How To Start a Profitable Bookshop Business In Kenya (2024)

Are you a book lover who dreams of building a business? Starting a bookshop business in Kenya can help you pursue your passion while earning a decent income. 

To open a bookshop business in Kenya, you’ll need an initial Kshs 300,000 and above capital. This will earn you a return of 10% to 35%, depending on your buying prices.

The demand for books is rising as Kenya evolves into a knowledge-seeking country. You can expect to make massive sales if you have niche-specific books such as nutrition and finance or curriculum-based textbooks like the KLB.

In this blog post, I will cover the following:

  • The basics of a bookshop business in Kenya
  • The process of opening a bookshop business
  • Tips to boost your bookshop’s returns
  • Common bookshop business questions
Bookshop Business In Kenya

Let’s explore!

Bookshop Business: What You Need To Know

Are you eager to open your bookshop business? Below are a few fundamentals you should learn

Why Invest In Bookshop Business In Kenya?

Why should you invest your hard-earned money in a bookshop business?

  • High Demand for Books

From students to professionals, almost everyone is looking for something to read; if not for education, they will purchase books for entertainment purposes. Moreover, you’re more likely to mince massive profits during school opening days.

Have you witnessed the long queue in front of bookshops during school opening seasons? You can monetize this through a bookshop business.

  • Highly Flexible Business

A bookshop business is not limited to selling one product. As a result, you can incorporate other items, such as CBC essentials, or kids’ learning and education toys, such as LEGO.

In addition, you can modify a small cubicle to provide complementary services like MPESA and other bank agents. This will increase your revenue exponentially!

  • To Impact The Community Positively

Selling books and other learning materials enables you to impact society positively. How? You provide people with educational resources, helping them become literate.

You also help students accomplish their academic goals, which will help them transition into their careers. 

Everyday Items In a Bookshop

A man checking books in a bookshop

So, what should you stock in your new bookshop? Some of the everyday bookshop items include:

  • A wide range of books
  • Writing supplies 
  • Reading accessories
  • Journals or diaries

Don’t feel limited to this primary list. You can add trending products such as CBC supplies. 

Advantages of a Bookshop Business 

  • There’s a growing market 
  • There’s potential for high profits
  • You can promote literacy
  • You don’t need a big rental space 
  • You don’t require pricey equipment to start a bookshop

Disadvantages of Opening a Bookshop Business

  • You’ll face stiff competition from established bookshops
  • Opening a bookshop business is capital-intensive
  • Syllabus changes can lead to losses
  • There’s a fluctuating demand for curriculum-based books

Bookshop Business Initial Capital Budget

Here’s a cost breakdown for your startup capital

Business RequirementAmount 
Rent Kshs 20,000 and above
Initial StockKshs 150,000 and above
Premise ModificationKshs 50,000 and above
Legal DocumentsKshs 30,000
POS Kshs 20,000
Marketing Kshs 15,000
Miscellaneous Kshs 15,000
Total Kshs 300,000 and above

Some elements like rent, premise customization, and initial stock prices vary depending on the location and size of your bookshop. 

Open a Bookshop Business In Kenya(Step-By-Step Process)

Nicely organized books in a bookstore

To open a bookshop business, implement the following steps

Step 1. Conduct Thorough Market Research

Before you invest your hard-earned money in a bookshop business, you should research the different factors affecting it, for instance

  • Your Target Market

Targeting educational institutions such as primary and secondary schools is an excellent way of making significant sales. As a result, you should identify whether the location of your choice has enough schools to supply.

  • The Bookshop’s Location 

The location of your business will ultimately influence your sales and returns. You must choose a highly populated area with numerous schools to facilitate easy marketing.

  • Competition 

How many bookshops exist within your preferred location?

How can you gain a competitive advantage over these bookshop businesses?

Setting up a bookshop in cities such as Nairobi CBD means you’ll rival established book retailers such as Text Book Centre and Svanis, not forgetting leading supermarkets stock books and stationery, too.

As a result, you must identify a location that will allow you to stand out regardless of the competition. Alternatively, find a place with a manageable level of competition.

Bookshop business in Kenya

Step 2. Write a Bookshop Business Plan 

Like any other venture, you must prepare a bookshop business plan for a smooth start. A business plan saves you a lot of stress as it articulates what to expect, all the business requirements, and practical strategies for a successful setup.

Here is a list of the key elements your document will comprise:

  • Your target audience – schools
  • Location 
  • The risks and challenges
  • Strategies to mitigate the risks
  • Marketing strategies to increase your returns
  • Pricing strategy
  • Expected revenue
  • Primary bookshop business requirements

A business plan provides you with a comprehensive checklist to ensure you are set up for success. So, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help from leading business experts to prepare it.

Step 3. Acquire Legal Documents

The authorities demand you complete specific processes and acquire the necessary documents to start running your bookshop. Here’s a list of the legal documents you must apply for

  • Business Registration: You can easily complete the application on eCitizen and receive your business certificate within a week. You’ll pay a fee of Kshs 1,000 for this process.
  • Business Permit: The average fee for a single business permit is Kshs 5,000. However, this price varies from one county to another, with cities like Nairobi charging high fees.
  • Fire Safety Certificate: The government requires you to apply for a fire safety certificate. Typically, an officer visits the premises to assess whether you have fire safety equipment and then provides you with a certificate. 

