Internet cafes have seen a decrease in demand with the advent of large-scale access to computers in households – however, they transcend beyond mere computer spaces; they become spaces of consultancy as well.
I know all of this firsthand, and I will show you!
I had been operating my Internet Cafe for one year, beginning at the year-end of twenty-twenty-one and ending in twenty-twenty-two.
It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and I remember how it all started. And I table it below!
Firstly, startup capital is a must-have. However, you could always start very small, as I did!
Like any enterprise, an Internet cafe can only thrive in communities with a demand for it!
Enough with the obvious; let’s unpack this.
I started my own company from home. At the time, I stayed with my Grandmother and used my bedroom as my office.
It was only four months later, after renovating the garage, that I moved out of the bedroom.
Yes, my clients would walk into my most private space, and using a single PC (Which I will explain where to acquire one), I would assist them.
It started with financial proceeds from NSFAS(National Student Financial Aid Scheme), a student donor widely used in South Africa.
I used what I earned then, equivalent to two hundred dollars(three thousand five hundred rands) a month, to buy my first personal computer and printer.
A savvy way to acquire these PCs would be to purchase used or outdated computer models, as they are very cheap.
I used a twenty-thirteen Dell PC with an adequate computer CPU to allow work to continue despite some incompatible software.
A quick Google search will show you where to purchase them near you!
Bootstrapping is one of the easiest ways to build an internet cafe, granted that your conditions are similar to mine.
I did not have sufficient cash flow in the early days, so I had to be creative.
If starting an internet cafe on a tight budget, you should prioritize some aspects over others. You will have to compromise at the beginning!
For instance, I used to use my phone as a network carrier, an internet modem. I could not afford a router!
You have to give credit to people while also affording yourself some grace!
People can see the capacity of your business and will never force you to expand without the ability to do so.
In fact, you will find that more people will encourage you along. They will nudge you forward.
You must be gracious to yourself because it will always be you against you!
What made my internet cafe so special, despite my closing it? Also, why close it, you ask?
Below are some things I executed well to keep a constant supply of clients, including many repeat clients. I had around seventy percent repeat clients.
Here it goes.
Hospitality: No matter how small you are, you can always ensure your clients enter a hospitable environment.
Assistance: I really did prioritize my clients. And I will encourage you to do the same. They need you, and you need them; it should always be mutual.
Services: I mentioned earlier that there has to be a demand for what you do; this is important. I extended my services to include very nichey/technical offerings that came with my education. Some of the services I offered included design, video editing, and business registration, among others.
Consultancy: You need to understand that an internet cafe is a consultancy firm. Although some people come purely to use the internet and make copies, some come for consultancy/advice and so forth. In my example, people came to me with inquiries like, ‘How do I keep my business valid?’ or ‘How do I expand my business portfolio?’ amongst a few.
You will discover many more for yourself. But remember to be client-centric, and much will solve itself.
I closed mine because I thought moving out of my comfort zone would make me a better businessman. I needed to be in a new city, or so I thought! Never close a business if you don’t have to!
But I never left that internet cafe; it still echoes in me. And I am planning my way back into it.
What are the drawbacks of such a business?
Let me first add that this type of business is a relatively stable enterprise.
My issues were mostly related to the economy that I was running in.
Here are a few. Note that these may not apply to you.
Loadshedding(power cuts). This was an issue, and this problem has not gotten any easier in South Africa. There were moments when there wasn’t power for half a day. And you can already spell what that means, yep!
Water cuts. Yes, third-world problems do not end! However, water was generally gone at night[not excusing government incompetency].
Safety. My company ran from my home garage, and at first, I had to sleep with an eye open – Because my assets were a source of capital in a community with disturbing levels of unemployment and despair. I later installed CCTV and alarms but never truly felt at ease.
Household and community politics. There were challenges there as well, too numerous to add here. But of a much lesser problem than the ones above. Power cuts were my biggest issue; it really cut my soul every time it went, regardless of how much I meditated.
Despite a torrent of economic challenges, I was at break even with my company. And I was growing, albeit much slower than I expected.
Depending on where you are, your company can scale quickly or move as a snail; either way, there is a lesson in all of it.
And this business can help you a lot in socializing and working with people. It does not necessarily demand you to be a people person, but it will shape you into one.
That is the truth.
Good luck building your internet cafe; remember to be proactive; it’s your business.