5 Important Lessons Learned At The AITEC Mobile Money Conference

About a month ago, I discovered a gold mine of information from a business blog; the best thing about this blog was that it was a Kenyan blog. Now it’s not that I didn’t exactly know about this site, I’ve heard of it and seen some links online about it – but I had never really checked it out. I’m always on the look out for information I can always share about business start-ups these days, so I decided to really see what information the site offers. I meant to spend about five minutes on the blog but I ended up reading different blog posts for almost an hour! The content was just amazing and insightful – both the blog posts and the videos. Which site you wonder? Kuza Biashara blog.

Fast forwarding to my main point; I was able to win VIP tickets to the AITEC Mobile Money conference from them and it was a very unbelievable opportunity that I am very grateful to have had thanks to the great team at Kuza Biashara. I met them and they are awesome! (yup – that’s the best word that can describe this team of amazing individuals that work there.) Their founder and chief mentor Mr. Sriram Bharatam is an amazing individual as well as a great speaker and listener. Mr. Karthi Raj, the vice president is easy to talk to and very engaging; it was an honor to meet them.

With the Kuza Biashara team at AITEC

With the Kuza Biashara team at AITEC

The theme of AITEC mobile money conference held at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Kenya this year was – ‘Finance SMEs and fire up the economy’. AITEC is the region’s leading banking forum and this is its eighth year in existence. Now you may wonder what a small business owner such as myself would benefit from attending such a conference; however, it was an invaluable experience that led to a lot of great insight on my part. I can honestly say that true to Kuza Biashara’s motto; I learned, connected and will grow after attending the conference. I want to share five very important lessons I learned at the conference and I hope it will give you insight into your business start-up as well.

1. Small businesses should start using mobile money payment platforms for their businesses if they don’t already
A major point of discussion in the conference was the adaptation and success of mobile money in Kenya. Banks in the region have realized the potential of the mobile money platform in the region and have started using the platform to offer more solutions for their customers. They are also continuing to discover ways in which they can start serving SMEs better using the same platforms in the near future. A very interesting way that one particular company, G-analytix based in Zimbabwe, is using mobile money usage & other small business analytics input to benefit small business owners is by creating a ratings programme or if you may – credit history. The point that Mr. Alan Goodrich the company’s MD was making, is to be able to build a credit history that can be used in lending money to small business owners based on their mobile money history and other small business operations inputs.
A perfect example of a company that is putting the mobile money credit history usage to great use is Kopo Kopo Inc who created the ‘Lipa na MPESA’ platform used by businesses in Kenya.

Lipa Na Mpesa by KopoKopo

Lipa Na Mpesa by KopoKopo

It’s a great platform especially for small business owners like myself; I can say that with great confidence since my bakery uses it to receive payments. Kopo Kopo has now introduced Grow, which is an alternative lending option for their already existing customers. They use the mobile money history in the business account to determine the amount of money they can lend to the business. Another great feature of their payment system is that they recently added a feature where an account holder can make payments to other accounts – bank or MPESA lines. This is a great feature because it gives a small business owner the convenience of being able to pay an employee or vendor directly from their Kopo Kopo account. This in time will build a history of business transactions in and out of the business – which is literally a more detailed credit history of the business.

Kopo Kopo is making mobile payment easy for SMEs

Kopo Kopo is making mobile payment easy for SMEs

Bottom line: If your small business does not already have a mobile money payment system; you need to get one right away. Not only is it convenient for your customers; but very useful to your business as well and possibly for future bank lending purposes.
2. You should have a strong and solid social media strategy in place for your business
An interesting point that was made in the conference by Mr. Amarnath Chowdary, CEO of ModeFinServer, India; was that social media banking is the next big thing after mobile money. Most banks have recognized the fact that a very high percentage of their customers are constantly on social media. Banks therefore want to provide even more convenience by tapping into social media just like most businesses have done and start providing banking services to their customers. I believe that this integration of banking into social media will benefit businesses as well; therefore, businesses should ensure they are also on social media. If your business has a strong social media presence; it will make it easy to benefit from the social media banking experience and in turn your customers as well. This may turn out to be another payment platform for businesses to take advantage of.

