Davidson Bagambagye, Director of 2Fumbe, shares how his company is planning to benefit from participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain

Davidson Bagambagye, Director of 2Fumbe, shares how his company is planning to benefit from participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain

 

 

Charity Namala: Good afternoon, Davidson. Could you tell us about yourself and what you do? 

Davidson Bagambagye:  My name is Bagambagye Davidson, and I am a Director at 2fumbe Ltd. 2Fumbe Ltd supplies assorted kitchen items for domestic and commercial use to restaurants, hotels, and homes. Today, we are participating in the Oil and Gas Value Chain because of the knowledge acquired through the Stanbic Business Incubator programme we attended in 2019/2020. The programme enabled us to identify market opportunities to expand into this sector.

Charity Namala: What is your current level of participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain?

Davidson Bagambagye:  Our current participation is in the Value Chain is still a work in progress.

With the knowledge gained during the training, we now understand the sector’s upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. We plan to participate in the downstream segment to supply goods and services given our current resources and capability by:

  1. Providing standard kitchenware that hotels and restaurants will use within the oil districts.
  2. Offering catering services to feed the people who will be working in the refineries.
  3. Partnering with another company to start fabricating stainless steel commercial kitchens and related equipment.

We are also profiling other potential partners, sensitizing them about the available opportunities, and exploring how we can benefit from them when we jointly offer services.

Charity Namala: Could you share some of the opportunities for SMEs in the Oil and Gas Value Chain? 

Davidson Bagambagye: There are several opportunities in this value chain.

For the broader SME sector, the opportunities include supplying goods and offering services such as Human Resources, Accounting, Legal, Environmental, and Health and Safety. Apart from providing kitchen equipment, we see an opportunity to diversify and deliver Information Technology (IT) services. We plan to provide operation management systems for inventory, communication, procurement and logistics. We have experience in using systems to deliver efficient and effective operations in day-to-day company activities.  

Charity Namala: How are you positioning the company to embrace the opportunities?

Davidson Bagambagye:  We have taken several steps to prepare for these opportunities.

We are implementing the necessary policies and procedures to comply with the required international standards to get essential certifications this year. Today, we take records of all our operations and have the health and safety requirements in place. We registered with the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, and our information is shortlisted on the National Suppliers Database.

Charity Namala: What can be done to increase SMEs’ participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain? 

Davidson Bagambagye: SMEs need information and financial support to increase their participation.

At the moment, we get most of the information from third parties, and sometimes it is not credible. It would be good if the mandated organizations like the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) directly engage with SMEs to share sector updates. I also wish that we had more forums to dialogue as stakeholders, especially the private and government sectors. This information is critical for SMEs to prepare and plan resources for future activities.

Although regulations and infrastructure are available, SMEs still need financial support to supply goods and services to the Oil and Gas Value Chain. Through the Stanbic Business Incubator, SMEs have been trained on investment readiness and how to attract finance from financial institutions. However, we do not know whether our local banks can support us to execute the anticipated enormous contracts. When issues on information and finance are addressed, we shall see increased SMEs’ participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain.


Call for the Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship East Africa Accelerator

Acumen and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship are inviting social enterprises to apply for the East Africa Accelerator programme. Through a 19-week program, the Accelerator supports entrepreneurs to develop a scalable social enterprise. Participants will learn the essentials of building a business model that can achieve both social impact and profitability. Entrepreneurs will also have access to case studies from Acumen social enterprises and curriculum materials packaged from IKEA’s business knowledge.

Upon completion of individual assignments, entrepreneurs will join bi-weekly interactive Learning Labs to receive feedback from peers. The participants will also receive biweekly individualized mentorship from IKEA coaches. The program will end with a virtual Final Summit for entrepreneurs featuring workshops, networking opportunities, and the chance to pitch their ventures, receive feedback from industry leaders, and be considered for up to $25,000 in seed funding.

What will the successful applicants learn?

By participating in program sessions and reviewing practical case studies of other East African social enterprises that have successfully scaled, successful applicants will learn how to:

  • Refine and test hypotheses for developing a scalable business model.
  • Develop a robust social impact and financial strategy.
  • Best form partnerships to achieve scale.
  • Adapt lessons from IKEA case studies and mentorship.
  • Build networks with other social entrepreneurs and supporters in East Africa and beyond

Who is eligible to Apply?

