17 food business ideas in Kenya – start with 15000 Kenyan Shillings or less

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If you want to start a business in Kenya – and build a profitable company around your idea in the food industry (niche) in Kenya with the little capital you already have, below are a few food business ideas in Kenya to inspire you and help you narrow down on at least one or two ideas you can start working on immediately to turn into a real and profitable business – with satisfied customers and clients bringing you repeat business.

Why start a food business in Kenya?

Well, people need food to fuel their body – and like bathing or brushing one’s teeth, eating is something that people just don’t do once.

It is something we all do on a regular basis – a few times a day if we have access to the money – and markets to buy food from.17 food business ideas in Kenya – start with 15000 Kenyan Shillings or less

Another reason is that the population of Kenya is ever on the increase (with more and more people having disposable income besides earning higher salaries from their jobs), so more mouths to feed.

There is demand for healthy food – fresh, organic, packaged and all kinds of foods. And the demand will keep increasing.

Now is a good time for you to get in and start supplying and meeting the needs of your fellow Kenyans.

Why now? You can take advantage of the present and invest your money wisely, work hard and reap the benefits later. You have more control now – seizing the moment than dwelling in the past (which is gone – but where you can draw great lessons nonetheless) or letting procrastination entice you into waiting for the future (which we know little about).

There is also room for new players to enter the food industry even when it looks, sometimes, like the big companies and manufacturers dominating various sectors of the food (agricultural) sector in Kenya, making millions and billions of shillings every year selling different kinds of products, besides fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), are already meeting Kenyans’ demand for healthy foods.Business ideas in Kenya - 17 food business ideas in Kenya to start with a few thousand shillings

Another reason to start a food business is simply because of the lower barrier to entry. For anyone serious at making it big in this sector, doing things long term, an amount like Kenya Shillings 15000 is enough to get started.

That is if you pare things down to the essentials, implement your business idea, hit the ground running and spend reasonable amounts of your time and resources marketing your products and services.

Food business ideas to turn into real businesses in Kenya and make money from – 17 of them

Popcorn business in Kenya

You can buy a cheap popcorn making machine (new or used one from classified ads websites in Kenya), start making popcorn, packaging them into paper or polythene bags and selling them to the public.Start a popcorn business in Kenya - business ideas

This is a business that you can do well if you already have an outlet (like a shop, grocery store) strategically located where there is foot traffic. So, location is very important.

You can also succeed by hawking your wares by moving around and selling your popcorn to people – or supplying them to shops and kiosks around your neighbourhood, town, city or village.

If you don’t want to do the above, you can buy corn cheap and package the grain for sale to individuals and businesses who can later make their own popcorn for their own consumption (at home) or for sale (at their premises).

Mandazi business in Kenya

We love them – when cooked right. If you are already good at cooking them – and producing them in big volumes – you can succeed in this business.Start mandazi business in Kenya - business ideas

Every morning (or evening) many households think about breakfast – tea or porridge and something to go with it: Githeri, potatoes, yams, bread, pancakes, croissants, chapattis and of course, mandazi – at Kenyan Shillings 5 each or more depending on the size, taste and quality.

You can make mandazi and sell to shops (schools, companies and organizations and event organizers) in your neighbourhood or part of town.

You can make them and sell them via your shop. There are also many men and women who cook them (by the road side = a place where there’s foot traffic – encouraging impulse purchases) and sell them to the people in their neighbourhoods.

People love eating good mandazi – and they take them at different times of the day – some in the morning, in the afternoons during lunch time, in the evenings with tea – and for some bachelors (and single women) as part of their meals at night.

Cake business in Kenya

You can make different kinds of cakes: for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and many other important occasions in a person’s (individuals and businesses) life.Start cake making and selling business in Kenya - business ideas

You can network and sell your cakes locally (in your neighbourhood – to shops, hotels, restaurants – or within your circle of friends – at home and work) or online (via the many popular online shopping websites in Kenya, business directories in Kenya or Kenya’s classified ads websites and even solicit business via social networking sites and messaging apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram).

You can also have your own website created for you by a web hosting company in Kenya – where you can sell your cakes.

Use any search engine to research the keyword ‘buy cakes kenya’ to see examples of websites owned by individuals who entered the cake business and are making sales offline and online via referrals and their websites.

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The business of selling ground nuts in Kenya

Njugu karanga. Or boiled ones. Or nuts crushed to make peanut butter. All these are ideas you can run with.Ground nut, sesame and peanut food business (ideas) in Kenya

Do you ever see the many people who hawk packaged ground nuts and sim sim (sesame) for 5, 10 or 20 shillings a pack? You can join in and sell to travelers or in bulk to shops.

