Getting Started on Your First Business While on Campus

A typical fast-food joint that can easily be spotted around Kenyan campuses. Image Credits: Hivi Sasa.

Currently, the world is experiencing inflation. Economists predict that we are likely to face the second Great Depression in the next few years.[1][2] Essentially, inflation refers to an economic situation characterized by a general rise in the prices of services and goods, resulting in a fall in the value of money.[3] To put it in simpler terms, you may have heard or even seen how the price of cooking oil has shot up recently. Particularly, you find that if you used to purchase a litre of cooking oil at Ksh. 150/- not long ago, right now it is going for between Ksh. 350/- and Ksh. 500/- depending on the brand that you are purchasing. That is what inflation looks like. Cooking oil is just one of the examples of items that have risen in price in recent times. Other items that have had their prices shoot include bar soaps, bread, fuel (diesel and petrol), cereals, maize flour, wheat flour, eggs, and most recently, I was even shocked to discover that the price of steel wool for washing sufurias rose from Ksh. 5/- to Ksh. 7/-.  As for the Great Depression, it refers to an economic situation that occurred from 29th October 1929 to the beginning of the First World War (1939) in the Western world and it was characterized by drastic declines in output, severe unemployment, and acute decline in prices for goods and services, typically associated with a contraction in the supply of money and credit in almost every country of the world.[4] As of now, unemployment is almost becoming the norm and there is also a decrease in the supply of money in the pockets of the common mwananchi, and these economic situations signal almost similar characteristics that were witnessed during the Great Depression of 1929-1939. As a remedy, we are constantly being reminded to live within our means and save more. However, we ought to understand that money saved in the bank does not earn that much because the interest rates are often set to ensure that the money is only protected from the effects of inflation. For instance, you may save Ksh. 1,000/- in the bank for one year and the type of account that you have promises you an interest on savings of 5% implying that by the end of the year, you would only be having around Ksh. 1,050/- in the bank. The “little” earnings are what often stimulate individuals to pursue investment opportunities. The common way through which most people ensure that their savings earn them more money is through the establishment of side hustles. As a campus student, you also need to be inspired to start a side hustle to ensure the savings that you have and the money that you receive from the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) earns you more money. However, before getting started on your side hustle, there are fundamental factors that need to be considered.

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Self-introspection is an assessment exercise whereby you take the time to determine your strengths and weaknesses. It has been proven that the more self-aware an individual is, the higher the likelihood of them being successful in anything that they seek to accomplish. As a campus student, there is a need to assess yourself first before starting your first business. Notably, self-introspection would enable you to predict how far you can carry on an idea that has been in your thought. It is common for any individual who starts a business to encounter many disappointments along the way. Essentially, the most common disappointment that befalls many individuals is the realization that an idea that once promised so much reward and fulfillment fails to bear the results that were expected. This happens because the individual did not look deep into their abilities before going forth with their plan.

A comrade in deep thought. Image Credits: Dreamstime.

Assess Your Surrounding

The campus environment is comprised of students who are in the 18 – 24 years category. The needs of this age category are mostly food, clothing, and entertainment. As a fresh campus student, once you have assessed your abilities, you need to tune your mind, eyes, and ears to think, see, and hear opportunities that are unfulfilled within your environment. For instance, you could be walking around campus and determine that there are few businesses offering to print assignments. Based on that information, you could determine how much it takes to purchase a basic printer and a computer. Currently, a refurbished computer goes for around Ksh. 8,000/-[5] and a basic printer costs an estimated Ksh. 6,000/- on Jumia.[6] Thus, you would need Around 15,000/- to 20,000/- to get started with the printing business. The Ksh. 5,000/- on top of the Ksh. 15,000/- is for emergency and other additional expenses that come with running the printing business such as purchasing the initial printing papers which cost around Ksh. 600/-[7] per pack and for the ink and printer maintenance. The printing business is an example of a business you could do. To save up the Ksh. 20,000/, you could choose to finance the business using the HELB loan, partner with a trusted friend, or have your family back you up into starting the business. One advantage of the printing business is that you can conduct it from your house and request comrades to send their assignments for printing at a specific email then you would be printing and bringing the assignments to class ready to be handed to the lecturer.

