Business you can start with less than UGX 100,000/= (US$ 30) – Part 1

I am a firm believer in starting business the simplest way possible. While one may have this big vision about where they want to go, a journey of 1000 miles always begins with one step. Most times, we want to start that journey with 100 steps and hence get paralysed at the mere thought of gathering those 100 initial steps.

Recently, while reading through #FridayBusinessUnusualWithDM on Facebook run by my OB Dickson Mushabe, the issue at hand was to do with this person who had lost his job, had only UGX 100,000/= left and wanted to invest in a business without spending on consumption activities. That is when I realised that it was high time I shared on how one can start business with less than UGX 100,000/= (US$ 30).

The assumption in all this is that;

  1. You already have some requisite skills
  2. You are based in Uganda
  3. You are ready to operate below the radar
  4. You don’t despise work
  5. You have been pushed hard enough that you want to make a positive change in your life
  6. You are ready to work with others
  7. Above all, you are tired of talking and ready to act.

It is kind of unbelievable when one tells you that you can start business with such a seemingly measly sum of money which others easily spend on a lunch time outing. The fact is that it is very possible.

After listing down all possible business opportunities, I decided to group them in three categories (and this is to say that my list is not necessarily exhaustive). They are;

  • Food
  • Household
  • General

Due to the detail each category needs, I shall split them into three posts with the first one dealing with Food.

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If there is any industry in Uganda that provides you with ready income without so much hustle, it’s this one. The food business is less likely to expose you to the rampant corruption and opportunity politicisation that is faced by most other industries. People need to eat food, you don’t have to bribe them to buy your food nor do they have to know what political party you subscribe to before they can purchase. Some of the business ideas here include;

Snacks: These sell alot. They are needed for home and school consumption. Many parents with school going children always have to buy snacks for the children to take to school daily. Offices need snacks daily for their tea breaks. You could choose to sell directly to the consumers or to retailers like shops and supermarkets. Some of the most popular snacks I always see around are; Chapati, Sumbusa, Mandazi, Cookies, Cakes, Pop  Corn, Daddies, Roasted Groundnuts, Dried fruits like Mangoes, fried Silver Fish (mukene), Crisps among others.

Let us take the example of the Chapati Snack. To start off, all one needs is; A frying pan, A charcoal stove, Charcoal, Cooking Oil, A roller, Baking Flour, Baking Powder and a location. Depending on where you buy them, the frying pan, Charcoal Stove and Roller shouldn’t cost you more than UGX 60,000/= especially if you can settle for second hand equipment. Charcoal worth UGX 2000/=, Cooking oil (half a litre) at UGX 3,500/= , Baking Flour (1Kg) at UGX 7000/= and Baking Powder at UGX 1000/=. Choose a roadside location that has some decent human traffic and you probably pay nothing for it or a daily rental fee of utmost UGX 2,000/= . Rent a small table for UGX 1,500/= a day. Purchase packaging material to last you close to three days for UGX 2,000/=.  So far, you have spent a total of UGX 79,000/=. This should enable you start off from day one and thereafter, the returns from the business are expected to provide the initial cash flow required to re-invest.

This example shows us that going forward from day zero, the operating costs will be centred around Purchasing Cooking Oil, Charcoal, Baking flour, Baking powder, Table and location rental. This implies that you need to raise at least UGX 17,000/= from sales daily to have operational capital. As demand grows, you get an opportunity to sell more by procuring more raw material. I did talk to my favourite Chapati vendor and he confessed that profitability for him comes in after he has used at least 1.5 Kilograms of Baking flour. He has two key demand periods during the day and they are from 6am to 8am in the morning and 5pm to 9pm in the evening. In each of those periods, he uses up at least four (4) kilos of baking flour. Through my own judgement, this gives him revenues in the region of UGX 80,000/= to UGX 150,000/= daily.

Produce: This is one hell of a cash cow that many educated urbanites have never understood well hence leaving it for the others to exploit. The volume of food produce transacted in Uganda on a daily basis is simply massive and the margins usually made by the middle men are outrageous. Every food product you find in the market or supermarket has a supply chain associated with it. It probably emanates from some peasant’s garden, then is amalgamated by a village trader who purchases from the different peasant farmers in order to accumulate substantial volumes that are then sold to a larger trader who transports the produce to urban areas for eventual wholesale to retailers.

Products in this category that are easy to chance upon include; Maize, Millet, Rice, SimSim, Onions, Bananas, Tomatoes, etc. By simply identifying a place to purchase the produce, all one does is to ensure it arrives safely in an urban centre and you will make a decent margin selling to the Shop keepers or directly to consumers.

Take the example of Rice, during its season, one can buy a Kilogram of Milled rice for as low as UGX 1,400/= in the rice growing areas. Simply transporting that rice to an urban area like Kampala would guarantee you a wholesale price of not less than UGX 2,300/=. This gives you a margin of at least 60%. An investment of UGX 80,000/= in rice should yield you not less than 130,000/=. Should you choose to retail the rice like my sister does, the margin gets even much bigger.

I once tried my hands in the Tomato Processing business and this involved me and my wife leaving home at 4am just to ensure that we were at Nakawa Market by 4:30am to buy Tomatoes straight from the farmers who had delivered. At that time of the day, a crate of Tomatoes then cost UGX 40,000/=. However, what intrigued me was that by 6am, the same crate would cost not less than UGX 75,000/=. Come 7pm, no one would be selling in crates anymore, they split up the tomatoes into small basins and as a result, a crate worth would fetch you at least UGX 130,000/=. Studying these trends showed me that one could as well choose to simply work for three hours daily i.e. from 4am to 7am and retire for the day comfortable. With such an idea, all you need is to invest UGX 70,000/= in purchasing tomatoes today from the farmers who deliver and you will be able to multiply your money by at least 40% daily.

