How to Start / Open A selling carvings, handicrafts, art crafts busienss in Kenya

selling carvings, handicrafts, art crafts Business Plan (Kenya)

Curio Retail

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This refers to the business of selling carvings, handicrafts, art crafts and other related items including:

-Maasai jewelry

-Kisii soapstone carvings


-African textiles like kitenges

-Akamba wooden carvings



-Drums, horns

-Bone items

-Bead items

-Customized gift items like clocks, bookmarks, picture frames and more

The business has largely been associated with tourists though there are an increasing number of locals purchasing curios. The main advantage of targeting tourists is that they pay higher prices for items when compared to local Kenyans. The disadvantage of tourists is the fluctuations in arrivals which can be brought about by such factors as insecurity or political uncertainty.

Location is thus very crucial in the business. Generally curio shops tend to be located inside major tourist hotels, near such hotels, near popular tourist destinations like Fort Jesus in Mombasa, traditional markets like City Market & open air temporary markets like City Market.


No special licenses are required.

The Single Business Trading License issued by the county governments is the key. However there could be minor fees depending on the location


-Identify location or market to join

-Identify premises and do necessary renovations

-Identify source of curios

-Start up business

Stocking and Suppliers

Curios can be sourced directly from artists or from curios wholesalers. Wood carvings are associated with the Kamba community who mass produce the items. Usually they are organized in cooperatives which supply most of the carvings all over Kenya. One prominent area is Kithungo in Mbooni Division, Makueni County.

Stone carvings are largely from Kisii made from Kisii soapstone. The major area to get soapstone is Tabaka, about 20 kilometers from Kisii town.

When new in the business it would be advantages to source from a wholesaler who is able to advise what to stock and in what proportions. Wholesalers aggregate all types of curios from various sources to one place . This is the better option when new in the business and not sure where to get items from.

Sometimes artists leave you with their items. You only pay them after making a sale. Such artists will approach you once you open.

Since people have diverse artistic tastes a rule of the thumb is to have a little of everything. That said there are items that move faster than others. Since trends keep changing consult wholesalers to know what is hot at a particular time.

Capital Breakdown

License: Kshs. 7000 – The exact amount will depend on the county, size of premises and location

Renovation of premises: This includes shelves, branding. – Kshs. 15,000. The amount could be higher or lower depending on condition of building or thee kind of set up you want. If you are operating in open air markets then you don’t need the premises

Stock: Kshs. 50,000 is enough to start a basic curio shop. However you will be limited in variety and quantity. A more ideal amount would be Kshs. 200,000 to Kshs. 400,000. You can increase stock gradually.

Rent: Kshs. 15,000. This will depend on your location. For open air you pay a minimal daily or monthly fee. If in a prime area, or the rent could be much higher. Rent also tends to be higher in areas enjoying location economies – that means an area well know for curio shops.

Working capital: Kshs. 50,000. This could be more. You need to have money to pay rent and employees even when there is a slump. Sometimes a new product in high demand could come to the market; you need money to purchase it.

Manpower: Kshs. 12,000. This is the average salary. In most cases there is a commission attached per sale. There are also curio shops employees who earn a salary as high as Kshs. 40,000.

Recommend Capital: Kshs. 300,000 to Kshs.500, 000. Basic Capital – Kshs. 60,000. Open air market, few or specialized


Average Mark Up; 20%

Mark Up Range – Kshs. 15% to 80%

The mark up could be higher since there are no exact fixed prices. There is also a lot of price discrimination whereby a seller gauges the customer and charges accordingly. Thus for the same item one customer can pay Kshs. 1000 while another pays Kshs. 2500. Local customers pay less than tourists.

For instance a trader at the City Market buys a particular wooden carving at Kshs. 1500 and sells for between Kshs. 2000 and Kshs. 3000 depending on who is purchasing.

Competition is based on:



Negotiating and customer service skills

Language proficiency

Overview/ Tips/ Tricks

In 2014 the business has recorded average lower sales especially at the coast. This is as a result of terrorist attacks, insecurity fears and subsequent travel advisories. To illustrate one trader at Fort Jesus says in his ten years of operations he has recorded the lowest sales in 2014. He pays Kshs. 10,000 rent and in August had been unable to make enough sales to pay rent.

On the other hand in places like Kisumu the business is picking up and now more people are involved in the business. In Nairobi business from tourists has reduced while that from locals is increasing gradually.

Other Aspects Of The business

-Supplying to the international market. This could be by setting up a website, shops in places like etsy, ebay, and advertising on Google adwords.

Payment for exports is usually through western union or credit card, and delivery through DHL or other international courier services. Challenges of exporting include finding good customers and in consistent numbers and risk of fraud. This will be covered in another note

-As counties work to promote themselves as tourist attractions both to locals and internationals there is opportunity outside the traditional tourist destinations

-Think of location carefully

-It’s an advantage when targeting tourists to be conversant in a foreign language or have an employee who is.

