4 Major Barriers To Starting A Business In Kenya

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Barrier to start a business

The main barriers that hinder people from starting their own businesses are a lack of compelling vision, information, capital, self-doubt, and fear of failure.  Vision in the context of business is a mental picture of an attractive thing like a successful business that is worth striving for. Without such a compelling and motivating force, nothing can start.

The second barrier to starting a business is the lack of capital. People imagine that starting any business requires a lot of start-up capital and for this reason; they do not give the idea a serious thought. The third barrier is fear of the unknown, failure, or losing money and love for the financial security a salary employment confers to an individual.

The fourth barrier is that information about business opportunities and how to create a business is not readily available. Most people find it difficult, without help, to figure out this information and what they can do. A lot of individuals are often heard to say ‘’I wish to start my own business but I do not know what business to start and how to go about it’’.  Let us take each of these hindrances of starting a business one by one.

1. Lack of Vision

Vision is more important than capital and know-how put together. Research carried out by James C Collins and Jerry I Porras and reflected in their book “Built To Last” (1994) shows that the best and most successful businesses are founded on and driven by vision.  Simply put, a vision, in a business context is a powerful image of an idea that you would like to implement to enable you and your business to be somewhere better in a given time in the future.

It can be an idea of how your eulogy should read like after your death, which, of course, is formed in the course of your life. Those who study the Bible might have seen that Proverbs 29:18 says “where there is no vision, the people perish”.  See a quote below from Steve Jobs.

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you do not have to be pushed. The vision pulls you”. Steve Jobs, USA IT Entrepreneur (one of the main brains behind the iPad and iPhone)

Many success stories all show that all that is required for vision is a single sound idea. The Aeroplane was started by individuals from a single idea. The motor vehicle was invented from a single idea. The flush toilet was invented from the idea of one individual. History is full of people with visions that brought great inventions into this World. The majority of the richest people in the world were led by visions of riches. Having a vision is, therefore, more than 50% of starting one’s own business.

2. Fear of failure and Self-doubt

Fear of failure need not deter an Entrepreneur. Every failure is indeed a golden lesson. It is said that every adversity, failure, and heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. The person who wins is the one who thinks he can win.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

Paulo Coelho Quotes from the Alchemist

Rosa Parks (USA civil rights activist-1913-2005) said “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear. Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” So, prepare, know what needs to be done and concur fear too.

The above quotes show that failure is part of every venture and should serve as an inspiration to soldier on and turn adversity into a great success. Fear of failure should not deter anyone from starting a business. It has been said that that mistakes, failures, insults, frustrations, and rejections are part of progress and growth.

Nobody ever achieved anything worthwhile without facing these five things. Below are some examples of people who overcame hardships, rejection, and failure and rose again like Phoenixes to be successful in their endeavors.

3. Lack of Capital

Capital is often cited as one of the barriers to starting a business. However, there are very many examples of businesses that have been started with very little capital and they are today big businesses to reckon with. In his book, “The Small Business Bible”, Steven D Strauss (2008) states that ‘’to start a successful business, one does not need to be a genius and does not need to reinvent the Next Big Thing and does not need to start with a Big Idea.

The Dream of a business idea is the Thing”. Sam Walton’s Wal-Mart, the hugely successful and America’s largest retail Supermarket (as of 2019) started as a five-and-dime store in Arkansas, USA.

The late Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers, is one example of a successful businessman who started small and with very little money. Steve Jobs is quoted to have said that they designed the Apple Computer because he and his business partners could not afford to buy one. This is not to say capital is not important for starting a business. It is very important as indeed most ventures require substantial upfront capital.

However, it is still possible to venture into business with whatever funds you have and diligently grow it. Furthermore, there are simple as well as complex ways of raising capital. Out of experience, any successful businessman will advise that once you have your idea, proceed at once with it regardless of whether you are ready or not as once you start moving, providence also moves along with you. Here is a quote from Ray Bradbury to sum up the idea of starting small without a penny:

If we listened to our intellect, we would never have a love affair. We would never go into business because we would be cynical. You have got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. Ray Bradbury.

To drive home the import of the above quote by Ray Bradbury, one may have observed that many “A” and some of the “B” students rarely engage in business and do not, therefore, make it big financially. One of the reasons, it has been noted, are first, due to their intellectualism, such people feel that starting a small-time business venture is beneath their stature and therefore do not even think about it, let alone try.

Secondly, they also tend to have a slightly heightened sense of self-worth, and starting a business to generate a few coins does not quite appeal to them, not seeing that a few coins today are the millions of tomorrow.

Thirdly, due to higher intellectualism again, they tend to get paralyzed by over-analysis and never get started because they, by this analysis, convince themselves that it is not worth it or the risks are too high and not worth the embarrassment of possible failure. On the other hand, the “C” and below students tend to have no such inhibitions and have no qualms in venturing or do not hesitate to plunge into whatever comes to their minds.

More like Ray Bradbury says, they jump off cliffs without much analysis or thought and in the process, succeed big time or equally fail and do not suffer any embarrassment that might bother the more intellectually endowed or burdened person. Mostly, they do succeed after due hardships and persistence. Business requires such courage.

4. Lack of information

As for lack of information as a hindrance to starting a business, this may be true up to a point. There before, business information was hard to come by. With the advent of the internet, this is no longer the case. Information is only a click away on the internet including here. There are also good business books and articles sold online by Amazon and others including here as well. There are also very many online courses about starting and running a business.  Susan Ward’s blog: about.com/small-business gives a lot of tips about starting and running a business. The tips are mainly about Canadian and USA businesses but they apply equally well anywhere in the world. She features the USA market as well.

Some of the effects, advantages, and disadvantages of self-employment are:


Salary jobs in many jurisdictions are scarce, you rarely get the right fit, and are hardly ever fulfilling. They can, for many reasons, come to an abrupt end. Self-employment, on the other hand, can give you meaningful work and self-actualization.

With self-employment, you do what want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it and how you want to do it. In short, you have personal freedom.
Self-employment gives you the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them and explore your full potential. In employment, one or two mistakes could spell the end of your job.


However, the downside of self-employment is you and the enterprise are one and any success or failure solely depends on your efforts. If there is no effort or ability, the business may fail. Self-employment requires a higher level of commitment than is called for by a salary job.

On day to day basis and at the end of the month, you are the one to figure out how things will run and where the money for running the business and paying end of month expenses will come from. Another disadvantage is that when there is economic stagnation, businesses, unfortunately, stagnate as well and become like a salary job or even worse.


Where am I headed with all these? I am saying if only we can appreciate the barriers and work on them, anybody should be able to start and run some form of business and realize their financial dreams through self-employment rather than salary employment.

There is an important reason why self-employment through a business is more preferable than salary employment. Now and then, people hear from government bureaucrats and politicians talk about economic growth and booming economies. The impact on various people of economic growth or an economic boom in any country depends on the roles of those people in the growing or booming economy.

How an economy affects your income depends on your role in that economy. If you are a bystander or a salaried employee, you are not likely to feel any effects except inflation effects which can, unfortunately, be amplified by a booming economy. Whether the economy is booming or not, your salary is somewhat fixed and can only be adjusted by way of a review and or once a year notch increments and or bonuses.

So you become just a consumer and a taxpayer helping the economy to grow without accruing many benefits from the growth except that your chances of finding and keeping a job are higher in a booming economy. With self-employment, your income grows with a growing economy and you can even become a millionaire in the process.

In business, your business grows with the economy, and the potential for riches is unlimited. The growth of your income is tied to the state of the economy, your abilities, and hard work, not the decisions of someone else like an employer.

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