The programme is available to social entrepreneurs in East Africa who:

  • Run a social enterprise (nonprofit or for-profit) based in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, or Ethiopia
  • Have proven customer demand and increasing annual revenue.
  • Manage a team equivalent to 3 full-time staff.
  • Are focused on promoting livelihoods, equality and inclusion.

Eligible entrepreneurs can apply for free here.

Application Deadline: 31st March 2021

For details about the programme, visit https://app.acumenacademy.org/ikea-east-africa-accelerator.


Executive Coaching Opportunity for Entrepreneurs to Grow their Businesses

The Africa Executive Coaching Convention  (AECC) is offering executive coaching sessions to support entrepreneurs and their businesses. Through AECC’s online platform, organizational leaders and executive coaches share experiences, learnings, and findings from the latest research to effectively address leadership and business challenges in the African context to increase businesses’ successes.

Virtual sessions will take place on 24 March 2021 and 14 April 2021 from 13:00 to 17:00 GMT. The sessions provide a unique opportunity for C-Suite executives, entrepreneurs, business leaders, policymakers, the development sector, and academics to connect with the executive coaching community. AECC leverages stories and case studies that inspire, motivate, and encourage participants to create extraordinary workplaces in a sustainable way.

AECC’s main objective is to create an eco-system for positive transformation through executive coaching. To achieve this objective, the sessions will focus on the following topics:

  • Workplace inclusivity
  • Strategies for effective coaching of leaders and organizations through times of disruption
  • Best practices in executive and team coaching in the African context

The detailed Executive Coaching programme is available here.

To attend, please register here for a standard price of $129 per day.

For details call: Tel: +254 759 537 845 or Email: convention@aeccouncil.com


Unveiling Opportunities for SMEs in the Oil and Gas Value Chain

This month, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will explore opportunities for SMEs in the Oil and Gas industry. We will feature insights from different players, including SMEs, regulators, and organizations involved in the sector. Through these interviews, we will learn about how SMEs contribute to the chain and the challenges they face. We will also highlight the different initiatives to empower SMEs to actively participate in the Oil and Gas value chain during the Covid-19 crisis.

For entrepreneurs considering to venture into the Oil and Gas industry, the end result could be lucrative. The industry presents unique opportunities that can steer sustainable economic development for businesses and the country at large. Uganda’s Oil and Gas value chain has three segments: upstream, midstream, and downstream. The upstream segment involves the exploration for extraction of petroleum crude oil and natural gas. The midstream segment involves storing, marketing and transporting petroleum crude oil, natural gas and other byproducts. While the downstream segment involves the refining of petroleum crude oil and processing of raw natural gas. Players operating along the value chain range from oil companies, natural gas producers, petrochemical firms, and power generation companies to regulatory agencies, SMEs, and household consumers. Presently, the most notable players in the sector are Total E&P Uganda, Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Limited, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Government is putting in place infrastructure for facilitating developments to support the commercialization of sector, efforts that will provide opportunities to new players to emerge in the industry.

Despite the opportunities it offers, businesses that work in the Oil and Gas industry face ongoing liability risks, especially when it comes to environmental hazards.  Regulation helps to shield businesses, employees, and the general public from these risks, just as it protects the environment from pollution. There are two key regulatory bodies in the industry. First, there is The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU). PAU monitors sector operations to ensure efficient management of petroleum resources. Second, the Uganda National Oil Company  (UNOC) has a mandate to investigate and propose new upstream, midstream, and downstream ventures for local and international investment. UNOC is also responsible for implementing the national content plan to drive local participation in the oil and gas value chain, which aims to generate local employment, investment in skills development, and greater participation by SMEs.

Are you interested in learning about the opportunities available for your business in the oil and gas value chain? Keep following The Covid-19 Business Information Hub this March to learn more about the industry and the government’s efforts to expand the sector through infrastructure and partnerships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Harnessing youth entrepreneurship for employment and SME growth

For the month of February, the Covid-19 Business Info Hub focused its efforts on tackling the topic of youth entrepreneurship in Uganda – exploring the ways youth entrepreneurs are making their mark on the country’s economy, understanding the challenges they face, and identifying the different institutions that work to support them. While unemployment among youth remains one of the biggest challenges that Uganda is facing today, youth entrepreneurship can play an important role to provide employment and economic development for the country. So, what did we learn?