Ensure you have a great social media strategy

Ensure you have a great social media strategy

Bottom line: Make sure your small business has an effective social media strategy in place so that when banking hits the social media platform; you’re ready to integrate it into your payment systems efficiently.
3. Market research is very important for your small business
At the conference, Ms. Debbie Watkins – MD Africa and Asia Regions of Fern Software; shared her experience of doing market research in different parts of the world on how small business owners run their daily financial operations. Banks in the past believed that small business payment operations are simple; however, due to the nature of a small business, it has been discovered that their operations are even more complex than believed. As banks research the habits of small business owners even more, they discover that in order to survive; business owners have to apply complex strategies due to their limited financial resources. This kind of discovery through market research should apply to every small business out there. No matter how simple; small businesses should always conduct market research in their specific industries in order to find out what their customers really need and serve them better.
Bottom line: If you’re not constantly researching what your customer needs to better understand them and innovating your products & services to suite them; someone else will start solving their problems and you will lose your customers.
4. Small business start-ups don’t always need funding, they need capacity building.
A point that was made by Mr. Habil Olaka, CEO of the Kenya Bankers’ Association was that start-ups don’t always need debt finance which banks offer. Start-ups may actually be in need of capacity building instead of financing. They may also be in need of a different kind of funding instead of bank loans; funding such as angel or venture capital funding. It is necessary to point out that Kenya does not have a lot of options when it comes to angel or venture capital investors; most of the ones available are not even Kenyan-based but foreign investors.

Kuza Biashara help SMEs be the best they can be

Kuza Biashara help SMEs be the best they can be

Bottom line: If your start-up is constantly having cash flow issues and you keep looking for different ways to get funding; you may not necessarily require debt financing since your small business may not be able to handle it. It may be a lack of information and a need for resources that will help you to run your small business better.
5. Small business owners in Kenya need to use capacity building resources available such as Kuza Biashara in order to learn.
In reference to the point made above; start-ups don’t always require funding, sometimes they need capacity building. This is true of a lot of small business owners in Kenya, including myself. Like the founder of Kuza Biashara, Mr. Sriram Bharatam, says: “A lot of small business owners don’t know what they don’t know.” That was true for me especially last year as my business went through a challenging time. I realized that I required knowledge in order to deal with the challenges the business was facing and not necessarily funding; since that was not really solving my problems. I have been learning since and have gained a lot of insight on how to focus and run my small business better through the methods that I have learned. I am continuously finding more resources that help me learn and grow as a business owner and Kuza Biashara is one of those resources that I believe will help in that journey.
Bottom line: If you are a small business owner in Kenya, you need to make sure you tap into the resources that Kuza Biashara offers and you will learn, connect and grow as an entrepreneur.

It was a privilege to be able to attend the AITEC mobile money conference and it was a great to meet the Kuza Biashara team; they should keep up the great work they are doing.

Keep learning, work hard and most importantly work smart.

4 Effective Ways to Ensure You Post on Your Business Blog Consistently

If you are a small business owner who uses inbound marketing in their marketing strategy, you know how important it is to have a business blog. However; at the same time, it can be hard to post on the blog consistently. As a start up entrepreneur, you may have so many responsibilities that you may neglect some important tasks such as blogging.
I used to feel overwhelmed with the amount of tasks I had to accomplish, especially since I write for two blogs. At one point, one blog was suffering since I could only manage to post for one blog and then I would find that I don’t have enough time to post on the other one. I realized that I had to find ways of posting on both blogs consistently and effectively or decide to shut one down and concentrate on the one I could manage. Since I didn’t want to give up any of them (I love sharing information about baking on my Bakery blog and I love sharing about business as well ^_^), I decided to find ways to solve my problem. I want to share four ways that I guarantee have helped me manage to post consistently on my blogs and still manage to run a small bakery business as well. I hope they help you out as well.

Amari Bakery Blog - a business blog is very important

Amari Bakery Blog – a business blog is very important

1. Create a content calendar for your blog every month
The same way you create a calendar of daily and monthly tasks to complete in your business or personal life; you can apply the same for all your social media and blogging activities. This is also very effective since you get a big picture of your blog posts for the month and therefore; you are able to create goals for the month for your inbound marketing strategies, come up with topics for your blog for the month and prepare to write them. I have found it’s best to create your monthly content calendar a week before the beginning of the month you’re planning for. Allocate at least two hours of your time to sit down and plan your blog. State your goals for the upcoming month for both social media pages and the blog, and then brainstorm on the post topics you will be writing about. Take it another step further, write bulletin points for your topics, and come up with a suitable headline for your blog post. Using your calendar, schedule the days when you’ll post each of the posts – at least twice a week or more. If you have extra time (or you can allocate another two hours the next day), write your blog posts out, ready for posting. At least get enough posts for two weeks ready to go, so that you’re always ahead of the game.

Have a content calendar to plan your posts (Image: amazon)

Have a content calendar to plan your posts (Image: amazon)

2. Create reminders on your phone calendar or daily planner about the blog posts
You might have your calendar well planned and even written out, but you’ll find that maybe you got busy and forgot to post on your blog. Since entrepreneurs can have very hectic days, it’s best to schedule alarms that will remind you to post the blog on a specific day and time. If you’re often online at specific times daily, like during the morning hours (maybe between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.), make sure you schedule a reminder for that time so as not to forget. That way, you’ll just take five minutes to post on your blog and move on to other tasks. I have found it quite effective to set reminders, they work.

