The Key to Business Success is Persistence: Uganda’s Halimah Najjuma Shares her Experience Running a Small Scale Business

A significant number of people think that they need a lot of money to start a business. Then, you walk down the streets of Mukono Town Council, a few kilometers from Kampala and you realise that you do not need so much money to start a business. What you need in plenty however is dedication, creativity and hard work.
It is no strange sight finding vendors on the roadside in cities and towns in Uganda selling petty products. This is the thriving informal sector that is helping millions of Ugandans put food on the table, clothe themselves and their loved ones and lay the foundation for a better future for themselves and their children.

Colourful sandals on sale in a down-town Mukono market
Colourful sandals on sale in a down-town Mukono market

Halimah Najjuma is one such entrepreneur. Having dropped out of school at a young age, Halimah’s entrepreneurial journey attests to the fact that it takes more than money to become a successful entrepreneur.
Her story attests to the fact that “small business isn’t for the faint of heart but for the brave, the patient and the persistent.”

As part of our highlight your business campaign, we bring you Halimah’s story to inspire you to start your own small business.

DevCon: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Halimah: I am a business owner and a mother.
DevCon: How did you decide to venture into business?
Halimah: I got pregnant before I completed my ordinary level education. My guardians were not willing to support me and the baby. To make ends meet, I got a job with a small company in Kampala. They used to pay me 10,000 Uganda Shillings per day. I liked the job but the distance from Mukono to Kampala is quiet long. To make matters worse, I usually spent up to 5 hours in traffic jam every single day.
In the end, even though I made good money, I could not enjoy it because I could not find the time. I could not even wash my own clothes let alone take care of my baby. I was so frustrated that I decided to take a break. I had saved some money to the tune of 300,000 Uganda shillings.
I went to the village for my break and started spending my small pile of money. After a few days, I was invited to attend a leadership and apprenticeship training by MCE (Mentor Coach Empower)Uganda supported by Komo Learning Centre. What stood out for me is when the trainer said that all you need to start a business was passion. I still had some savings remaining, and I decided that very day to use my small savings to launch my business.

Halimah showing us how she uses her sweater making kit
Halimah showing us how she uses her sweater making kit

DevCon: What business did you start and why?
Halimah: I always dreamt of having a shop dealing in women’s clothes. I used the 130,000 Uganda shillings that was left from my savings to go to Kampala and buy clothes to sell. I got a small kiosk in Mukono where I started selling the clothes.
I continued to attend the trainings to get more knowledge. I learnt how to communicate with customers and how to save and sustain a business. I was also taken through the process of selecting a profitable enterprise. Soon enough, I decide to learn how to knit sweaters in order to expand my product range.
DevCon: Tell us about that process
Halimah: At the time, I did not have enough finances to hire the services of a sweater-maker to train me. However, my interactions with MCE Uganda opened a financial opportunity for me which saw them financing 50% of the amount of money needed to cover the course.
At some point, it was challenging for me to raise all the money I needed for the course, personal effects and the small boutique business. But, through persistence, and patience, I was able to finally manage to balance everything.
After my course, MCE Uganda mentored me on how to market my products. Komo Learning Centre also provided me with the starter kit that I now use.
DevCon: What have been the biggest 3 lessons that you have learnt while running your business.
Halimah: I have learnt to be persistent and not to give up when things are not going very well. The second lesson is to save as much as possible. Starting a business is a sacrifice and this sacrifice continues even as the business grows. Savings can help you boost your business during hard times.
Finally, I have learnt to live within my means. Often, young people spend on things that they are often not even able to afford and as a result, many are unable to invest in entrepreneurial ventures.
DevCon: What are your plans for the next two years?
Halimah: I would like to get a bigger room, buy more machines and employ other young people. I would like to also train other young people.
DevCon: What advice do you want to pass on to young entrepreneurs?
Halimah: They should be persistent and never give up. They should also be very patient.
 
Are you a young entrepreneur? Are you interested in sharing your story with others? Share with us your story and we shall publish it on this site. E-mail us your story at developmentconnectionug@gmail.com

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