Entrepreneurship among youth is not just increasing out of necessity but out of passion.

From our interactions with young entrepreneurs, it was evident that they chose the entrepreneurship path out of more than just the challenge in finding rewarding employment in today’s economy; they are increasingly launching their own businesses out of passion. For example Kevin Asinde Founder of Amarin Financial Group started the company to give hands-on skills to youth getting into the accounting field and today, she is excited to watch these youth grow into successful professionals.  Entrepreneurship also offers youth an opportunity to develop valuable skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, innovation, leadership, and teamwork, which are relevant in all aspects of their lives. These skills are also in-demand by potential business partners, employers, and others – making it a valuable experience even for those entrepreneurs who may eventually decide instead to go back into the workforce in a different capacity.

 

Youth entrepreneurs face a number of challenges, including some which they share with their older peers and some which are unique to them.

Despite their strengths, opportunities, and vast entrepreneurial potential, young people still face many challenges while starting and growing their businesses. Many of these have escalated due to the Covid-19 crisis and internet shut down during the elections.

Failure to access capital is the major challenge they face, which is one that is unfortunately common among entrepreneurs across segments. For youth, it may be exacerbated by a lack of credit history or experience managing finances. Access to networks is another key hurdle – many young entrepreneurs we spoke with were unaware of the associations that exist to voice youth issues or mentorship opportunities to draw on for encouragement or inspiration. Youth also encounter moments in their journey where they lack a set of skills or specific knowledge needed to grow their businesses, such as product development, business planning, risk management and financial management.

The Covid-19 crisis and internet shut down were some of the first external shocks faced by current youth entrepreneurs. Some closed businesses during the lockdown since they were not offering essential services, while others saw an opportunity and pivoted their businesses. An example is the Smart Girls Foundation who trained youth to start making face masks during the crisis, which is still the alternative source of revenue. Youth have leveraged technology and are doing business online using social media, e-commerce and website applications. They have reduced the costs of renting physical space, greater reach to the customers and building social networks. However, when online business was recently interrupted due to the internet shut down, many lost revenue. Entrepreneurs are now building resources and critical skills to enable them cease available opportunities amidst the crisis to generate revenues for business survival and growth.

The institutions that work to support youth entrepreneurs recognize the need to work together.

Actors supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem acknowledge that youth entrepreneurship is a gateway to employment opportunities and can be a way to build a prosperous, secure future. To develop the skills to successfully launch and manage businesses, this means providing youth with quality, hands-on training programs starting from an early age through all stages of the entrepreneurship cycle. Incubation centres like Makerere University Business School (MUBS) Entrepreneurship Centre and StartHub Africa develop innovative youth ideas into viable business ventures. Viable businesses also receive mentoring and support to access early-stage funding. M-Kyala Ventures have specialized in offering technical advice on designing financial products tailored to youth entrepreneur needs and cautions that youth need individual and not group funding. The actors informed us that ecosystems most conducive to successful youth entrepreneurship should offer holistic and tailored support. Therefore, coordination is required among actors to achieve this and support for youth programs they are offering. The coordination calls for an umbrella organization that will profile and harmonize on-going initiatives among the different actors.

 

Young entrepreneurs need responsiveness to identify and decode opportunities in the ecosystem

Even with the enabling environment, youth still need to actively seek knowledge and information through networks to learn about the ecosystem’s initiatives. Looking out and participating in business plan competitions, pitch events for their business ideas to get known and stimulating their potential. Youth have to adopt best practices such as; record-keeping, compliance to regulations, and financial management from the inception stage because they are building blocks for growth and exit/succession. Finally, when faced with challenges in the dynamic entrepreneurship journey, young people should look out for opportunities, on how to scale businesses, innovate new products  and diversify strategies to remain relevant and competitive in the market.

