What You Need to Start an Internet Café

Once again it’s the time of the year when almost every teacher finds himself with no ‘progie’ for the day because the term has come to an end. This period can be tricky for many, some schools don’t offer salaries during holidays, many fail to pay staff salaries and many more shed off some staff. This leaves some of our comrades in the profession stranded and cursing this once noble profession.

Luckily, you are a teacher of ICT which means your knowledge of the subject is way better than that of the ordinary Ugandan. Now, this is where the catch is. Many business advisers will tip you to start a business that you either have a passion for or one that you fully understand. As a teacher of ICT, I believe an Internet Café as a business falls within these conditions. But what exactly, do you need to run such a business? I will discuss how you can start a simple budget 5 user Internet Cafe. Expansion can come later.

What you need

  1. A computer.
    A good desktop is key in the client’s experience in your internet café. Personally I have a Dell Optiplex 380 with 4 GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. Although there are newer and faster models, I use this one because it has a provision for PCI slots which are necessary for the deployment NComputing X550. If you took your time, you can get one such machine at between UGX 400,000 and UGX 500,000 at Sun City Arcade on Kampala Rd or Majestic Plaza on William Street. OLX is another good place to search for even cheaper options. Should I even tell you that you need a desk on which to put your PC?
  2. A 3 in one printer
    The life blood of an Internet Café is in secretarial services. This obviously calls for a printer. But since we are on a budget, I recommend starting with a simple 3-in-one printer. Its advantage is that it will print in color, you will use it for scanning and photocopying in both black and color. The surprising news is that it comes cheap. You can get one along Kampala Rd. at between UGX 120,000 and UGX 200,000. Jumia is another place to get good deals on such printers.In addition, to make the use of this printer even friendlier, you will have to purchase ink (Black, Yellow, Red and Blue) at around UGX 10,000 per tin and 4 syringes (20ml), one for each colour. A syringe goes for around UGX 1,500 from any pharmacy. These will be used to re-fill the cartridges when they run out of ink.
  3. NComputing X550
    This will be installed in your server (Dell Optiplex 380) and will give you 5 more users without the need for buying more system units. The cost of power is also greatly reduced since you have done away with system units. You can get one such gadget at around UGX 700,000 if you went to Kampala Rd or any of the online shops like OLX and Jumia. You can read my article on installing Ncomputing X550 here.In addition you will need 5 monitors, 5 keyboards (PS/2), 5 mice (PS/2) and around 10 meters of Cat6 networking cable and 15 pieces of RJ45 clips. You can purchase second hand monitors in town for as low as UGX 120,000, keyboards at around UGX 10,000 and mice at around UGX 8,000. A meter of networking cable goes for around UGX 1,000.
  4. A router for internet
    What is an internet café without internet? Depending on the ISP of your choice,a router will cost you around UGX 200,000 but you can still get a good deal if you searched on any of the online shops. Africell has a good option from as low as UGX 4,500 per day where you are given triple MBS on every purchase and yet their network is stable. However, you will have to check network availability in your area before spending your coin.
  5. Associated software
    When running an internet café, your job is highly dependent on software by both you and the clients. You will definitely need a good browser like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. I recommend Firefox because Chrome uses a lot of RAM and yet you will have up to 6 people sharing the 4GB of RAM on your server.Microsoft Office Software and Adobe Reader are a must have since your business will involve a lot of typing and printing. OCR software like ABBYY comes in handy in situations where you may be required to get a soft copy off a hard copy.Café timing software is a must and my best bet is True Café which can be downloaded here. However, this comes in trial mode and if you want a full version, you can contact me on (+256) 752 111 223 such that I can mail you the license and a few tips on configuring the software for thin clients. I have also archived a pack of relevant software from operating systems, drivers and all general software and can be bought at E-zone Internet Cafe in Nabbingo.
  6. A good bulk SMS provider
    You will definitely get clients asking for Bulk SMS services. Although there are many options on the market, I settle for time tested providers like Magezi Solutions. You can signup for this service here and instantly reap from this now growing service. What you ought to know is that the need for bulk SMS is growing as more and more schools, churches and communities are opting for this cheaper and more effective mode of communication.

All in all, you will need roughly UGX 2,500,000 million to purchase the hardware that will start a side income which will some day grow into your major source of income. Find ways of raising rent for the first 3 or so months, furniture, a ream of paper, white wash, a binding machine, a laminating machine and a few more accessories and you will be ready to go.

However, having all the above will not guarantee you sustainability. The success of an internet café depends on good internet, customer care and an aptitude for IT. These tricks helped E-zone Internet Café grow from one branch with 1 computer in Nabbingo to 2 more branches i.e. Kyengera and Nsangi.

Starting January 2019, I will be revising and sharing a few tips on how we can improve and grow our small businesses in a blog dedicated to small business.


Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0752 111 223 / 0772 111 223