By Caroline Ariba
At the mention of meat roaster, many flee thinking it is a job that comes with no glamour and has measly limps of success.
Well meet Michael Oryema, the meat roaster who beat the odds to enter his fully furnished and tiled, three bedroomed house in Mutungo a Kampala suburb.
Every evening, Michael who hails from the northern district of Paidha, braves the smoke in Kyandondo Rugby club’s barbecue area to roast pork, chicken and sausages for Kampala’s meat lovers.
In fact, it is not a bed of roses for the father of six, nothing comes easy, and he says that he has had to make a lot of sacrifices to get where he is today.
Battling tuition issues, a young Oryema dropped out of school and jumped on a bus to Kampala to come leave with his aunt.
Having sat home for a while, he found his way to Jinja with another relative where he enrolled in a tiny catering institute.
Upon completion, he was employed at the Kampala Rugby Club as a meat roaster where he earned a small salary.
In 2002, the Kyadondo Rugby Club was opened and he moved there, but not as an employee of the place. “I decided to start my own private meat roasting business and pay rent instead because I had learned what was needed in the business,” he says. He says, it is quite hard for
him to estimate how much money exactly he made in the first months because it was a struggle. “The Rugby club is a place of seasons, and it makes money when there are Rugby games,” he confesses.
Some weeks he says he would make up to a sh1m and then there those when he struggles for almost nothing. However, at least before the month ends, he makes well over sh2m in profit. “I then decided to try out other places to sell my meat, but maintain my home at the Rugby club,” he says.
It was then that he started selling his meat at the Bubbles Irish pub at Acacia Avenue from Wednesday to Saturday to complement his Kyadondo stall.
Also, he caters at weddings, birthday parties and graduations or any kind of event that does barbecue. Depending on the magnitude of the event, he charges a minimum of sh150,000 for his labour.
All the while, Oryema was saving whatever money he could in a more disciplined way that even he could not imagine. “I work from Monday to Monday, sleep for very few hours just so that I can realise the profit from this business,” he confesses.
About the house
In February this year, his hard work paid off when he bought an incomplete house in Mutungo area at sh75m. He had saved sh45m by the time he found the house on sale and he took a loan of sh45m which he is still paying back slowly.
“The doors and the windows were there, the walls were there but it had not been plastered, in other words it was naked with no water or electricity. It was basically a shell when I first looked at it, with no gate, but I liked it and I knew it was a good deal,” he says.
He says the floor, was also bare and he had to do all the plastering from scratch. However he remembers spending about sh5m on floor tiles for the whole house, and another sh1.5m on the gate.
Oryema believes that if he had bought that land without a structure, it would have probably cost more because its location is prime.
As many who have constructed will confess, Oryema had to battle petty theft at the building sight which increased his construction costs. “Sometimes you buy two bags of cement and you find that one is missing and when you ask no one really knows where it has gone.” he says.
He also says that despite the fact that his brother was always at the building site, the bags disappeared whenever he temporarily left the site. Also he says that despite this, he knows that he would have lost much more if his brother had not helped him supervise the work.
Oryema also had trouble with the changing prices of construction materials. “Sometimes it is this price and the next time it is another and yet I would have budgeted for the money,” he confesses. He said as such he found that he had to buy the building materials himself because he thought the fluctuation was an exaggeration of the prices by the people he sent.