 


Stanbic Business Incubator Empowers Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Enterprise Development

Stanbic Business Incubator Empowers Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Enterprise Development

The Stanbic Business Incubator supports and nurtures SMEs to prepare for business growth opportunities. Across Uganda, the Incubator trains and mentors businesses from diverse sectors. Through the Incubator, participants also gain access to networking, new markets, and financing opportunities.

At the fifth graduation ceremony of the Stanbic Business Incubator, 352 businesses received certificates in the Enterprise Development Program (EDP), a three-month training in business management and up-skilling. During the ceremony, the Executive Director & Head, Corporate and Investment Banking at Stanbic Bank, Ms. Emma Mugisha affirmed the bank’s commitment to contribute to SMEs’ growth and improved performance and added that participating in the training enabled SMEs to build resilience and sustainability in challenging times. Due to the pandemic restrictions, the cohorts had a very different learning experience from graduates of previous years. The lessons switched from in-person sessions in classrooms to zoom and an online learning management system. By switching to online modules, participants gained flexible access to trainers and customized content for self-study.

Tony Otoa, the Chief Executive of the Stanbic Business Incubator, explained that the Incubator, through its Enterprise Development Program (EDP), trained 300 SMEs in Kampala using the online platform. As part of the Incubator’s long-term commitment to increasing access to business resources for SMEs’, the Regional EDP reached 216 SMEs across ten districts in 2020. He also highlighted the Covid-19 Business Information Hub developed in partnership between Stanbic Bank and Consumer Centrix. The Covid-19 Business Information Hub provides regular updates to SMEs on government policies, industry insights, and training and funding opportunities to help businesses navigate the pandemic’s challenging environment.

Graduates of the Stanbic Incubator already see tangible benefits to their business as a result of the training. Eugene Bahahika, Director of Ebenezer Clinic and Diagnostic in Ibanda, said his enterprise has been able to streamline operations, which enabled them to overcome the challenge of high employee turnover and realize increased business revenue.

For Michael R. Senteza of DrimO Investments, the training changed the way he ran his business. He redirected his management skills and was opened up to new business opportunities. “Our business is developing new partnerships and a sustainable brand that can survive economic uncertainty.” He added.

Another Incubator graduate, Lorna Nsiima of Capital Law Partners and Advocates, stressed that the Incubator provides participants with an environment to learn and acquire practical skills to survive and thrive in Uganda and globally.

Over the past three years, the Stanbic Business Incubator has trained 1,216 SMEs and 2,392 individuals. The Incubator continues to support and train more SMEs to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

The Stanbic Business Incubator is inviting interested SMEs to participate in the upcoming 2021 training programme. Training program information is available here.

 

SMEs can apply through https://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/evRKz0

For more information, please call 0312226700 or email: incubator@stanbic.com.

 

 


Webinar: Entrepreneurial competencies

Key takeaways from the Abantu Impact Foundation webinar: Entrepreneurial competencies – making African businesses survive and thrive in a pandemic

Webinar: Entrepreneurial competencies

Key takeaways from the Abantu Impact Foundation webinar: Entrepreneurial competencies – making African businesses survive and thrive in a pandemic

The Abantu Impact Foundation is an Africa-focused social impact organization that exists to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them become engines of economic development. In a bid to realize their purpose, on 18th February 2021, the foundation held a webinar entitled: Entrepreneurial Competencies– Making African businesses survive and thrive in the pandemic”. The speakers were Dr. Justina Mutale, Founder & President of Justina Mutale Foundation for Leadership, and Ms. Gugu Ndebele, Executive Director of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG).

The webinar focused on providing practical information to African entrepreneurs on how to break barriers to collaboration and seek new opportunities in the face of the challenges caused by the pandemic. The entrepreneurs were advised to embrace the Africa free common market (AfCFTA) to benefit from trade opportunities. The speakers also advised that SME growth during this tough time requires adapting to the situation at hand and ensuring entrepreneurs are innovative, creative and agile to remain competitive in the market. Panelists emphasized that entrepreneurs need practical skills in critical thinking and problem solving to be able to overcome different challenges. For details about the webinar watch the recording on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LSyPIdYHdw.

