Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Zimba Women....

"I don't want to be rich in a land of poverty."

That quote has haunted me ever since I started this pursuit of happiness. How can one be happy with their status quo of wealth and satiety when surrounded with such poverty, such horrible squalor. This has often been my motivation to give, to help the needy but I always felt the urge to do more. Teach a man to fish, that type of thing. So in 2012, as I was going about my business, something happened that led to this;

Alot of ideas were given and that led to the birth of a company called Ajali. (More here )
It was meant to run an incubation program for SME's set up by women based on the TBS(The Baby Store) model. The initiative was meant to provide capacity building, technical assistance, financial support, mentoring and business guidance as well as invest in a woman-led profit venture. We were looking for high-potential, low income women to support to start their own businesses so that they can become financially self sufficient. Alas, that did not take. Between running a business, going to school, a full time job and raising a baby, there was simply no time or energy left for me to implement what we wanted. Hanifa continued making her soap, and all I could do at the time was market for her on Facebook as well as hold some of her inventory at my store.

Come 2014, I finally decided to bite the bullet and quit my Job to focus on the store (which was now strictly online) and baby raising. But being me, there was still energy left for more. So ZimbaWomen was born. This time, I was armed with more experience from running a business for more than 2 years, with co-founders who are as passionate as I am about empowering women and a lot more time on my hands. With ZimbaWomen, not only are we running an incubation program for women but we're enabling their businesses using ICT's. We have been operational for barely 6 months and the traction we've had is nothing short of amazing. We've been blessed to partner with agencies that share the same vision as we do.

The ZW ladies having an information session at our partner agency Uganda Investment Authority.

We are have signed up our first cohort of women for the year and the growth that some of them are experiencing is unbelievable. The best example of this is a cake maker who has gone from an order a week in January to having a single order every day of the week in March (Just a space of 3 months!) We are excited about the coming months. We are still drafting the final work plan for 2015 but we're pleased to say that it is coming together quite nicely.

Peace.K (Co-founder and I) taking a selfie break during work.
And Hanifa, Well, I ran into her recently. We had lost touch because I changed numbers and she didn't have any way to reach me. Sadly, her husband passed last year and she was left to fend for her 3 children alone. The good news, she's still making that wonderful soap which she is supplying to several shops in Kampala. Even better news, I am in position to finally guide her to the help she needs. We're working together so her business can be formalized so that she can have access to finance and her products properly branded, marketed as well as refine her distribution channels. 

2015 is going to be a good good year.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On life and lemons....


The start of a post is always the hardest to write. I always wonder, should have a light and breezy greeting or should I just dig right into the gist of the matter. Anyhow, courtesy of my second enterprise; ZimbaWomen I have been placed in a precarious position of having to inspire, encourage and guide women. (Ha! Don't laugh, it's true) And I'm kinda getting good at it. Lord knows where the words come from cause I don't.

So this morning, I was called by a friend who's having a life crisis of sorts, she feels she's achieved nothing she set out to do in her twenties (She's in her thirties now). She had big dreams to change the her life, that of the people around her and the world. She is exceptionally brilliant but feels every idea she has is hitting brick wall after brick wall and she's running out of steam. She blames it on the country in which she lives and she just wants to move back home and start all over again. I felt I'd share a little bit of what I went through regarding movement of locations to chase one's dreams to give her fresh perspective.

See, I have a love-hate relationship with this country of mine, Uganda. For most of my teenage years, it was mainly hate. I was a brilliant child (You know, those annoying kind who just ace everything placed in front of them) and I felt like the system I was growing up in failed me everyday, it did not challenge me, it did not push me to think. All it did was push me to memorize and memorize I did. In my second year at secondary school, we were lucky to have software engineering interns from The University of Waterloo. I was a geek, so I spent most of my time in the computer lab with them. My mind was blown at what they could do and what they were learning. I'd always known I was going to do something with computers but now I knew where. That year, the university of Waterloo was ranked the best university in the world to study computer science. The decision in my mind was sealed in stone.

Come time to go to university, I failed to get into Waterloo. I was not deterred. I applied to hordes of other schools abroad and luckily managed to get into a few. I got partial scholarships to 2. Back here in Uganda, I had a full scholarship to Makerere. For my parents, the decision was quite easy. I was livid. To add insult to injury, all of my friends were leaving the country. ALL! One to SouthAfrica, another to the US, another to Russia and the last to Kenya.  Emotional turmoil does not properly describe what I went through. I laugh at the fickleness of it all now but it was quite traumatic then. I was clinically depressed and boy did I act out. My first year of campus ended with me having quite a reputation for partying and a couple of retakes.(Mum, if you're reading this..I apologize. Alas, your baby is not a saint.)

I am an avid quote collector (Is this a thing?!) Anyhow, I remember finding thise quote by Ben Carson ; "A victim walking through sand looks down and sees dirt, a victor sees the ingredients for building a castle." I walked around for a month, not going to class but that quote never left my mind. It played over and over in my mind. I could choose to wallow in self pity (Such first world problems ..tsk tsk) or get over it and try to do something with this "shallow, nonsensical" education I was receiving at the Ivory tower. I finally re-engaged with the world, made new friends and graduated (this last one was a miracle). And I've not done too badly since. I'm sure I definitely would not have done any of the things I have if I'd left. Maybe, I'd have done greater things but they would not be the same things I've done here.

The point of this little story is that we focus so much on the negatives, on why and how things have gone wrong and we stay in that place for so long stunting our growth. I honestly believe, you can do great anywhere in the world, Uganda, US even Afghanistan. Just take whatever lemons life throws at you, build a fucking lemonade stand and sell it back!

Be a victor.