPay, etc into a more locally accessible location
  2. The best “more locally accessible location” would be the mobile phone – MPESA, YUcash, or ZAP. SO the ability to transfer your money from akina PayPal into your phone directly.
  3. The whole thing needs to be done to international quality and security standards
  4. The service needs to be VERY transparent
  5. The service needs to exist for, and make us that its primary aim is not just to make money but actually to serve us. Other organisations offering similar services have struck me as being out to ‘make money ruthlessly’ instead of offering good service.

Can anyone build that? I’d be your first customer! I know that several Kenyan establishments are offering services that may come close to what I describe them but the fact that so many people who need this are still looking for a suitable solution means that this “market” is untapped.

Other things
Apart from transferring money from akina PayPal into services like MPESA, I would love the ability to transfer money from akina MPESA directly into services like PayPal.

I’ve been thinking about this a long time (because I feel the pinch and I need this badly) and it just seems so very doable that I wonder why no one has yet stepped up and tried to do it.

What would you need to do this?
As you read this section, keep in mind that I have not done any extensive research into this and what I say may just be plain wrong.

As I stated earlier, I think building such a service is not particularly challenging, at least not technology-wise. Here’s my idea on how it can be built:

  • You need an agreement with one of the Mobile Networks. I feel that Zain is the most approachable of the four Kenyan mobile operators. I remember having good conversations with their engineers on how to more deeply integrate ZAP into DukaPress. The kind of agreement you need from them shouldn’t need to be too different from the agreement that they currently have with ZAP agents. Something similar, but they need to know you will operate online.
  • You need to notify akina PayPal, obviously, that you will be offering this kind of service. Paypal, in particular, has elegant APIs that should make building your service easier.
  • You would need to build your application in such a way that it accepts money from akina PayPal into your registered customers’ accounts securely and then, on demand, transfers that money into your customers’ mobile phones. The good thing with ZAP is that you can send money to any phone network in Kenya.
  • You would, obviously, need to structure your pricing in such a way that you take a small (it has to be small) percentage of the money that passes through your systems as your fees. As you plan this, you need to work around withdrawal fees za akina MPESA as well as the fees due to akina PayPal
  • It would be an extremely good idea to make your whole application work fully from a mobile phone and not just the web!!
  • Your system needs to be secure; it needs to inspire confidence.
  • You need to anticipate the possibility of PayPal partnering with local banks (it is rumored they shall be partnering with Equity). This poses a significant threat to your business. You need to build your application with this in mind and strategize on how you shall deal with it. Which I personally think is very do-able.

So, what do you think? Is this build-able? What do you think of the whole idea? Leave your comments below. 🙂

Virtual Tourism – Can It Work?

African SafariSuppose you live in Europe or America and you have this really strong urge to come and see Africa (Kenya). You want to see the people, the wildlife, the scenery. It’s probably going to cost you thousands of dollars, right?

What if, in a real professional set up, one of the (Kenyan) tours and travel companies put multiple cameras on and in one of their tour buses and streamed a drive into, say, the Maasai Mara live and in high definition from multiple angles and you could switch the camera view (and maybe even zoom in if technology allows) to whatever you liked? And, in addition, there was a well spoken articulate guide telling you about what was going on (sort of like a commentary)….

Would you, someone who wants to see the Maasai Mara, pay for such an experience? How many people would pay? How else can this make money? Can it work? Perhaps something for our tour companies to think about….

How To Turn Your Skills Into A Real Online Business

Open for businessA lot of the people reading Like Chapaa have a skill set. They are strong in web design, writing, marketing, Web development, or some other different skills.

People with such skills who want to be entrepreneurs often end up selling their skills as services. That usually entails trading money for their time, expertise and experience. It’s the path of least resistance (and risk) and a way to form a source of income. The problem is that while the business might be moderately successful, there is a limit to how successful the business can be. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much that you can charge for these services (no matter how good you are). Since freelancing is not a real business model and does not scale, you should focus these skills on building a system-based business.

Here are some ideas to create a new business based on the skills that you already have.