Set reminders for when you'll post on your blog

Set reminders for when you’ll post on your blog

3. Choose one person to hold you accountable
You may plan your calendar and posts very well, but find that you are so busy that you’re not able to post on your business blog. You might even postpone your posts every time telling yourself that you’re too tired, you’ll post tomorrow – tomorrow never actually comes. I know how it feels like; trust me I’ve been there. I found that when I asked someone to hold me accountable, I was making sure to post weekly without fail. The person who holds me accountable is my sister (even to this day), she’s my business partner and she blogs as well; therefore I found that she was up to the task. If a week goes by and she doesn’t see more than one post on a blog, she asks me what’s happening. You should make sure you do the same; find one person who you either work with, or live with; maybe your significant other or any family member who fits the bill. This will motivate you to post weekly for sure.

4. Make sure you write down monthly marketing goals to achieve for your business
If you don’t do this for your business, you should start doing it. Some entrepreneurs write down monthly goals they want to achieve for their businesses in respect to sales or income. You should also write down marketing goals, they are just as important. This is because effective marketing leads to sales in your business, therefore; if you make effective marketing goals and achieve them, your sales will increase. It also comes in handy if you don’t achieve your monthly goals since you will be able to sit down and find out where the problem lies and solve it before it grows into a crisis. This is one way to prevent closing your business if it’s suffering and finding a way out or a solution. I can personally attest to this method having almost closed my business, but I re-strategized and found a solution before having to close my bakery. When you have clear marketing goals every month, you realize that you have to post on your blog and social media pages to assist you in reaching your sales goals. Therefore, when you see your reminder to post on your blog, you are more likely to do it since it ties to your sales goals and with that, achieving success.

Write down your marketing goals

Write down your marketing goals

Those are a few effective ways that I’ve found to assist me in posting on my blog consistently. Do you have any other ways you would like to share?
Please feel free to do so below.

Remember keep on the hustle, keep grinding and you’ll get there for sure ^_^

3 Helpful Tips on Saving Money as a Start-Up Entrepreneur in Kenya

The first few year as a start-up entrepreneur are the toughest, not only have I heard this advice from many successful entrepreneurs in Kenya and read it from international entrepreneurs; I have experienced it (and continue to ^_^). Most successful entrepreneurs actually state that the first three to six years are the toughest for any new start-up venture and the entrepreneur behind it. I call them the ‘make it or break it’ years, that’s the time when you are constantly under pressure, stress and many other challenges; both financial and personal. These years not only test your true character but your strength and endurance through very tough challenges and failures that you face. One major challenge that most start-up entrepreneurs face is financial; in both aspects of your personal life and your business. For your personal life; it’s very important to find ways of reducing your expenses to a bare minimum because they can interfere with your business cash flow, especially if that is where you get your money from. I have started up a business twice; I failed the first time I tried for one year and personal finances played a major role in that failure. This time around I have been going for two years and I am applying the lessons I learned from the first time around on saving money as much as I can. There are numerous ways of making sure you save money, but I want to share three easy and very helpful tips of doing so that will guarantee the safety of your business cash flow for the first two years.

1. Reduce all your personal expenses and eliminate all unnecessary ones
If you wish to be successful, you have to be disciplined and start having great control of your spending habits. If you were employed before you became a start-up entrepreneur, such as I was; it can be a great challenge to change your spending habits, however, it is necessary for your success. Reduce any personal expenses such as eating out, going for nights out with your friends, impulsive retail purchases, over-spending on personal items or expenses such as personal phone calls, if you rent your apartment or house – find a more economical, budget-friendly place to stay. You should actually eliminate any expense you feel you can do without or that is a luxury. If you can run your business from home; do that. I moved back home with my mum since there was space to build a bakery workshop in the compound and at the time, the bakery was delivery based, it can run from home to start. Make sure you have very few personal expenses that will need cash; this will stop you from dipping into the business cash flow to fund personal matters.

Reduce your personal costs

Reduce your personal costs

2. Buy in Bulk
This applies to both your personal and business aspects. Most products or services that are offered in bulk are usually at a lower rate than the ones that don’t. Examples are phone credit (distributors of phone credit sell to shops at wholesale prices for larger amounts, you can do the same as well) and internet bundles (or if you can manage the expense and your area permits it – sign up for monthly internet service e.g. from Zuku or Faiba). If your phone usage is quite high per month, you can also sign up for post paid service; all major phone service providers have post paid bundles and plans – you can even try the business bundles if your phone credit and internet usage is very high. Do the same for your business stock; production, print material (e.g. business cards and brochures), packaging materials and any other purchases you make often. This can apply even to your personal purchases such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc. Visit your local wholesale shop and you will be surprised at how you can save bu buying in bulk.

