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How We Started a Profitable Bookshop Business in Kenya

Daisy Neema
Daisy Neema Kenyan SMEs

We started Miday Bookshop in Thika since it is among the towns in Kenya with many institutions. Many universities, colleges, primary and secondary schools opened an opportunity for us to start a bookshop business. The town has a huge demand for books and reading materials.

We sell a wide variety of educational materials like audiobooks, electronic books, and digital magazines.  Apart from reading material, there is also a demand for exercise books and other stationery materials. This means that there is a big market gap that needs to be filled. If you are thinking of starting a bookshop business, we will take you through some critical steps you need to start a profitable bookshop.  

Prepare a Bookshop Business Plan

A business plan will guide you on how to start and run your bookshop business. Things to include in the business plan are startup capital, raising the capital, target market, pricing, expected profits, and marketing strategy. Talk to people in the bookshop business in the town you want to open one. They will help you understand the risks in the industry. When we started, one significant risk we were facing was competition from bookshops that had existed for long and were well known in Thika town.

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Acquire the Necessary Skills to Run your Bookshop

If you want to run a bookshop successfully, it is important to acquire some skills. When we started, we didn't know what books to stock in our bookshop. We decided to visit institutions and ask them about the books they were using for their coursework to stock them. If you are not running the business yourself, ensure that your employees have customer relations and marketing skills. Sometimes you will need to provide institutions with catalogs so that they can place orders for books with your shop.

Identify your Target Market

Every business owner starting a business must have a market that he or she is targeting.  The bookshop business is not different. It would be best if you found out who your primary customers are. For our case, our main customer target was primary and secondary schools. We would prepare catalogs and deliver them to different schools, which would help us get orders from those schools.  They can be kindergarten kids, primary and secondary school students, or even campus students who are potential customers for a bookshop. If you choose to operate a large scale bookshop business, your target customers can be schools that will purchase large volumes.

Choose a Strategic Location for your Bookshop

Your bookshop should be in a strategic place, easily visible and accessible. It will be best if you locate your bookshop in an area without bookshops to minimize competition. Locating your business around learning institutions will help drive traffic to your bookshop. Additionally, you can set up your bookshop in a neighborhood with school-going children.

When you decide the location to set up your bookshop business, you also need to rent business premises. The size of your operating space will depend on the size of your bookshop business. Rental spaces are expensive in urban centers.

How Much Capital Do I Need to Start a Bookshop Business in Kenya?

This should be among the first things to ask yourself when you think of starting a bookshop business. If your funds are not enough to start the business, you can look for alternative sources of capital like:

  • Financial institutions
  • Borrow from family and friends

We started Miday bookshop with Ksh 100,000 and we have expanded the business and now it's worth over Ksh 1,500,000. The following was our startup capital breakdown:

  • Bookshelves - Ksh 10,000
  • Business Name Registration - Ksh 1,000
  • A Single Business Permit - Ksh 3,000
  • Fire Clearance Certificate – Ksh 5,000
  • The Kenya Booksellers and Stationers Association Membership fee- Ksh 12,000 (Renewable every year for Ksh 5,000)
  • Books - Ksh 50,000

Acquire Business Licenses and Permits

It is essential to register your business name through the eCitizen portal to ensure that your business is legal. It will cost you around Ksh 1,000 to register a business name. After registering your bookshop business name, you will need to acquire the following permits:

  • A Single Business Permit.  Costs vary from county to county and it also depends on the size of your business. However, a business permit will cost around Ksh 5,000.
  • A Fire Clearance Certificate. Inspectors and public officers will need to visit your business premises to carry out inspections. They will also advise you regarding the guidelines of protection against fire, after which they will certify you with a Fire Clearance Certificate.

Find Reliable Suppliers

You will need to find suppliers for your business. These can be either book publishers or authors. You will need to be a member of the Kenya Booksellers and Stationers Association to buy from publishers. Make sure you are conversant with the supplier's terms and conditions. 

Read also: Starting a school after my retirement

Market your Bookshop Business

Business marketing is critical to get the attention of your target customers. There are different methods you can use to reach your customers, like social media and visiting institutions. You can also decide to use posters, newsletters, pamphlets, referrals, sponsored adverts on social media, or giving discounts. You can use any of these methods or use them all together.

Is Bookshop Business Profitable in Kenya?

Bookshop business is profitable mostly if you sell books directly to institutions. From our experience, we increased our profits by more than double when we started supplying books to institutions compared to when we were only relying on small scale customers.

Final Word

A bookshop business can earn huge profits. All you need is to offer exceptional customer service, have excellent managerial skills, a good business location, and a clear cut vision. Having a perfect marketing strategy will also play a significant role in your bookshop business success.