Do you have your sights set on starting an online business with the potential to grow into a large company, generate consistent revenue, and create jobs for many others?
If the answer is yes, you may need to adopt the mindset of a startup entrepreneur, which is a bit different from someone merely looking for online work.
We previously covered 19 online businesses you can start in Kenya, including freelance writing and thrifting.
The focus for this list is on scalable companies that offer services or sell products online. This is a great list if you’re already working online, and asking “What comes next?”
You will also see real-life successful Kenyan businesses in each category.
Let’s get started:
Do you regularly search for products or services on Google or social media as the first step in your buying process?
The business you find first may end up making the sale. Getting found online is becoming a priority for many Kenyan businesses.
Digital marketing agencies assist businesses in growing their online presence across various marketing channels.
They offer services such as:
For instance, with digital advertising, the agency may help the business run marketing campaigns on Facebook, Google, or YouTube.
Digital marketing agencies may partner with creative or video production agencies.
Starting a digital marketing agency in Kenya is not challenging. For starters, you need a branded website, a list of services, and one or two collaborators.
The Kenyan job market is rife with talent. Many professionals are now working for other online agencies as content writers, graphic designers, SEO consultants, Google Ads experts, etc.
What’s more, you don't need to employ everyone full time. Digital marketing agencies tend to outsource tasks to experienced freelancers.
With a little digging, you can find many successful examples of digital agencies in Kenya. Some have not been in operation for a long time but have experienced tremendous growth, like the Kwetu Marketing Agency.
Founded in 2016, the company describes itself as a network of experienced consultants. They adopt a 360° approach towards marketing, offering all digital services, including radio advertising and experiential marketing.
Digital services don’t come cheap. For instance, the company charges about $580 for a basic WordPress site and $748 for each Google Search advertising campaign, translating to about 62,000 and 80,000 KES, respectively.
Kwetu has worked with big companies and institutions like Barclays, the University of Nairobi, NRG radio, and Shell.
Your Kenyan digital agency can similarly serve global clients. You can have customers in the UK, US, Canada, and elsewhere.
More examples of digital marketing and advertising agencies in Kenya include:
The global app development software market may grow to $733.5 billion by 2028, based on a study by Grandview Research Inc.
The growth will be spearheaded by new mobile applications and increased usage of existing apps. Therefore, you can anticipate consistent demand by businesses and startups for custom app development services.
And there's a lot of money to be made.
The cost of developing a mobile application can range from $10,000 to $150,000, according to SPD Load. Costs vary based on the complexity of the app determined by its features.
With an app development company, you can build custom mobile and web apps for businesses or even develop unique solutions to deal with real-life problems.
And you don’t necessarily need programming experience to launch your online business startup in Kenya. Non-tech founders found software businesses all the time.
A recent article in The Standard had this grabbing headline: “Failed promises as Kenya’s outsourcing hype fizzles out.”
BPO was a key pillar of the agenda to transform the country into a middle-income economy. Big companies invested heavily into large facilities with the potential to employ hundreds of Kenyans.
Now, is BPO a viable option in Kenya? It’s still an option, and various developing countries like India have capitalized on the model to lift more people into the middle class.
It entails performing business processes that another company has outsourced to you. Businesses commonly outsource activities such as customer service, marketing research, management, administration, and accounting.
You can get started with a small remote team and create an agency on freelancing platforms such as Upwork. It’s a viable option to consider if you have freelance experience working as a virtual assistant, customer service, or accountant.
As e-commerce grows, there is a greater need for reliable shipping, storage, and logistics. Startups in this niche should address concerns such as:
Operating a company that can help clients ship, pack, or temporarily store items can be a promising online startup idea in Kenya.
African logistic companies are set to become big businesses as they continue drawing heavy foreign investment.
In January 2020, Sendy, the Kenyan logistics startup, raised $20 million in a Series B round backed by Toyota.
Sendy focuses on helping online businesses in Kenya fulfill orders by picking, packing, and shipping items to consumers & businesses all over the country.
In 2022, the digital logistics platform will be seeking an additional $100 million to fund its African expansion. Sendy currently has a presence in 8 African countries with more than 5,000 vehicles from partnered third parties.
Sendy is not alone in this space. Lori Systems, a provider of on-demand trucking logistic services founded in Kenya in 2016, managed to raise $30 million in Series A funding in 2019.
One of the best online businesses you can start with a view of earning passive income is an affiliate site.
Affiliate marketing is a business arrangement where a company pays you a commission after it generates a sale from your referrals.
Setting up the business begins by identifying a niche. Some of the top blogging niches for affiliate marketing include:
The second step is deciding on the content to produce. You can start a blog or create a YouTube Channel. Thirdly, you find affiliate networks to join.