Buy phone credit in bulk (Image: kateskikapu.com)

Buy phone credit in bulk (Image: kateskikapu.com)

3. Negotiate deals and discounts with vendors or suppliers
If you make purchases often from specific vendors e.g. print material, production ingredients, etc; you can negotiate certain discounts or deals with that supplier. If you have built a relationship with the vendor; you can discuss different ways in which he/she can discount your purchases because of your loyal service. If you have a supplier who is also a customer as well; you can also discuss a way to trade between the two businesses. Make sure all the details are discussed and if necessary written down, both businesses can benefit from trading items and saving costs in the respective businesses as well.

Get discounts on purchases (Image: juniorwatch.com)

Get discounts on purchases (Image: juniorwatch.com)

Those are just a few simple and highly effective ways of saving money as a start-up entrepreneur in Kenya. If you are an entrepreneur who would like to suggest any other ways you have found to save money in your life, please feel free to comment below and share.

Remember to work hard, keep the faith, be strong and work smart!

If you found this post helpful, please share below – it will be helpful to someone else. Spread the love ^_^

How to Market your small business in Kenya on a small budget

When starting or running a small business in Kenya, one of the major challenges that youth entrepreneurs face is marketing their products and services.

And we all know that marketing is an essential part of a small business because if you can’t market your product or service then nobody will know you are selling it and therefore sales are not possible.Image

That is one of the challenges that I had to face, and still face, when starting a home-based online bakery, how to market my business (and with a small budget no less). So I will share some tips I have learned on marketing a small business in Kenya and I hope that it will help you in marketing your small business as well.

  1. Inbound Marketing

    A basic and very easy explanation for inbound marketing is measurable permission based marketing, it’s mainly done online. There are different ways of inbound marketing such as:

  • Image

    Get a Facebook Page


    Get a Twitter account

    Social Media: Using social media pages to share information and show case your products. Pages such as; Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook.

  • Blog: Blogging is also another way of sharing information with your followers. This will help your potential customer gain more information on your products and might become an actual future customer. You can use blogging platforms such as this one – wordpress or blogspot.

  • Website: It’s also necessary to get a website to display your products and services, state prices, pictures and descriptions. It’s a great place for your customers to get a picture of what your business offers, like an online store.

  • Online Ads: You can also use online paid ads to promote your products and services. You can use Facebook Ads or Google Ads to sell or promote your business products.

  • E-mail: Another form of inbound marketing is e-mail marketing. You can get people from your website to sign up to get e-mail newsletters weekly or monthly from your business. You can use this platform to inform them of any new products and services you offer, any information on events or other updates.

  1. Outbound Marketing

    Outbound marketing is the traditional form of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience.

Outbound marketing examples: Tradeshows, TV commercials, radio commercials, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, etc.). Outbound marketing is harder to track and less profitable than inbound marketing

  • Brochures/ Catalogues: You can design (or have someone design for you) and print brochures that have products, descriptions, prices and your business contacts. You can then distribute them to your friends, family members and any other prospective customers.

  • Image

    Get some professional business cards

    Business Cards: It is good to have business cards with you at all times for networking purposes or for potential customers. Make sure the business card has your business name, your name, contacts such as mobile phone number, e-mail, website and social media pages.

  1. Word of Mouth

    Another budget-friendly way of spreading the word about your business is word of mouth – literally. Just spreading the word about your business to people around you, your friends and family members, so they tell their friends, who tell their friends and families…and so on, you get where I’m going with this ^_^. You can tell people in your church, local groups, hang-outs or even your local pub etc.

  2. Trade Fairs/ Field Days

    You can get stands, paid or free depending on your industry, in business and/or industry trade fairs and in Agri-business; field days are a good place to display your products. Make sure you have brochures and business cards as well as products on display with labels to properly market your products and describe your services to potential customers. Just make sure you keep track of trade fairs being hosted in your area monthly to be well prepared.

  3. SWAG


    Get T-shirts with your logo, business name & website

    This is a popular name for branding items with your business name such as: T-shirts, mugs, jackets, gift bags, hats/visors, pens, bags, umbrellas etc. You can give this to your customers, and you can also wear them yourself to promote your business. This however would be advisable to a business with a medium budget or if you can be able to do so at an economical price and if you ascertain that your business can handle the cost.

  4. Partner with another business 

    If possible, you can partner with another small business that offers a product or service that works with your product or service, or a business in your industry. An example would be a bakery owner partnering with a jam or peanut butter business owner. They can agree to promote each other’s businesses while selling to their customers.

These are just a few ways of marketing your small business on a small budget, I hope they are helpful to you and your small budget.

If you have any other suggestions on marketing your small business please feel free to share ^_^