Doubling Your Productivity

Outside Catering: People eat food everyday, in offices, on occasions and everywhere. Many like me do not like leaving office to look for food to eat. However, if the food found us in the office, we wouldn’t mind buying. As a shrewd entrepreneur, you can position yourself as someone who identifies the market, have customers place orders with you and then establish restaurants or food vendors that you deal with to supply. As a ‘retailer’ you negotiate for a preferential rate per plate served, add your markup and offer such a much needed service.

Notice that you do not need to invest in cooking utensils and a heavy workforce that will keep you always on your toes. It’s a Do It Yourself kind of business that will only warrant taking on extra hands as it grows. You don’t even need UGX 50,000/= to embark on this.

To find out about opportunities in the Household sector, continue to Part 2 of this post.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

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53 responses to “Business you can start with less than UGX 100,000/= (US$ 30) – Part 1

  1. Shamirah katende

    Thanks so much for the knowledge you given to me ,but asking I want to start a snacks shop adding in all soft drinks like yoghurt ,soda,juice and passion fruits but I don’t know how much I can start with


    • There are many factors to consider before you settle on how much you need to start with.
      What kind of shop do you want to set up?
      What products do you want to start with? (It is not a good idea to start with everything and anything you can buy)
      How do you want to run it? Yourself or with an employee?
      You can write to my contacts at the bottom of the post for any further inquiries.


  2. Hi I love your knowledge about this,am in this current situation and find myself with only 100k…my question is does this tomato thing still work for me thank you!!!!


  3. Wasukulu woodo jimmex

    thanks. Very much people just decide to be poor


  4. Thanx so much with this ideas.
    Iwant invest in selling wholesale commodities maybe mixed with some maize flour and rice. How much do ineed to start up and But how can i get intouch with you for more advice


    • This is good to know about what you want to do. As for the amount you need, it is determined by numerous factors. Location, market requirements (products), size of desired stock to start-up, procurement procedure to be used etc.


  5. Thanks for the knowledge brother


  6. Am so much humbled with yo insight bruh.may u please give me some light on how i can start up a chips bisiness


  7. Otherwise thanks for opening our eyes that we can now see the opportunities around us and helping us to be self employed, because we are tired of being slaves to other peoples businesses all the time we are pressure, and not even valuing the good things that we do, they only look at our mistakes thanks u


  8. I want to start a small business such as selling second hand shoes, baby toys black books pens etc,


  9. Thanks for that wonderful knowledge am sylvia am proud of you and I promise I will set up my own business starting at home. After these words of inspiration I feel relief and I will go ahead with my goal thanks though I have a question can I start up lyk selling airtime at home because I see my family members purchase alot of it from the near by agent sellers so my qn is how much is needed for me to start up lyk if at all I can sell them jst airtime stork


  10. Wine Barimunsi

    Hi James,
    Thank you for all the insights,just wondering I need help with a business plan for a you do such kind of work and how much do you charge..

    Thank you.


  11. I used to despise this chapatti business but seeing the numbers I am seriously encouraged to try.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Victoria Mukasa

    Thanks for inspiring people especially fellow Ugandans about stating a business. I also want to start a snack business, but, where can i get packaging material like one of the Gorillos snacks.








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  16. Michelle Flymath

    Thank you James. Been here hustling on what to start wit my 2m but now I have got a limelight. I’m going to choose one and embark on it in Kenya where I discovered a big market potential for whatever you’ve talked about


  17. Aggrey kanakulya

    Thx boss am even motivated more that any amount can kick-start a business.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is great. You have boosted my condidence sir. I am a firm believer in the small business ideas but no one has ever opened my eyea the way u have done.
    Thank u and may the almighty richly bless u


  19. great


  20. Thanks a lot bro James Wire


  21. thanks you, bro. James it’s really wonderful, may blessings fall on you.


  22. thanks, bro. James it’s really wonderful.


  23. Twesigamukama Darius (Darry)

    Ohh thank you very much. I also have experience in starting from small to big. I purchased a computer and a printer at as low as 1,300,000 and started a research consultancy firm just near the university. in a year, i was able to handle 150 clients which yielded me not less than 30,000,000 uganda shillings just in a year. A few employees can earn this. my fellow graduates who are looking for jobs, please open yo eyes widely. Thank, Twesigamukama darius(Darry) a research consultant in Banka.


  24. Doreen Sembeguya

    Hi James,
    Thank you for this very excellent insight. Surely, there is so much opportunity around us especially if we choose to focus on the possibilities rather than dwelling on the negative. Your article has opened my mind up to some really good ideas.
    God bless you and your businesses / family immensely. You are helping many through this initiative.
    Kind regards.


  25. What is the minimum amount to start a produce shop


    • There are many variables to look at. You need to share more information about what kind of produce, where the shop is, source of the produce as well as any processing that might be needed.


  26. Thank u. Share with me about poultry products… Like eggs or business birds


  27. Ronald Tumuhairwe

    Thanks for sharing this knowledge. I will be embarking in the charcoal business this month.


  28. Lucky hanningiton

    Thanks for helping we under employed ugandan


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  30. am left in awe. thanks so much brother for the insight and enlightenment.


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  32. Maize flour , beans and cooking oil and canssav flour


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