During the webinar, Abantu Impact Foundation’s CEO, Keith Kibirango, launched the Abantu COVID-19 Resilience Fund for SMEs at risk of business closure as a result of the pandemic. The fund is accessible to SMEs within the Sub-Saharan region in the sectors of agribusiness, manufacturing, technology, healthcare, education and renewable energy. Beneficiaries will have access to long-term soft loans plus information on how to strategize and diversify their businesses.

 

For details about the Abantu COVID-19 Resilience Fund, email info@abantuimpactfoundation.org.

 


Tips and Benefits for SME Tax Compliance in 2021

Tax compliance can be a challenging undertaking from the perspective of SME business owners, but it is an important business decision. The starting point is registering for a Tax Identification Number (TIN) with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and, after acquiring one, understanding the taxes applicable to your business. The different taxes include Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income Tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), Withholding Tax, and Import Duty for businesses that import goods to the country. While electronic filing applies for all tax returns, recently URA introduced e-invoicing via the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing System (EFRIS) – this required VAT-registered businesses to be on-boarded to the system by 1 January 2021.  Filing and paying of taxes have strict deadlines and failure to adhere may result in fines and penalties to the business. SMEs can avoid unnecessary penalties by being tax compliant if they follow these tips:

  • Conduct proper record keeping: This is critical for every SME because it allows you to have a comprehensive view of your business performance and conduct a clear self-assessment for required taxes. Business records can be maintained either in manual or digital formats.
  • Adhere to due dates: Due dates for submission of returns and payment of taxes are based upon Uganda’s financial year, which spans from 1st July to 30th Businesses are required to file PAYE returns every 15th day of the month and file annual income tax returns by 31st December every year.
  • Declare and pay the correct amount of tax: Declaring the incorrect amount of tax may result in you overpaying – (high tax liability) in turn reducing your business income. Sometimes you may end up underpaying taxes (tax leakage), which is a loss of revenue to the Government.
  • Seek the advice of a tax professional: SME owners sometimes do not know about the tax requirements and need a tax professional to advise on these issues so that your business is are tax compliant at all times. You can also get advice directly from URA at no charge at or look out for URA awareness seminars and trainings.

Following the above tips can result in better-informed decision making because the business operations are clear and up to date, reduced time required by auditors in the case of business audits, and increased revenue because extra costs and penalties are avoided. Importantly tax compliance can be a requirement to access business opportunities.

Always remember to follow up quickly should you receive a notice from URA about tax liability. If there are any challenges, there are procedures and measures available such as appealing to the Tax Tribunal. It may also help to hire a tax professional who can engage with URA on your behalf.

For more information on tax related issues visit: www.ura.go.ug or the URA offices in your location.


Transforming innovative ideas of the youth into viable business ventures - Diana Ntamu, Director MUBS Centre.

Learn how innovative ideas of the youth are transformed into viable business ventures - Diana Ntamu, Director of the MUBS Centre for Entrepreneurship

 

Ernest Wasake: Good Afternoon Diana, and I hope this finds you well. The Covid-19 Business Info Hub is happy to have you with us. Could you tell us your name and what do you do?

Diana Ntamu:  Thank you and it is my pleasure to be here. My name is Diana Ntamu. I am the Director of the MUBS Centre for Entrepreneurship Innovation and Incubation. I am also a senior lecturer at MUBS in the Department of Entrepreneurship. MUBS is the Makerere University Business School – a leading institution in management, training and research within the East African region. The institution provides training at Certificate, Diploma, Undergraduate, Masters and PhD level offering degrees from Makerere University. 

Ernest Wasake: Would you tell us about the MUBS Entrepreneurship Centre and the support that you have provided to businesses to grow and be competitive? 

Diana Ntamu: The Entrepreneurship Innovation and Incubation Centre was established in 1998 to support the development of entrepreneurs in the country after recognizing their role in driving business growth. At the establishment, it was known as the Small Business Development Centre that supported businesses through training and business clinics. It grew over time and in 2005 it became the Entrepreneurship Centre supporting not just small business development but the growth of entrepreneurship. About four years ago, the African Development Bank supported the establishment of incubation centres at public universities in Uganda and MUBS Entrepreneurship Centre was transformed into the Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Incubation Center. Its five focus areas include business incubation, training, provision and dissemination of information, research and consultancy.

