Starting a business is a dream for many Kenyans, and part of the process of starting your own side hustle is registering your business name in Kenya.
You’ll be joining some of the 100,000 small businesses that are incorporated every year in Kenya, and it’s important to get this step right. Surprisingly, according to statistics, more than 60% of SMEs in Kenya are not registered.
People still have a misconception about registering their businesses. They assume that the process is long, tedious and expensive and should only be left to the “well-off” business owners.
The rules and regulations governing business registration in Kenya have changed over the last few years. They have made the process easier and more affordable. This means that anyone in Kenya can now register a business, and you don’t need to have two or more directors to register a company.
Previously, you needed to go through lawyers and present documents physically to the registrar of companies. However, you can now do it by visiting any Huduma center across the country or use the government’s eCitizen platform.
So Why Should You register a business name in Kenya?
As a business owner, it is quite crucial to register a business in Kenya. It has many benefits that you cannot get with your unregistered business.
When you get your business name registered, you will enjoy the following benefits:
- Credibility: A registered business has more credibility, and people tend to trust it. People are comfortable giving you business contracts because they trust that you will deliver and not run away with their money. Providing your customers and supplier with a business bank account makes you look professional and serious with your business, and this will lead to more trust and continued business. With a registered business, you can apply for tenders.
- Get a Bank Account: When you have your business name registered, you can open a business bank account in your business name. This makes it easy for you to receive payments from other businesses and individuals transacting with your business. It also helps you simplify your financials and saves you time when doing your bookkeeping and paying taxes. Your business bank account will also help you get loans fast.
- Great borrowing power: When you register a business name in Kenya, you increase your borrowing power. Banks and financial institutions can trust your business and will find it easier to extend credit to you. You also get fewer loan rates that are available for registered businesses in Kenya, especially SMEs.
- Legal Protection: The business owner of a registered company in Kenya will get legal protection in case their company goes under. This protection separates directors from their individual finances.
- M-Pesa Business Till Number: When you register a business name in Kenya, you get the opportunity to register for an M-pesa business till number. This will enable your customers to make payments to your business easily and fast. You can receive payments to your till number from other businesses as well as customers. M-pesa till number allows you to withdraw your money at any time, so you have your money at hand. You can also pay other businesses like your suppliers, minimizing the need to visit a bank branch.
Table of Contents
What do I need to register a business name in Kenya?
You simply need to have the following;
- a unique business name,
- know how to use eCitizen portal,
- national ID copy of the business owner,
- copy of the KRA PIN Certificate of the business owners,
- and Passport photos.
Steps to register a business name in Kenya
Step 1 – Choose a unique business name
A business name is quite crucial because it is how the world will know your business. It is therefore important to choose a name that is simple, easy to pronounce, and unique.
Your business name should be consistent with your brand or what you sell. It should not be too similar to a competitor’s name because it will confuse your customers, and you may end up losing your customers to your competitors.
Avoid using your name by all means, especially if it doesn’t communicate anything about your business and won’t mean anything to your customers.
Your name should be scalable. It should be able to expand your business. For example, if you sell clothes, you may one day sell shoes and other accessories. Ensure that your name can encompass your business growth over time.
Ensure that the name that you choose is available and no one is using it. This is important, especially if you plan to have an online presence (which you should!).
Don’t use acronyms to name your business because you will end up confusing your potential customers.
Step 2- Log in to the eCitizen Portal
Once you have your name ready, you will need to register it on the eCitizen portal. Head over to the eCitizen portal and log in. If you do not have an account yet, you will need to create one by signing up and following the prompts on the screen.
Ensure that you confirm your email by following a link that will be sent there. The process is quite simple and straightforward. Follow these steps:
- Fill in your full names as they appear on your ID
- Enter your ID number
- Enter your email address
- Enter your phone number
- Activate your account by verifying the link sent to your email address
- Create a password for your eCitizen account
- You will receive a confirmation message about the activation of your account
Once your account is ready, log in.
On the eCitizen dashboard, select the “Business Registration Service” tab.
Click on the “Make Application” button.
Select the business name registration option
Enter the proposed business names and the proposed business name’s addresses & ownership information. This is the name that you chose for your business.
Give your address and details.