You can also sell your stuff in popular markets near you – where many Kenyans flock to do their grocery shopping.

Fruit salad business idea in Kenya

You can start your food salad parlour – where individuals can come in, seat and order – or buy – readymade fruit salad – which they can eat right there or take away with them home to enjoy with their families and friends.Start making and selling fruit salad in Kenya - food business ideas

This business can also compliment any other business you may already be running (like a business selling different kinds of refreshments).

You can also walk around (keeping your food fresh and clean) and sell your fruit salad to other small business owners – at their place of work – like jua kali artisans, boda boda riders…

Or sell to canteens inside various learning institutions and hospitals (ask for access and then meet the demands of students, staff, patients and other workers by being a reliable and trustworthy supplier).

Blended juice small business

Buy, borrow or use a blender already within your reach. Buy fresh fruits directly from farmers or from the market. Blend. Place some of the juice in a refrigerator because some customers like them cold.Start making and selling juice in Kenya - food business ideas in Kenya

Then go out and sell your juice in bottles – (you can start with clean ones used initially by mineral water companies to sell water) or pour the juice in glasses – and charge for each in a way that leaves you with profits.

You can sell the juice anytime especially when the sun is up and people are thirsty and in need of a health-boosting fresh drink – served by a person who pays extra attention to cleanliness and satisfaction of their customers.

Chapati and pancake business in Kenya

Again families buy these (chapatis and panckaes) in bulk for breakfast, supper and lunch.Make and sell chapati and pancakes in Kenya - food business ideas

You can make them in your neighbourhood (or house) wrap them for your customers – and let them carry and enjoy the delicacies at home – or right there at the source – with tea, beans, meat or soup.

You can also sell them – if people really love your chapattis – to your colleagues and make extra income.

Samosa business in Kenya

Samosas come in different shapes and tastes – and people (from children to adults) like them – especially warm.Make and sell samosas in Kenya - food business ideas

Again, this is something you can make at home or in a strategic location in your neighbourhood, and sell to people passing buy.

You can also rent a place where customers can seat and order their samosas – perhaps with a cup of tea or glass of juice.

You can also make samosas in bulk and distribute to shops, offices, schools (for teaching staff) and businesses with employees they serve tea or lunch at work.

Chips, crisps and bhajia business in Kenya

Kenyans – male and female like chips (French fries).Make and sell chips, crisps and bhajia in Kenya - food business ideas

And this is a good business if you have access to a good supplier for potatoes, time / labour to turn the potatoes to chips and a good location – where people going about their other duties – can stop and pick their bag of chips.

Same with bhajia.

With crisps, you can make them in bulk, package them and distribute to shops and supermarkets.

Rice + beans and githeri business in Kenya

This is a business you can start, with the necessary permits, next to a public or private school (primary, secondary, college, polytechnic or university) to provide healthy and affordable meals to pupils and students – who often don’t have the time to prepare their meals for example because school is far from home, there is nobody to prepare food for them at home or because they are simply pressed for time or necessary resources to prepare their own meals.Prepare and sell cooked beans, rice and githeri in Kenya - food business ideas

So, you come in and make them ready meals – prepared and served in a clean place.

With this business, your regulars can also pay you in advance – for example – a month’s worth of lunches.

So, you have more money to grow your business – and even offer takeaway food (especially beans and githeri) for busy parents who have no time to wait for hours just boiling the food – you know those who want to spend their focus on the frying and eating part before they shift their focus to something else important to them.

Eggs – fried or boiled – business in Kenya

If you already have a place where you are serving food like ugali, rice, meat or sossi (soy meat) you can throw eggs in the mix. Rear your own poultry (chicken) that lay eggs you fry or boil for your customers.Start selling eggs as a business in Kenya - supplier of uncooked and cooked (fried and boiled) - food business ideas in Kenya

If you cannot do that, buy the eggs – a few crates at a time – or more depending on the amount of capital you have or agreements you make with the person supplying the eggs to you.

You can also sell eggs to shops and families in your neighbourhood – if you are keeping your own layers as a business or if you can source eggs from suppliers at a cost that leaves you with a good margin to still turn a profit that can sustain and grow the business.

Maize business ideas in Kenya

Crush it to powder (if you have access to a posho mill or invest in one for bulk milling) and you have flour you can package and sell – and a lot of remnants you can sell to farmers who keep livestock (and need silage or flour).Selling maize, cereals and flour in Kenya - food business ideas

Sell the grain in bulk – and you are in the cereal business.