Scale Your Skills
Instead of doing the work yourself, have 1, 2, 5, 10, or even 50 people do the work for you. Once you have other people doing the work, there is no limit to how big you can grow the business. Start by creating a manual detailing everything that you do and make it a repeatable process that someone else can follow. You will still have to find some people with some ability as you don’t want someone with zero creativity to design high-end websites for your clients. But if you create an efficient process in getting new clients and delivering their service at a reasonable, known cost, you can start scaling the business.

In order to reduce your risk, I would start out with contractors. Pay them on a “per project” basis so you are only obligated to pay when you get paid. Your profits won’t be as high and it can be tough to find reliable contractors with good prices and quality products but once you do, it becomes very easy to scale up your business. Start out with determining your profit margin and you can estimate projects based off of the quote you receive.

Create a “Product”
If your skills are in web design, pick a market and create your best web design that you can sell over and over again. If you create a really great web site with a lot of cool features for restaurants (newsletters, birthday club, email-a-friend), sell it to restaurants operating in different markets. You might charge a lower price for each site but it will require less effort to set up. It’s even something that you could hire a contractor to set up on a per-site basis.

If you are a writer, you can also create a ‘product’ around your writing skills. You just have, for example, to look for something that would benefit by having a well written guide/manual. For instance, many writers make money by writing How-To ebooks for platforms such as Joomla and Drupal. I know others who have created a complete and re-usable business plan which they sell to anyone looking to write a business plan quickly.

If you are an Adsense expert, you could sell a program to similar businesses of keywords and ads that are pre-built and tested to be very effective. Just make sure you don’t sell it to competing clients.

Become a ‘Digital Landlord’
This is very similar to creating a product, the difference being that you do not sell it outright but rent it out and collect a subscription fee. Please have a look at this: Landlord 2.0

The basic idea is to utilise your expertise to create a service. If you are an accountant, you could create an accounting system which you charge a monthly fee for people to use it either online or offline. When most people think of this, they think that it has to be a large undertaking. That is not the case, you do not have to recreate Quickbooks, the secret is to niche – create a simple accounting system specifically for freelance web designers (incidentally, such a system is badly needed).

If you are a marketing guru, you could create a marketing system for very small businesses and freelancers (guys earning 10,000 to 500,000 a month) – a system whereby the businesses completely outsource marketing to you. Again, such a system is badly needed in today’s Kenya (most of these business owners are too busy to market properly and would appreciate some help, as long as it actually generates more business).

Web Site Flipping
basically, this is the selling of websites. It might require a little more investment but you could also bootstrap and start with a small portfolio that you constantly turn over and make more money off of them. But the idea is that you should buy websites, improve them, and then sell them. Maybe it’s a website that just needs a few tweaks to convert better, or a site that needs some basic search engine optimization, one that hasn’t utilized Pay-Per-Click yet, or one that could use all of these changes.

Create systems to effectively find, value, purchase, and improve sites. Most people who flip websites might do it on a “one off” basis. They don’t create systems to repeat the process over and over again. I liken it to real estate flipping companies who have scaled their business so they buy multiple properties, have a select group of vendors they use to improve the properties, and then sell it. They have great systems in place. From the very beginning, they have a set budget and they know what changes they can make and how much value it should add to the price.

Create Software
Ok, nothing too original here but I think this is a case which people think too big. They think the only software worth creating and selling is something that nobody else has created. There are a lot of niche markets for which you can build useful software. You don’t have to create Microsoft Windows, just something that is useful to your targeted niche market.

For example – you could create an online scheduling service for businesses that take appointments like doctors, salons or beauty parlors. There is a lot of scheduling software out there but if you create a product specific for an industry, you have created a successful product.

And the best part about software is that once it’s created, there is very little effort to maintain it. Unlike trading hours for dollars, you can create a mostly passive form of income.

What Do All the Ideas Have in Common?
It probably wasn’t apparently obvious with each of these ideas but they all involve targeting a niche market. You’re not going to be able to create something that works for everyone but if you create something that has utility for a niche market, your system based business can grow quite successfully.