The centre believes that individuals have unique ideas and need support to turn them into businesses. These individuals are guided through training, participate in enterprise challenges and then assigned mentors and coaches to develop the business ideas.  I am very happy to mention that we have partnered with Stanbic Bank Business Incubator to provide training to different entrepreneurs and I thank them for a great job. We also conduct research studies that generate important information for the programs that we are running. Recently we conducted a study on the resilience of Ugandan entrepreneurs in the face of Covid-19 and [entrepreneurs] shared interesting stories and experiences on how they managed the situation. 

 

Ernest Wasake: Would you give us a snapshot of what you discovered about the resilience of entrepreneurs from the Covid-19 research? 

Diana Ntamu: Well, in the Covid-19 research we defined resilience as the ability for the entrepreneur to adapt to or embrace change. 

Businesses that seemed to have thrived during the time are those that sought new opportunities coming with the challenge and changes of Covid-19. For example, there was a business in the education sector that embraced technology and took their whole school curriculum and services online. The school was able to teach their students, attract students from other schools and also identify new needs of these students.  

 

Ernest Wasake: Can you tell us about how the center has supported young entrepreneurs during the pandemic? 

Diana Ntamu: The pandemic hit us hard in the beginning but still managed to offer support to the young entrepreneurs by providing information and a platform to share their experiences. 

First, we run a survey to establish the entrepreneurs’ needs during the lock-down. After establishing these needs we linked them to their mentors to continue giving them support.  Secondly, we shifted the monthly innovation hour from a physical meeting to an online meeting. During this hour the young people were able talk about innovations but also learn from experienced entrepreneurs who shared their journeys. Although online participation was sometimes affected as some young people did not have internet access all time we also got a testimony of a young man in agro-processing who got knowledge and tips on how to sell online and was able to get market for his products which he did not have before.

 

Ernest Wasake: What can be done to increase the level of participation of young people in entrepreneurship? 

Diana Ntamu:  To increase the level of participation of young people in entrepreneurship a lot still needs to be done. 

 But first, is helping young people understand that entrepreneurship allows them to create their jobs and not face the challenges of the labour market. Second, the need for coordination and commitment of the players supporting the entrepreneurship ecosystem. A well-coordinated ecosystem will deliver a holistic package including training, finance, mentorship, coaching among others.  Another aspect is bringing on board role model entrepreneurs both young and old who have walked the journey to share and inspire the youth. It is also important to create challenges, exhibitions and competitions that get young people to think and become innovative so that their potential and wonderful ideas get to be known. Finally, handholding of these entrepreneurs and helping them access financial support at a certain stage to grow their businesses.

 

Ernest Wasake: What is the admission criteria to the centre and what does it take to be part of the incubation programs? 

Diana Ntamu: Admission to the become part of the entrepreneurship centre and incubation program is a very easy process. 

Send us an email on entre-shipcentre@mubs.ac.ug and our program officers will help you.  You can also call us on; +256414338125/6 or like us on Facebook –MUBS Entrepreneurship Centre and get to know our activities.  To join the incubation program individuals with innovative and impact ideas are selected and supported.


Gloria Kemigisha - House of Penda shares her business experience about the recent internet and social media shut down during the election period.

Gloria Kemigisha - House of Penda shares her business experience about the recent internet and social-media shut down during the election period.

Charity M Namala: Good Afternoon, Gloria. It is great to have you this Tuesday, February 02, 2021.  Could you please tell us about yourself and what you do?

Gloria Kemigisha: Thank you so much. My name is Gloria Kemigisha a Ugandan with a passion for young people, especially the women who I support and empower to discover their potential. I am a social entrepreneur running a business called House of Penda an online store that sells accessories. I also work as a volunteer with 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation (40-40) – a youth-led organization that offers entrepreneurial training to vulnerable youth and I am a digital communications enthusiast.

 

 

Charity M Namala: How has your business fared during the pandemic and what have you done to survive and thrive? 