The key is to be updated on the price of a bag of maize in different parts of the country at all times, have some money for transporting it to your location, packaging it and distributing it to your customers – turning a profit and reinvesting the money back into the business – to reach more customers and expand your business without sacrificing efficiency.

You can sell to schools, organizations, parents with families and children to feed, county governments (when they have tenders), children’s homes and even businesses in need of a reliable supplier for the grain.

You can also go beyond maize to package, distribute and sell other grains like soya, rice, beans, green grams, millet, wheat etc.

You can also roast or boil fresh maize and sell it to customers.

Meat business ideas in Kenya

Mchomo (roasted meat) is a delicacy in Kenya. You don’t need to have a bar, restaurant or hotel business to venture into the meat preparation business – though that would be a plus.Barbecue - Start selling meat, butchery, packaged, mchomo (roasted) and fried meat business in Kenya - food business ideas

Popular nyama choma include goat meat, beef, bacon, chicken, quail and rabbit meat.

Location is very important as well as other foods and drinks that compliment nyama choma moments.

Of course, if it makes business sense, also make soup and also avail, to your customers, fried meat – they can eat right at the source or take away home with them.

Other things you can roast or fry for your customers include cassava, bananas, potatoes and fish – all of which they can eat at your place of doing business or carry home.

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If you keep, or can buy, livestock in bulk, you can also get into the meat packaging and distribution business in Kenya.

Meaning you can get in the business of selling rabbit meat, keeping broilers for meat, packaging and selling beef (via your butchery or as a farmer supplying butcheries and big institutions like schools – or functions) or bacon.

You can sell smokies and sausages – that can be consumed at the source or that your customers can carry home.

Yoghurt and ice cream business in Kenya

You can make yoghurts that taste like the ones sold in supermarkets – or better. And you can do it right from home.Start ice cream, yoghurt, frozen food business in Kenya - business ideas in Kenya

If you are not afraid of marketing and persistently working on building something from scratch to an income generating venture then you can join the big yoghurt and ice cream companies and brands in Kenya and East Africa.

If you don’t know how to make the yoghurt (or ice cream), take a lesson.

Ask around for good teachers – or take a course from one of the colleges, polytechnics and universities in Kenya.

You can also take an online course – some free (AKA watching YouTube videos) or paying for some premium course that other students have taken and benefitted from.

You can also ask around for someone who can teach you because – believe it or not – there are many Kenyans with valuable skills all around us who are ready and willing to pass on their knowledge, tips, strategies and rich experiences to others.

The problem is people who can benefit from these skills don’t go to them – and submit to their leadership.

Among those who get the courage to seek out the help from these skilled individuals, a big percentage don’t want to pay any money for their training (and time devoted to them).17 business ideas in Kenya - Start with 15000 Shillings

Some are not serious students at all (people who need your help but acting like you should cater to their every whim).

And there are those who go for the skills with a tinge of malice (jealousy, pride – rubbing it in their teacher’s faces once their venture begins to show signs of success).

And of course there are those who still believe that for any important skill they need to master – they must first enroll for a course in a university or college and get a certificate – a degree the better – not realizing that business in itself is often a good teacher to owners (entrepreneurs) who are ready to learn, adopt and respond to what their customers (and the market) need or want.

The business of selling fresh fruits and vegetables in Kenya

We all know the importance of eating right and the nutrition that comes with consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables.Stall - start selling fresh fruits and vegetables business in Kenya - food business ideas

And more families in Kenya love the idea (and the practicality) of having some fruits to accompany most meals – especially lunch and supper.

With your stall, you can help more Kenyans fulfill this desire and constant need by offering them a variety of fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables like passion fruit, avocado, mango, pears, apples, pineapples, apricot, plums, oranges, bananas, kales, cabbages, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, garlic and onions.

Catering business in Kenya

Here your business is to seek the company of those planning events or functions and give them what they want: nicely prepared meals served to them and their guests.Start catering business in Kenya - food business ideas

Communication is key here. And more than money, your word matters a whole lot. Time and expertise preparing various dishes (often in bulk) is something you have to master before you get into this business.

Then you can start small and grow – even have a big team that can tend to different functions Monday to Friday – or even weekends.

For now, start with the friend, colleague or family friend having many guests over that don’t have the time, experience or patience to prepare good meals for their large number of guests.

Network with event planners – the ones planning weddings, birthdays, burials and office parties. They are often willing to outsource some of the tasks involved in making an event go smoothly – like having someone good at preparing food do just that.