Review your application & Pay For the Filing Fee.
What is the cost of registering a business name in Kenya for 2023?
It will cost you Ksh. 950. Upon payment of the filing fee, you will receive a receipt of payment.
Note that you can make Payments directly from the website portal or to the bank. They have an m-pesa payment option. Just follow the instructions given.
- Prepare the required documents for upload. You will need to prepare a signed copy of the pre-registration documents and upload a scanned copy to the website for processing. These documents include copies of national IDs of the business owners, Copies of the KRA PIN Certificate of the business owners, and Passport photos.
- Submit the Original Copies of Your Documents. You will get feedback on your registration within 1-2 working days.
Step 3 – Download your certificate of incorporation
Once your business registration is complete, you will get a notification to your registered email. Log into your eCitizen account to check the status of your business.
You will get a certificate of incorporation, which indicates that your business is now registered under the name you provided. It also contains details of the registration date.
Download this certificate of incorporation. It is your proof that your business is registered.
You will need this certificate for all your official business activities like signing contracts, opening a business bank account, applying for funding, applying for tenders, and more.
Step 4 – Protect your business name in Kenya
Your registered business name is now your property, and you have a duty to protect it. Many aspiring business owners are on the lookout for a good business name for their own businesses, and if yours is not in use, you may lose it.
To protect your business name, take the following actions:
- Buy a Domain Name
A domain name is your online address. It helps your audience to find your business easily when they search you online. It is the name that they will type to find your business.
In order to protect your business name, you will need to purchase one. This is because when your domain name is up and running, no one else can use it. A domain name is unique to a business, and no other business can take it.
The best domain name is short, say between 6 to 14 characters. They are easier to read, stick better in the visitor’s memories and take less room on marketing materials.
Make your domain name memorable and avoid numbers and hyphens.
To buy a domain name in Kenya, choose a reliable domain registrar that is authorized by ICANN or Communications Authority of Kenya. Some of these include Creative Kigen Cloud HostPoa, DeepAfrica, KenyawebExperts, Godaddy, Bluehost, etc. Use a domain availability checker tool to check the availability of your domain name.
All you have to do is to type your domain name on the search bar of the too. If your name is available, you will be alerted, so if not, they will give you suggestions of names nearest your chosen name.
You can choose any of these or search for another name. If the extension you want, like .com, is unavailable, you can consider a .net, or .org or whichever you think can work for you.
Once you get your desired domain name, purchase it and complete its registration. You will be required to enter your contact information.
Create Social Media Accounts
Creating social media accounts for your business using your business name is a great way to safeguard it. No one will use your name to create them after you’ve done it.
Business social media accounts help you track users and posts to know what posts people see and the content they like interacting with. You can also use paid and promoted posts and ads, something you cannot get from your personal account.
To create your business social media accounts, you will need a business email address that will keep all your notifications organized in one place.
That also means that if you need to give an assistant, social media manager or employee access to your social media accounts to manage them on your behalf, you will not need to give them your personal email.
You don’t have to set up social media accounts on all social channels. You only need to choose a few that are relevant to your industry.
Each social channel has different rules and requirements, so you must read through the specific requirements. All channels are easy to set up, and you will only need basic business information, a logo and a photo.
Create a Google My Business Profile
Google My Business profile is a free business listing from Google which allows you to provide details and photos of your business. It also allows you to include your location, services and products.
A Google My Business profile will help you increase visibility online, and your information may appear on Google Maps, Google Search and Google Shopping.
When you create this profile, you easily get discovered by people looking for products and services that you sell.
It will show searchers where and how to visit your business. It will improve your local SEO and increase both foot and web traffic.
A Google My Business profile allows you to control and update your business information, such as contact information, business hours, and other details.
You can also post updates like expanded services, offers, temporarily closed or reopened, etc. Customers can leave reviews through your Google My Business profile and help you build trust and credibility.
To create a Google My Business profile, you will need to have a Google account. Go to their website and sign in. Follow the prompts by providing the details requested.
Enter your business name, location, and contact information, and verify your business. Customize your profile by entering your business hours, messaging preferences, business description and photos.
