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How to Make Money Like a Nairobi Hawker
How to Make Money Like a Nairobi Hawker
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Money Management

How to Make Money Like a Nairobi Hawker

Ian Job
October 18, 2022
A hawker selling shoes in Nairobi PHOTO|SALATON NJAU
A hawker selling shoes in Nairobi PHOTO|SALATON NJAU

Is it baffling to you how thousands of Nairobi hawkers are so skilled at what they do? You can encounter an ordinary hawker who lives a simple lifestyle or another who drives the latest automobile model and dresses in the most elegant attire and ask aloud, "how do they make money?"

Many people identify hawking in Nairobi with the anxiety and dread of city council askaris putting their goods into a fast-moving van. Yes, it is frightening. It's also a constant menace. However, It's all about the techniques, tactics, and sheer resolve that these traders employ to make a career.

Here are some tips on how you can make money as a Nairobi hawker.

1. Pick the Most Strategic Location for Your Business

Choosing the best place for your items is the incredible justice you could do for your business. Location is not something you do on the spur of the moment; it requires considerable thought, research, and planning. To obtain the best results, you may need to vet your alternatives several times.

Again, the location depends on your business type. You don't want to hide your retail business in a downtown shack or back street when potential buyers are on busy streets or highways. 

Location means you go where there is high demand for your products/services. It also means you chose somewhere safe. Finally, choose a location where you can easily connect with your suppliers.

2. Invest in Multiple Products

If there is anyone who knows how to spread risks, it is the Nairobi hawker. You will find them selling not just second-hand clothes but also groceries or pans and pots. Why do they do this? They know the importance of spreading the risk. 

Suppose they don't sell their second-hand item on a given day. They will sell their groceries. If they fail to get the daily grocery supply, they can quickly sell the pans or their apparel stock. 

There isn't a day a veteran Nairobi hawker will miss something to sell, which keeps them in business, come rain or shine.

3. Identify a Supplier for Goods on Credit and Retain Profit

Do you ever ask yourself why Nairobi hawkers never run out of stock? Even that unanticipated rain has them instantly with mounts of umbrellas and raincoats. It beats the logic of how they knew it would rain.

 It is because of the trade credit terms they establish with suppliers. They will strike a deal with a supplier to provide the products they need without upfront payment. 

While it may be difficult if you are starting because of trust, it is not impossible. The trick is to identify a supplier you can work with and build a good rapport with them. Extend excellent relations with your customers because you need both of them to hack the buyer/ seller status successfully.

The advantage is that you will have a limitless supply of goods even when you are short of cash. You will also pay for the goods because you have a ready market.

Read Also: What to Do When You Don’t Make Enough Money

4. Optimise the Right Hours/Times to Make Sales

Typical rush hour in Nairobi attracts hundreds of hawkers selling their merchandise. They know it's the right time to get that elusive customer, and yes, it works.

Evenings, market days, and holidays attract considerable crowds. Equip your stock with high-in-demand supplies according to the time or occasion. Make a proper product display, and be available. 

5. Sell at Reasonable Prices

The price range is one of the most crucial decisions you can ever make for your business. Back to hawkers, do you ever wonder why their goods sell better and faster? They sell at relatively lower prices than you would find in the front shops.

Generally, fairness is a game because setting too high or too low can have inevitable repercussions, including limiting the growth of your business. Unreasonable prices can affect sales and cash flow.

The logic behind some of the higher prices is that it acts as a buffer for any losses the business might incur. 

Yet, there is much to gain when you sell your products at fair prices. You are more certain to sell more and attract a loyal clientele. 

Your brand grows because people associate you with quality and affordability. Regular sales have the trickle-down effect of attracting endless supplies and customers.

6. Be a Pro and Fast at Your Trade 

Expertise and quick responsiveness will keep you in business for as long as possible. An enduring business that can rake in money takes practice and more practice.

Discipline and focus are also critical in attracting and maintaining your client base. Any products/services you supply have to be of the highest quality. Paying attention to detail to meet individual customer demands is critical to making more sales. 

In a fast-paced world where everyone wants quick results, you have to be fast on your feet to maintain your customers.

7. Have a Great Deal of Charisma

Some of the traits of a charismatic businessperson are warmth and confidence. Your interpersonal and listening skills create a sense of being social and communicative. 

Charisma is about being approachable, making it easier for people to ask questions and clarify your business. They also feel free to share their product-related issues. They can tell you precisely what they want, knowing you can confidently meet these needs within a suitable time frame.

Charisma goes hand in hand with vast amounts of trust and reliability. If clients trust you, they can also heed your advice regarding the products/ services you offer.


Being a hawker in Nairobi is not a walk in the park. It is not for the fainthearted. But it also isn't impossible. With dedication, sacrifice, and smart business skills you are already on solid starting grounds.

Ian Job is an articulate writer with over four years of experience in SEO writing, digital marketing and screenwriting. Away from writing, he's probably producing an indie movie if you don't find him mentoring upcoming content writers. You can connect with him on Medium.

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