For instance, a blog in the website creation niche may publish articles on “How to start a website” and recommend readers to host with partnered companies. If a company makes a sale from their referral, they earn a commission.
Affiliate marketing can bring in a lot of money once a website gains traction and starts ranking well for the targeted keywords. It’s not enough to have a single website but a series of affiliate sites.
You can reproduce the same results as someone living in the USA. A site can even have millions of visitors monthly if it provides helpful and valuable content.
Approaching this as a business may require partnering with content producers such as writers and editors to create the content.
African e-commerce has grown steadily, initially valued at $16.5 billion in 2017 and projected to reach $75 billion by 2025. In Kenya, it's estimated that about 13% of the country is using e-commerce platforms to buy and sell goods.
We can make a case that e-commerce businesses are becoming more popular in the country rather than less popular as customers trust online businesses.
With the right products and store setup, you can potentially grow a small online shop into a money-making enterprise serving hundreds of customers daily.
It's a scalable business, and the only limit to growth may be the amount of traffic you can attract and the number of conversions.
There are many popular examples of e-commerce businesses that have shown resilience in the Kenyan market and cautionary tales.
Jumia remains the most popular online store, and they now have a presence in several African countries. The company recorded an overall gross profit of $33.8 Million in 2020, posting a 12% profit increase.
Safaricom’s Masoko never quite took off after its launch in 2017. Kilimall, operating since 2014, has been resilient as they strive to make online shopping in Kenya more affordable.
Shopit Kenya has revamped to become the leading source of brand electronics. Vituzote.com continues to dominate the houseware category. Mother & Baby lead as Kenya’s number one online shop for pregnancy and baby items. There is a lot of potential in the e-commerce space, and certainly, the space is not yet dominated.
One of the fastest-growing tech sectors worldwide is the fintech industry. The industry has become more mature, but it’s still projected to grow to a market value of $190 billion by 2026.
It involves the integration of technology into the traditional financial sector to enhance trade and access to credit. Fintech now revolves around technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain.
M-PESA may come to mind when you think about a fintech company. It had a disruptive effect on the transfer of money. While payment services dominate the market, there are more sectors you can get into, including investment advice platforms, lending, crowdfunding, security, digital banking, and more.
Starting a fintech company may be more intricate than other online companies due to the highly regulated nature of the financial sector. But there are many successful examples of fintech companies in Kenya.
Our very own, IntaSend seeks to offer African businesses, developers, and freelancers a secure gateway that allows them to accept ACH Payments and Card Payments via VISA and MasterCard. We also support local businesses with M-PESA payment solutions like the STK Push.
As of the moment, over 10,000 clients from the US use IntaSend to pay Kenyan freelancers. With feasible Know Your Customer requirements, IntaSend similarly helps freelancers overcome proof of address difficulties they face with foreign payment processors.
Some more stellar examples of fintech companies coming from Kenya include Abacus (NSE investing platform), PesaKit (Enhancing services offered by money agents) and Turaco (insurance for low-income earners).
A content creator is simply responsible for producing visual, written, or audio for content marketing platforms such as social media. You may know famous content creators around the country with huge followings on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.
If you’re not an actor, comedian, or influencer, it’s quite easy to dismiss content creation as a potential online business idea in Kenya.
Well, there is a wide range of content you can still produce. There are more popular categories on YouTube, such as product reviews, how-tos, reactions, commentaries, gaming, and explainers.
YouTube pays about 100,000 - 150,000 KES per 1 million views, according to KenyansConsult. Content creators similarly generate income through brand partnerships, selling branded merchandise, or shows.
Minicheps is a clear example of a digital content creator with a different take on content creation. She creates miniature digital art where she stars as herself.
The creation of NFTs may be another front to explore in regards to content creation. In April 2021, two of Eluid Kipchoge’s NFTs representing hallmark moments of his career were sold for about 4 million KES in the auction. Facebook’s new Metaverse is another area to explore in relation to a suitable content creation business.
The usual route of launching a business entails finding a physical location. That’s where customers can find you. Today, you may only need an online presence to operate various businesses.
It’s ideal to choose a service-based business that you can easily scale and grow into a large team. There are various service categories you can venture into, including:
Are there examples of successful online service businesses with mobile workers?
Well, cleaning companies have become dominant players in the online space, relying on websites, listing directories, and social media to connect with clients.
Event planners in Kenya are similarly capitalizing on online channels. Providers of interior design services have similarly grown their digital presence with companies such as Fine Urban CO & Interiors LTD actively publishing content on YouTube and partnering with influencers.
The ideal online business should be scalable and have the potential to grow. At the end of the day, the more people you can serve, the more money you can earn.