Gloria Kemigisha:  The Covid-19 pandemic was unexpected but the business adopted a number of changes to survive. Our business has an online presence and uses digital platforms to sell, however at the start of the lockdown we were unable to sale. This is because we did not know how to get to our customers. This hit us so hard and we had to rethink our strategy to aggressively use the social media to reach our customers. We also changed our model from next day delivery to delivery at least three times a week while managing customer expectations and timelines.

While using internet and social media channels for advertising, marketing, orders and deliveries enabled the business to move steps from zero to five, however our efforts were recently frustrated by the election season where internet and social media were shut down. This resulted in a backward movement of the business from step five to two. During this time customers could not easily reach out to us for inquiries and orders. Although the internet is back today, it is still very limited and social media remains shut down. This continues to reflect in fewer orders and ultimately reduced sales.

 

Charity M Namala: What are you planning to do as an online business to cope with the internet and social media related challenges?  

Gloria Kemigisha:  The plans for us to cope with the internet and social media challenges are not yet clear because we never expected this situation. But first, we hope that the government and our leaders can intervene in the situation so that we have an enabling environment to push our businesses through as young entrepreneurs and then do proper planning.

Second, as House of Penda, we plan to keep in touch with our customers using alternative channels such as sending SMS messages and phone calls rather than relying on social media for communication. Some customers have equally adopted and they have been able to call us for orders and deliveries. In the future, we also have plans to launch a website.

 

Charity M Namala: Could you please tell us if there is a network or an association that supports entrepreneurs to voice their challenges?

Gloria Kemigisha: There are networks and associations that support entrepreneurs although they are not well known to us yet. This means we do not have strong representation and leadership through associations as SMEs. With this case of the internet shutdown, I have not seen any of the networks engage with the responsible Ministry to discuss our grievances. Rather we have had the larger enterprises talk about this in the media in terms of what losses were incurred as a result of the internet challenges. When it comes to the young entrepreneurs it has been difficult to voice out their grievances because the main channel of communication –social media is still blocked officially and using it now may be illegal. This means the networks are unable to reach out to the SMEs and vice versa.

 

Charity M Namala: How have you managed to keep the relationship with your customers during this period? 

Gloria Kemigisha: We have managed to keep the relationship with customers through various ways such as intensified communication using the various channels available for each of the customers. Constant information flow about our changes in delivery days, maintaining  good customer care, offering our quality products and always ensure that we offer a beautiful experience to all the customers. Our good customer care has also helped us get word of mouth recommendations for more customers. Some typical examples include a case where deliveries delayed due to bad weather (rain) and police barricades during the election period; we were quick to inform the customers. There was also an incident when our delivery man had an accident on his bike and the items were stolen from him, as a business we had to replace those items. We always endeavour to send a thank you message whenever a client makes a purchase and also do periodic checks. Despite all the efforts, it has all not been good as 10% of the customers have not been so responsive.

 

Charity M Namala: How have you managed the suppliers during the period?

Gloria Kemigisha: The issue of managing our suppliers has been a smooth one. This because we shopped items for the first quarter of 2021 as early as November 2020 and we have been well-stocked for the period. This, however, is a lesson for the business since we get supplies from out of the country and use the internet in the procurement process that we need to plan our supplies and re-stocking mindful of the uncertainties to avoid scenarios where we do not have enough stock to last us for a given period.

 

Charity M Namala: What does the future of business in 2021 look like for you as a young entrepreneur? 

Gloria Kemigisha: The future of my business in 2021 is not yet shaped. If the uncertainties of the pandemic and internet challenges continue, I honestly cannot comfortably say that I know what the business is going to look like or what direction we are going to take. In January we have seen the business register very minimal sales which is not a good sign. This means a lot needs to change in our planning to better the business in the coming months. But we cannot tell when and how the changes will happen and this brings about many questions like: How shall we access clients? Is it time to open up a physical store? Where will we get the money?

 

Charity M Namala: What advice do you have to the young entrepreneurs that you empower?

 

Gloria Kemigisha: The advice to fellow entrepreneurs is to be patient, keep the business costs down and start engaging with peers for businesses support. Through embracing the peer to peer business support it will enable similar businesses to sell related items together thus increasing sales and reducing costs. Finally, do not give up even when business is not going as planned but rather sit, reflect and re-strategize. I am available if you need business advice, especially for a young female business owner in Uganda.