Mini-supermarket Business in Kenya. Margaret Ndung’u – Samadens Mini-mart, Ruiru.

More entrepreneurs in Kenya are now venturing into the mini-supermarket business especially in residential areas and growing towns.

For the longest time, Kenyans had been used to the supermarket concept being limited to big supermarket chains such as Uchumi, Nakumatt, Tuskys, Naivas, Quickmart, etc. And, those in areas away from the urban were used to wholesale stores and small retail shops.

Now, most places in Kenya have smaller supermarket formats and there are smaller chains emerging. Today, almost every local shopping center you go to in Kenya has a mini-supermarket.

A mini-supermarket is a good business idea especially if you have the capital to set up your store and stock it up. With regular stocking up and fair prices, you might just give the retail shops around a run for their money.

Starting Samadens Mini-mart

“We started in 2016. But I had this business in my mind for a long time before we even moved to Ruiru in 2003.

I believe in making that extra money and my father instilled that in me since I was a young girl. He was a civil servant but always had something to do on the side such as farming.

When we first came to this place, the few people who were living here were doing a lot of farming. With time, this place started growing and more people started moving into this area. I then thought these people will need a place to do shopping.

 Everybody was starting their own shop and I thought, why not open my own shop where people can walk in and get what they need? So we simply started the business to make money and to make shopping convenient for the people.”


Where you locate your mini-supermarket is very crucial. A place that has high foot traffic is the best. Customers just need to spot you and walk in easily. And depending on the area, different premises will vary in rent.

“No one comes at our business knocking for rent at the end of the month and that’s one thing that has saved us a lot. If we were to pay rent for these premises monthly, we would have to part with around Ksh.40, 000.”

Permits and licenses

“The first year of business I paid Ksh.5, 000 for my single business permit. However, the amount has increased gradually over the years. This year, for example, we have paid around Ksh.11, 000 to Ksh.12, 000.

Apart from the single business permit, you are required to have a health license. I paid Ksh.500 for every attendant and Ksh.500 for the business itself. So they regularly come around, inspect the business and report anything that seems amiss.”

First stocking up and approximated capital

“I always knew that when I wanted to start a business I did not want borrow a loan and wanted to use my own savings for capital.

The first time we started, we stocked up with around Ksh.40, 000. The mart was not as big as it is right now. We expanded as time went by and as the business started to sustain itself.

Acquiring the permit, the licenses and stocking up the shop plus other few things we did to set up the mini-mart cost us around Ksh.90, 000 to Ksh.100, 000.

So many people think that for you to start a business you really need to have a lot of money and that’s not the case.

Luckily for me, I had a friend of ours who owns Dicii Supermarket in Ruiru who gave us the heads up we needed. He advised us to buy what we will display without an intention of storing supplies in the store.

This is because you don’t really know whether your people will like Soko or Valley land flour. So don’t buy too much.”

With time, Sadene started to buy more as they were able to tell what the customers liked and what they didn’t like. They wanted to accommodate every customer.  

Supplies and regular stocking up

“I go for my big supplies such as flour at a wholesale store in Ruiru. But I also have the small supplies such as snacks dropped by other distributors. They come, make an order then supply you with what you need.

As you look for a supplier, look at the price and the distance between you as the retailer and the wholesaler.

As for me, where I get my supplies in Ruiru is very near. And if another wholesaler was selling something for Ksh.100 less and they are in Thika, it would not be practical.  It would cost me more because of the distance. You have to consider the transport aspect whenever you are thinking about wholesale. The nearer you are to your wholesaler the better.

Another thing is the variation of item prices in different wholesalers. A difference of Ksh.200 on every item is a lot of money. And, a one stop wholesaler is very good as you don’t have to hop from one wholesaler to the other. Getting 98% of supplies from one wholesaler saves me time, money and fuel.

I have had to drop a few suppliers along the way since I started for several reasons but mainly because of their higher prices. Look for convenience, fair prices and a one stop shop for all you need for your shop.”


“Usually, we have two shop attendants with us but with COVID, we had to let them go. However, our two sons have been of great help during this period. We have been working in shifts and they have learned a lot about business.

Being younger, they have taught us several things and implemented a few changes that have made running the mini-mart easier. It’s been a way to prepare them in case they don’t land into formal employment.

And, the few attendants we have had, they have made something good for themselves out of it. I encourage them to not see the job as a permanent thing but as something to do at the moment as they prepare for the next level in life.

We prefer working with the younger people as they are more reliable and it’s easier to teach them.”


“It’s not automatic for your neighbors or friends to buy from you. It’s the new people who don’t know you who will buy from you and support your business.

Getting to this area has been a challenge affecting our supply chain. There are few suppliers who complain that the road to this place is really bad and they cannot come to this place. We need their services but they cannot provide us with their services.

Also, the major wholesalers find our mini-mart small for them to come and deliver. So, they will leave your supplies at a bigger supermarket for you to pick them yourself. They want to go to places that are asking much more that you are. So, unless you come across new wholesalers in the market, it’s not easy to get items from the major wholesalers.

Being in the interior, security has been a great challenge for us we have been robbed severally. After these instances, installing CCTV is expensive. We have used so much money to put the metal bars outside. And, the process of following up with these robbery cases with the police consumes money and they don’t help much.

Also, the people you employ hoping that you help each other end up stealing from you. They give wrong records, wrong inventory and by the time you know it, you have lost money already.”

At the moment, COVID-19 has been a challenge for Samadens and has highly affected their regular restocking. They are not able to get supplies from some of the places they usually go such as Kamukunji for the fear of the virus.

‘Return of investment’

A mini-supermarket business is profitable especially when the business starts sustaining itself. For Samadens Mini-mart the profit is not just money.

“When it comes to regular restocking, we have never gone into our pockets to restock. The business has been able to restock itself. Even with COVID, the business has still sustained itself and we have not borrowed to stay in business. Also, we are not just working. We are also feeding and clothing from this business. The business has allowed us to pay ourselves.”