-There is always risk of breakages during transportation from suppliers to your premises or market.

-Tourist peak season is from July to December


There are curio wholesalers and artistic groups in very major town. You can contact umbrella craft bodies like Craft Africa who can provide you with contacts of artist and craftsmen depending on your location. (0 732 982226 Email: [email protected])

Here is a list of some wholesalers and suppliers:

oKenya African Curio Supplier, Elgeyo Marakwet Road in Nairobi. o Gedawoods enterprises, Outering Road, Nairobi.

o Worldlink Curio Crafts, Parklands

o Kariokor market has wholesalers selling sandals, leather items and textile o Kisumu Art Village - Kisumu

o Fam MazamMaza Hse. Ongata Rongai/Magadi Rd. +25427203843, +25433254239. o Akamba Handicraft Cooperative Society Limited

Off Port-Reitz Road, Changamwe 254 202654362 254 (041) 3432241 ,

o Smolart - Kisii Soapstone

o Email: [email protected]

Phone: +254722473242

o Kisii Soapstone Curio Store o +254720622714

o [email protected]

o Bemos Crafts Developers-BCD - 0722 849196 o Bombolulu Workshops Ltd - 020 2399716

o Crafts Caravan Ltd ( o Fatrine Self Help Group – 0722 251216

o Got Matar Community Development Organization

o Heavenly Treasures Kenya - [email protected] o Kazuri 2000 Ltd - 020 884058

o Kisii Soapstone Art and Craft-KISAC - 058 - 21406

oUndugu Fair Trade Ltd-UFTL -

oKariokor market in Nairobi is a good source of sandals and beaded items.

Food Carts

You probably have seen the mobile food carts that are increasingly becoming common in Nairobi, Mombasa and major towns whenever there is an event. The price of the carts range from Kshs. 300,000 to even 5 million depending on size and features such as cold storage. The standard small and medium sized carts cost between Kshs. 500,000 and Kshs. 1 million. There are several suppliers. Smaller food carts with wheels cost Kshs. 150,000 to Kshs. 250,000. Among the most established are:

Sheffield Steel Systems

Mombasa Road, near Syokimau Railways 0725 242998 [email protected]

Sheffield fabricates the carts themselves.

Nomad Services

Waiyaki Way,Westlands Manyani Road Before Deloitte

0707 323535

[email protected]

Other Independent Suppliers Include:

Toto - 0725893402. Specializes in small 2 wheeled carts with a tap, disposal bin, a removable umbrella, a cooker and other facilities.

Evans – An independent carts importer with a variety. – 0725408596.

Remember though that a mobile cart is not enough to make a successful business. Here are some few things to think about:

-Space - Make sure you have the space to place the cart. The space could be temporary or semi permanent, for instance a particular position a long a road. Or a space during a show, or any event.

You could also move from one place to another within the same locality. The freedom to do this will depend on regulations within the county and the event organizers.

-Licenses – You will need the single business permit from the county government and since you are dealing with food a public health license and medical certificates for the employees. Depending on the location you might also need to pay to the county government for branding the cart.

-What to Sell - Think of this in terms of margins of the items, the convenience of preparing and more important your market. Think of the logistics of preparing the items, storage and serving.

Among the quick foods commonly served are hot beverages, snacks, sodas, and ice cream, alcohol and light foods. Decide on the items by considering the demographics of your location and the event.

-Capital – You will incur other expenses when setting up including that of equipment that you will need to prepare and present the food.

The capital needed to set up a successful venture could range from Kshs.300, 000 to Kshs.1, 000,000.

-An alternative to the professionally made food carts would be to modify a small vehicle like a tuk tuk or cart. This has been done successfully.

-Remember the purpose of a food cart is to offer you mobility and a space to work in. A food cart without proper marketing, good quality food and understanding of consumers won’t be profitable.

Stamp Making Machine

Most rubber stamps in Kenya are made manually. The craftsmen curve the letters manually in a process that takes an average of 3 hours. One need have some natural craft skills to be able to excel in the business.

However there is now a stamp making machine. With the machine you just need some basic skill to design using word, Corel Draw or any other graphic software. After, the process is relatively easy.

The learning curve is not steep and the local dealers offer some basic training. Using the machine you can make a rubber stamp within 5 to 30 minutes depending on complexity and your skill. Manual stamp makers charge per letter with rates ranging from Kshs. 7 to Kshs.15.

In Kenya the stamp making machines are sold by Burhani Graphics. The cheapest of the machines is Kshs.25, 000. There will be some little more expense involved for the materials. Though not an absolute necessity you might need to acquire a computer. If you are not running a business already but starting from scratch other expense will include rent, licenses, advertisement and manpower. Margins could range between 30% and 70% depending on how much you charge.

You can charge per letter or per assignment, and even include a premium for speed.

To find out more and decide whether it could be an opportunity for you contact Burhani

Graphics on 0705 988805 or 0712 147 003

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