Remember to check with our county offices for any updates to avoid missing out on any new legal requirements.

Step 4. Choose the Best Bookshop Location

Once you have acquired all the necessary documents, you should visit the preferred area to identify a strategic bookshop location. When choosing a rental space, assess its accessibility, security, and visibility. 

This will improve the number of clients who visit your business. In addition, assess the availability of electricity and water for efficient operation. 

A strategic bookshop location allows you to market your business for free. As a result, it’s essential to identify a rental space with high foot traffic near educational institutions or malls that people visit often.

However, don’t forget to compare the rental charges to avoid spending much money on space with low returns.

Step 5. Identify and Connect with Reliable Suppliers

Your supplier influences critical elements of your bookshop, including 

  • Profit Margins: A good supplier will provide you with the best prices for your inventory, allowing you to maximize your profits. 
  • Product Quality: You’ll sell sensitive items such as curriculum-based books and stationeries like glues and exercise books. When you introduce a low-quality item that doesn’t serve your clients right, they’ll likely look for an alternative bookshop.
  • Delivery Time: A good supplier will deliver your orders on time to ensure you have enough supplies to sell.

You can network with the best suppliers through industry-specific events or consult established bookshop owners. Avoid collaborating with suppliers who sell fake books at meager prices; you might get into legal issues. 

Step 6. Hire Reliable Staff

If you’re a full-time employee opening a bookshop business as a side hustle, your staff will handle almost every activity on your behalf, including money, bookkeeping, and transactions.

You need to hire trustworthy staff members who will be transparent. In addition, you should assess their skills in running a bookshop business since it involves providing excellent customer experience.

You can accomplish this by hiring experienced bookshop apprentices or training new candidates for a smooth operation.

Step 7. Purchase Your First Stock

The first stock you purchase will determine how your business journey kickstarts. Hence, you must select fast-moving books and items. You can focus on school, students, and parents initially. Then, expand your selection to novels and motivational books gradually.

Some of the fast-moving categories include

  • Set books
  • Bible 
  • Revision books
  • Dictionaries
  • Kamusi
  • Stationeries such as exercise books, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and rulers

To identify the books the government recommends for each education level, visit the official site. This list comprises the ECDE, Primary, Junior Secondary, Senior Secondary, and College instructional materials.

Once you receive your stock, organize it according to the curriculum level, subjects, and grades to facilitate easy retrieval.

Step 8. Launch Your Bookshop Business

To launch your business, you can utilize affordable approaches such as flyers or posters. You can also invite individuals from your location through social media platforms. To accomplish this, write appealing announcements on local Facebook groups.

Alternatively, you can use billboards and marketing companies to spread awareness if you have a reasonable budget. You can also invite a local media company to cover your launch event for enhanced reach.

Tips To Boost Your Bookshop’s Profitability

So, how do you ensure consistent profitability in a bookshop’s business?

Tip 1. Market Your Business

Effective marketing strategies drive sales goals, earning you massive returns. You will need to identify the right techniques to achieve a significant outcome, for instance, pricing strategies or supporting your community’s events.

In addition, visiting your target clients, such as schools or organizations, and convincing them to purchase from you can yield exceptional returns. You might need to hire experienced salespersons to accomplish this. 

Tip 2. Tender Books To Schools and NGOs

Schools and NGOs sponsoring students are your primary customers. Tendering books to these two institutions will help you make massive sales, unlike reaching out to individuals. Remember, they make bulk orders for their libraries and sponsored students.

You can win such clients by attending academic events such as maths contests or academic days to inform them of emerging trends like a new outstanding revision book. This might fetch you a ton of clients. Remember the KCSE Made Familiar trend? No student wanted to be left behind.

Tip 3. Sell Fast-Moving Items

When starting your bookshop business, avoid selling novels or motivational books. These books tend to stay longer on the shelf without clients showing interest. 

But with curriculum-based books, you’re guaranteed to sell them as long as the government does not modify the system. 

Tip 4. Develop a Growth Strategy

If you plan to expand your bookshop business, you must develop a growth strategy. Running two or three bookshops is more demanding than focusing on one bookstore. 

Hence, you must create a plan detailing how to acquire and operate new bookshops. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional help if you get stuck writing one.

Also Read:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Profitable Is a Bookshop Business? 

A bookshop’s profitability relies on your stock’s buying price. The buying and selling prices vary across different books, with some offering you up to a 35% profit margin. Typically, you can earn between 10% to 35% returns, depending on the books you stock and the suppliers.

That’s why it’s crucial to compare different suppliers’ quotations before you order your books.

2. What Can Be Sold In a Bookshop?

You can stock the following items in your bookshop

  • Curriculum-based books
  • Writing supplies
  • Educational toys
  • Journals and notebooks
  • Maps
  • Bookmarks
  • CBC-friendly supplies 

Ready To Open a Bookshop Business In Kenya?

You can make a living through a bookshop business in Kenya. However, you must be strategic to ensure your venture’s profitability in the long run. Some key areas you should focus on include legal requirements, the bookshop’s location, and your supplier. 

Need help with your financial journey? Don’t hesitate to check out the Cent Warrior store for professional budgeting, debt clearance, and financial goal-setting guides. 

Written by Alex

Written by Alex

I have passion in helping people Make, Manage, Multiply & Protect Wealth.Download my Free Guide to Financial Freedom >>[ GET IT HERE]<<