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
You’ll need to keep business, and personal finances separate by opening a business bank. A business bank account can help you make bookkeeping easy and establish your business’s credit history. It also makes it easier for you be able to get a loan facility from a bank.
A business bank account helps you look more professional to your clients and suppliers.
Using a personal bank account may make people assume that you are just out, don’t believe that your business will last, or don’t want to establish your business as a legitimate entity.
Visit your preferred bank and ask how to open a business bank account. Typically you’ll need the following documents:
- National ID Card
- Business Certificate of Incorporation
- An application form
- KRA PIN Number
Step 6: Apply For an M-PESA Business Till
Safaricom’s Lipa Na Mpesa service allows businesses to receive customer payments for goods and services. This service is embedded in the Safaricom mpesa menu and has made business transactions easier.
The Till is a unique number where customers make payments and receive an SMS notification. It is a SIM card created mainly to receive payments.
To apply for a Till Number, you will need the following documents:
- Duly filled and signed application form and Terms and conditions
- Copy of Business Registration/or Business Permit
- Individual or company KRA Pin (Not Mandatory)
- Copy of Identification Documents of Persons Opening the account, i.e., Copy of the National ID/ Military Service Number (Passport/Alien Certificate for Foreign Nationals).
You can get an Mpesa Business till in 3 ways:
- From your bank
Banks allow you to apply for a till number for free. They link it to your business banking account to help you ease your cash flow management issues.
You will need a running business, a bank account, and a duly completed application form to get a till number from a bank.
- From Safaricom
To get a till number from Safaricom, you can visit them with the required documents and let the staff help you. You can also register yourself by going to their website.
Once you complete the form, you will be required to wait 24 hours. You will receive the till details through SMS on the line that made the application.
You will then be required to activate the till using the nominated number. To activate, use the USSD *234#, select M-pesa Business Till and enter the store number received via SMS.
- From Kopokopo
To get your till number from Kopokopo, you will need these documents:
- Application form
- National ID-front and backside
- Renewed business permit or the business name certificate of registration
- KRA PIN-compulsory for businesses settling to the bank.
- Bank letter/canceled cheque for merchants settling to the bank
Go to their website and fill out the form. Add all the details required and follow all the instructions.
Step 7: Set Up an Accounting System
An accounting system will help the business owner keep track of their assets, liabilities, income, and cash flow. It helps them keep track of the financial performance of their business, enabling them to make better-informed decisions.
A good accounting system enables the business owner to plan, spot potential issues, identify strengths, and prove business viability.
Setting up a formalized accounting system early helps you create essential financial reports.
Work with a professional to identify the best tracking system for your needs. I personally use Zoho books to send quotations, invoices, and receipts and record expenses.
If you need help setting Zoho books for your business, feel free to get in touch.
Step 8: Branding & Marketing
Now that your business is set up for success, you need to get the word out. Create a marketing plan for your products and services that targets your ideal customer.
You will need to brand and market your business. Branding helps you distinguish yourself from competitors and clarify what makes you a better choice.
A brand is a true representation of who you are as a business and how you wish to be perceived.
Branding increases your market value, helps your business generate new customers, improves employee satisfaction, and creates trust within the marketplace.
The bottom line of any business is to make money, and marketing helps you to sell your products and services. Marketing drives sales.
By marketing your products and services, the customers will get to know the value of the products, their usage and any additional information that may not be obvious.
To learn more about branding, read my next article on How to Design an Attractive Business Brand Identity in Kenya.
How Much Does It Cost To Register A Business Name In Kenya?
The cost of registering a business in Kenya is determined by the type of business you are registering. It will cost you anywhere between KES. 950 to KES. 25,000.
If you are registering a business name, you will need KES 950. Here’s a breakdown of the costs you will incur when registering a business name in Kenya:
- Registration of Business name – KES 950
- Private Limited Company – KES 10,650
- Public Limited Company – KES 10,650
- Unlimited Companies – KES 20,050
- Company Limited by guarantee – KES 10,000
- Limited Liability Partnership- KES 25,000
Final Thoughts on How to Register a Business Name In Kenya
To register a business name in Kenya, you will need to have all the required documents listed above. This makes the process faster and easier. Registering your business name will ensure that no one else uses it, and you can create your brand identity and market your business without interference.