Image courtesy of Pheezy.

Landlord 2.0

I want to be the “Digital Landlord”. I want to own website real estate that I can “rent” to small businesses.

This isn’t about owning domain names since that would not work. People would just buy different domain names – they aren’t that important for local businesses.

No, this is about owning the building, or the website in this case, that is set up such that it is like a goldmine for people, renters. Renters would be willing to pay landlords money if the property is on a prime piece of real estate that practically guarantees a certain level of business, right?

It is Better to Rent than Sell

One of the first rules of real estate is never sell properties (or something like that). What it means is that you don’t usually want to sell a great piece of real estate if you can make money hand-over-fist from it.

We’re marketers with web development skills. We could build websites and sell them to our clients, but what’s the value in that? We would rather make mostly passive income by renting out an extremely high value service month after month.

Websites are worth the amount of time that the designer puts into the website plus a premium based on the designer’s/company’s reputation and ability.

But let’s change the perception on that product from a website to a marketing system. If it can generate Kshs 30,000 consistently, the business owners aren’t going to pay for the amount of effort it takes to create, they’re going to pay for that high value that it generates for them. I don’t know too many business owners who wouldn’t pay you Kshs 5,000 to generate Kshs 30,000 in new revenue.

Let’s say that you can do this just 2 or 3 times a month consistently. Don’t you think the business owner would be more than willing to pay you Kshs 5,000 a month for a LONG TIME than Kshs 25,000 just once?

Build a Ton of Buildings
If this works one time, why not do it over and over again? I can build a bunch of different buildings, or “client generating systems”. And I rent out a part of those buildings to a ton of different clients.

Let’s put some numbers on it:

  • I can rent out my system to 100 different clients in the same industry across the country at Kshs 5,000 per month (I won’t get too greedy)
  • That’s Ksh 500,000 per month for just one “building”
  • Once that works, I can build 20 different “buildings”.

What’s better than being a digital landlord? And I’m sure you can figure out the math for the monthly income….

Interesting in investing in websites? If you want to get into this but have no idea how to search for, value, evaluate and manage a website, give us a call. We’ll work something out.

2 Things to Think About When Making Your Website

I was look at the visitor stats for this website ( and it surprised me that a good 20% of the people who come here do it on their mobile phones. I always knew that the mobile web was big in Kenya, but I did not think it was big enough to affect my own website so much.

IN a country like ours, making a website universally usable is an important issue and ignoring it may lead to groups of users suffering isolation, rather than enjoying the use of your website. What if Like Chapaa was not available in a mobile-friendly version? Perhaps our visitor numbers would be down 20%. That’s a big and painful loss.

Do you want your own site to be successful? Then you have to think about making it as universally accessible as possible. In Kenya, the easiest way to do this is by:

  1. Publishing a mobile version of your website – Did you know that only about 15% of the world speaks English? I am not sure how many people in Kenya do not understand English but I do know that it is not the first language of nearly everyone in this country. I think it would be a mistake to publish your website and ignore English completely, but it is equally important not to ignore other languages that your target audience may ‘identify’ with better than English. I’d love to see a Sheng or Swa version of Pewa hewa, you?
  2. Publishing your website in more than one language – The number of internet users in Kenya is growing very very fast. The vast majority of people use their mobile phones to access the internet. If you ignore mobile, you may be ignoring at least 20% of the ‘market’. I am sure this is not something that anyone wants to do willingly.

How hard is it to do this?
Fortunately, web design and development technology just keeps growing. The first step would be to find yourself a competent person or organisation to do your website. There are lots of sufficiently qualified people all around you.

The next step would be to ensure that your web developer makes your website using a robust and stable content management system (CMS). Most CMSes have a very simple way to implement a mobile version and additional languages. I recommend WordPress as my CMS of choice.

For web design and development, of course, I recommend Nickel Pro.

What do you think of mobilizing your website and publishing in more than one language?

Like Chapaa is available only in English. We hope to get it translated soon.