Start a cafe business in Kenya

You can rent some space and use it to start your coffee shop – which can also double up as a tea house – that eventually can make available to people coming to your premises other drinks like chocolate and various snacks – biscuit, bread, sandwich, samosa, chapatti, mandazi, mahamri etc.Start a cafe - coffee, tea, chocolate drink business in Kenya - food business ideas in Kenya

Also remember that another great idea you can make money from is that of delivery. Delivering food to business, homes, offices and organizations.

Of course, you have to make it easy for people to order meals from you via your website, third party websites, social media, email, phone calls or via messaging apps.

You can also become a distributor for products made by other companies and make good profit depending on your effort and money management skills.

You can distribute bread, cookies, queen cakes, spices, ice cream, powder milk, yoghurt, cooking oil, fruit flavoured energy bars, chocolate, buns, juices and different kinds of snacks – the kind children and adults like to buy from shops and supermarkets.

You can also be involved in this sector as the girl or guy who helps food businesses in Kenya by solving some of their needs like accounting, consulting, online and offline marketing – including building websites for them, writing copy for them as a freelancer, doing reviews, managing their social media accounts and pages among other tasks they may want to outsource to capable hands – your hands.

Now, to answer a few questions a person may want to ask after reading this far:

How much capital does such and such a food business take to start?

It depends on the stage you are in, resources you may already have (like equipment, skills, connections, a building in a good location you can rent), your strengths (patience, focus, ability to take advantage of leverage) and capital.Amount of capital to start a business in Kenya - how much do you require / need for your idea

Another thing that matters is how quickly you implement your ideas – so that you can have more time to devote to sales.

For example, there are many companies in Kenya, selling wheat or maize flour. Do you think they all started with the same amount of capital? Your bet is as good mine if your answer is a no.

Another example involves the route different people take. Say, you want to get in the business of selling eggs to shops, various institutions and businesses (like hotels and restaurants), there are many angles to attack this idea.

One person will buy one day old chicks and rear layers – then wait for months before they can start collecting eggs on a regular basis.

Another person can go straight to farmers with layers who haven’t figured out how to market their produce (eggs), buy in bulk (with an agreement in place between them and the farmer or two farmers or more), arrange for transportation and then profitably sell the eggs to, say, a restaurant or hotel in their town or another city.

Same solution to a problem (supplying eggs to those who need them), different ways to go about it (and probably different amounts of money involved in the implementation).

So, know what you want in the long and short term – then start with what you have – for the purposes of this article that is 15,000 Kenyan Shillings.

How long will it take me to make a profit from such and such food business idea?

Sales. Your ability to sell will be a good predictor of this.

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Not even the best food business idea will make you lots of profits as some newspaper articles, TV shows, posts in agribusiness blogs in Kenya, magazines and other publications would make you believe if you don’t do the selling part diligently – long term.

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Another good predictor is management, which is often tied to your skill level, expertise and any kind of help you may seek.

Not everyone who got into the quail business made hundreds of thousands of Kenyan shillings. Some failed, miserably.

Not every dairy farmer (supplying milk and other products like cheese and ghee) smiles to the bank.

Not every Kenyan farmer into value addition is making a killing. Some do. But not all.

If you focus on God your Creator (His promises, teachings and commands – don’t dismiss this), being skilled in your area, thinking long term, selling and closing more deals, getting help (e.g from agricultural extension officers, consultants and other business owners), reinvesting in your business and being frugal while also paying attention to these 10 Things You Should Look at if You Are Thinking of Starting a Business in Kenya (a free ebook you can download here on Niabusiness.com), it won’t take you long to be profitable (both in experience and money – and of course great contacts and happy repeat customers).

What is the best food business idea in Kenya right now that can bring a lot of profit with a little work – or capital?

Again, play to your strengths, not just what you read (on books, magazines, newspapers or blogs – including Niabusiness.com) or are told by that friend, neighbor or family member who always talks about their great business ideas and their future empire – or group of companies.

Thinking of right now – and a business idea that can bring you quick profits now (short term) –  isn’t entirely a bad thing. But you must balance the short term with the long term and play to your strengths.

That’s how some successful entrepreneurs in Kenya and the world over are doing it.

Take an idea. Put in the work. See what works and what doesn’t. Do more of what is working and find ways (including hiring employees, freelancers and consultants) to make work what is not working for you.

I have a full time job, children, a family but your article inspires me to start a food business and become an entrepreneur in Kenya. My problem is that I’m always busy and pressed for time. Can I still succeed and be a successful business owner in Kenya?