Boiled eggs and Smokies. Image Credits: Finance Buddy Blog

As for the ladies, you could find that there is a need for a hair-dresser, manicure, pedicure, and even jewelry selling business. This is a lucrative business that you could venture into, especially the hair-dressing/salon business whereby your clients would be paying for your services while they purchase the hair for themselves. So, on weekends during your break from books, you could be busy plaiting the hairs of your fellow comrades at a subsidized fee. Who knows? From the savings while you make while starting out, you could even establish your own business outside the university but within the campus premises and have fellow comrades as your return clients.

A young lady hair-dressing a client. Image Credits: Nexin Startups

Food is also another lucrative business that one can pursue while on campus. Remember, the three basic human needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Also, man must eat to live. Therefore, the food business, when conducted well, is bound to reap you big. The most common food business that is easy to establish and works well around many campuses is the smokies and boiled eggs business. A breakdown of the establishment cost of the business is as follows: the trolley costs somewhere from Ksh. 5,000/-, a shade umbrella is Ksh.  2,000/-, a jiko for warming the smokies is from about Ksh. 300/-, a can of charcoal goes for Ksh. 100/-, a tray of eggs is somewhere from Ksh. 400/-, a pack of matchboxes is Ksh. 50/-, the smokies packaging go for around Ksh. 500/-, and a pack of smokies is around Ksh. 500/-. Thus, you would need an estimated Ksh.  8,850 or more to get started in the smokies and eggs business. However still, Farmers Choice is providing individuals with an opportunity to become their own bosses through the smokies business. This opportunity requires you to commit Ksh. 10,000/- to get started. More information can be found here:

Promotional poster for Farmers Choice Be-Your-Own-Boss smokie business. Image Credits: Farmers Choice

Identify Risks and Constraints

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At this stage, you would be interested in determining the potential weaknesses and threats that are likely to have a negative impact on your business. One of the most effective methods that are used in identifying business risks and constraints is the SWOT analysis. Essentially, SWOT analysis determines the strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O), and threats (T) of your business. More often than not, the strength of a business is justified by what the market needs.

An image explaining the meaning of the letters in SWOT.
Image Credits: Medium

For instance, using the example of fast-food side hustle, if you have determined that there is a great need for a fast-food restaurant that offers great meals at affordable prices around your campus, the ability to be the first restaurant to fill that market gap would act as your business’ strength. As for the weakness, your fast-food business is likely to face stiff competition from the University’s mess, which usually offers meals at an affordable/subsidized cost. As for the opportunity, the fast-food business is highly likely to be in a position to offer a variety of meals on its menu and this would attract more comrades seeking to eat other meals apart from the ordinary ones. As for the threat, any unforeseen circumstances such as the rise in the prices of the ingredients used in food preparation would likely lead you to consider closing down the business. Therefore, the identification of risks and constraints would entail identifying the weaknesses and threats that your business is facing or likely to face.

So, comrades, these are some of the basic steps to consider before venturing into business while on campus. Success in your business!

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[1]        Lowrey, A. (2020, June 23). The Second Great Depression. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

[2]        Bremmer, I. (2020, August 6). The next global depression is coming amid the coronavirus. Time. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from

[3]        Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. (2022). Inflation. inflation noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary at Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

[4]        Encyclopædia Britannica. (2022). Great depression. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

[5]    Microtel Enterprises. (2022). Fullset Computer – 17″ TFT, 2GB RAM, 80GB Hard Disk Drive @ Ksh. 7,999/-. Facebook. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

[6]        Jumia Kenya. (2022). DeskJet 2320 printer- plug&print, Copy&Scan -White. Jumia Kenya. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

[7]        Jumia Kenya. (2022). 1 ream 80gsm printing/photocopy paper. Jumia Kenya. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

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