Of course, you can be successful. But to be frank with you, anyone who always has this excuse (yes it is an excuse. I’ll explain why in a minute) or fear (and refuses to change their mindset) before implementing their ideas always find that the weight of their uncertainties of the future (of their venture) is enough to crush their business to powder before it can even crawl.

I’m serious about this.

Another thing is that, people who say this always want to see quick success – which often requires massive action; which in turn often requires a lot of time focused on just one thing; time which they don’t have, because they are busy.

So, they have failed 50% (in their mind before they have even started implementing their idea) before they even start their food business.

Why do I say this is an excuse? Because no person has a day with extra hours. We all have twenty four each day and 168 each week – and of course 52 weeks each, every year.

So, how come there are millionaires and billionaires in Kenya in various sectors including the food industry (and I’m not talking about those who loot from government coffers)?

You know why.

You either want to do something or you don’t.

Nature is brutal that way. You embrace the rules and stick to them or you don’t and just watch your excuses, like a mirror, reflect back to you the idea just waiting for you to turn it into a successful business.

See how reducing the amount of time you spend watching movies, series and TV shows or the time you gain by becoming an early riser can be channeled into more worthwhile pursuits like starting and growing your business.

What permits do I need to start any kind of food business ideas listed above?

Approach and talk to the business owners already doing what you want to do – in person, via telephone or email. Most of them are open to sharing this information and their experiences with you.

Also, visit relevant county government offices or Huduma Centres to get answers.

If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Good thing, is most of the people with this information are willing to share it with you for free. Also read related business articles on Niabusiness.com blog for more insights.

I see many food businesses in Kenya, even the big ones, make losses and fail. Should I focus on this sector or start a business in another industry?

This is a personal choice you have to make.

Gather data – not only the kind that supports the idea you already have – that food businesses in Kenya aren’t that good.

Why do this? To be in a good position to make a sober choice – that takes into account the true picture of the supply and demand forces on the ground.

If you want to skip the food sector and invest your money in another business venture, fine.

Just make sure, you do your research – well – before you jump.

Don’t forget to download the free PDF business startup Kenya book

Download your copy of the free ebook: 10 Things to Look At if You Are Thinking of Starting a Business in Kenya here.

Read it and more importantly implement what you learn – using the ideas presented in the ebook to help you do what you want to do in business – and not as a substitute of your own ideas and plans of execution.

Your thoughts, tips and experiences – Share them with me and other readers

If you have read this post in its entirety and have comments, questions, stories, experiences or suggestions you want to make, I’d love to hear them – and so would other readers of Niabusiness.com blog.

Post them in the comments section below – and of course no spam promoting your business, website or telephone number unless mentioning such is relevant to the needs of those who will be reading this article.

Download this PDF ebook and read on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer >> 10 Things to Look At if You Are Thinking of Starting a Business in Kenya. Click here.

4 comments

  1. Great business ideas for Kenyans who want to offer products and services to their fellow citizens – and while at it make some profit.

    I’d only one thing. To anyone who wants to implement any of the ideas above, go a step further and learn from others already running successful businesses related to any of the business ideas you want to implement.

    Don’t just read success stories of Kenyan business owners on the internet. Supplement the information you get from this blog (and any other business website you go to) with information you get from the ground. What I mean is, approach the people in your locality (neighbourhood, town, city, village or county) who have started similar businesses and ask them about their journey.

    Listen to their story – and if they permit, ask them questions pertaining to their business, success, challenges, and their strategies for growth.

    Learn from them. And then pick your one business idea and implement it. Give yourself time with one idea. Don’t go around hopping from idea to idea hoping to make quick money even if one of the business ideas (like fast food joints and restaurants) you pick is considered a booming business by many Kenyans.

    Start with one idea. Implement. Work hard and make changes as necessary.

    And pray for God’s guidance always. He will take you far.

  2. You know whichever food item you may start with. Make sure it’s offered at reasonable rate and you should have the guts to communicate with social media to spread awareness about your products.

    • It’s a great idea to check the rates offered by other food business owners Neha.

      Anyone interested in any of the ideas above should learn from the pricing used by others conducting similar businesses.

      They can then use what they find from their research to decide how much to charge for the foods or drinks they offer – after all the other costs have been factored in.

      Doing the research will help you learn more. Help you see how different pricing strategy works for different locations or businesses.

      It can even help you reach more great people willing to help you and your business. For example good suppliers who charge amounts you can work with and still be profitable – and have money left to reinvest in growing your business, hiring more labour and selling more to new and existing customers.

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