KAMPALA - After facing several challenges making money transactions in high school, Solomon Bwire hatched a plan to stop the problem, which had been an issue, over the years, to most students in boarding schools.
In 2016, he founded a money transfer tool, KaWallet that enables students in boarding schools to carry out mobile money transactions without having to possess mobile phones.
The idea, according to him, was as a result of the aforesaid challenges, especially after seeing his mother incur high transport costs to deliver his school fees during that time. At times when the mother preferred sending money to him via mobile money, the money ‘would get lost on people's phones'.
So when he joined the university in 2016, his first idea was coming up with a solution to the problem he faced. He decided to develop a mobile money app that could help students and schools receive school fees without having to face a number of challenges.
"It was not easy but eventually the idea is coming into reality. The app has been developed and now students receive school fees at school on their key holders," he says.
Like many entrepreneurs, it was not a smooth sail at the start. He was faced with the challenge of having to satisfy customers, and he never thought of going for refresher courses.
However, when he was invited to attend a training session at Resilient Africa Network (RAN) led by Makerere University, he realized there was a lot needed to be done for his business to succeed.
"I did not know that customers are supposed to be consulted on what they feel is better for them. Even taking negative feedback, I did not know it also helps to improve the way business is done," Bwire explains.
Phiona Namutebi is another young entrepreneur who started her business in 2018. Though her business looked like it was successful, she faced a lot of challenges that were hindering her from satisfying all her customers.
Namutebi never went for any formal training on how to make bakeries. All she had was passion. "I did not know I was supposed to seek expert advice on how to manage and run my business," she explained.
Bwire and Namutebi are among the 30 young entrepreneurs who took part in the innovation fireplace that gives young entrepreneurs a chance to engage directly with successful business players as they share tips on how to actualize innovation ideas in a realistic Ugandan market.
What experts said
Pamela Abonyo, the Head Corporate Communications at NIC, who was one of the motivational speakers, said many youths today have very brilliant ideas but many end up on shelves because they fear to consult.
She explained that for those who start-up businesses fail to succeed because they never consult or try to do research.
"In order for a business to be successful, there is a need for one to consult from those who have done it and succeeded. Consult also those who failed and from their mistakes, you will be able to do it better," Abonyo said.
She advised that before you go into business, place first things first. Place the customer first in all you are doing, relate with your customers at the foundation of your project or product and never to assume for the customers.
Patrick Adengo, Managing Director, Stalworth consulting group limited, said businesses are failing because many young entrepreneurs do not get access to people who can motivate them.
On how to handle customers, Adengo said for any business to succeed, customers have to be put at the forefront. He advised that it is important to welcome and appreciate negative feedback in business so that you can grow.
"When a customer criticizes your business, make sure that you do better such that tomorrow they will praise your product. If that customer takes that bad feedback to the public, then it will be very hard for you to convince customers to love your product," he stressed.
Timothy Mugume, Country Manager at Jumia Food Uganda said it takes a few words of wisdom to make a business successful. He advised the young entrepreneurs to always seek advises from others. It is from this advice that you will get a solution to that problem that is failing your business to grow.
He advised young entrepreneurs to always ensure that they develop a customer-centric model which could take a very long time.
"It can take even 10years and more to build a customer base. So never sit there and lament that customers are few yet you could be in business for just a few months. In all businesses, for success, it is important to know your customers' behaviours so that you swing into the required reaction," he said.
The unemployment rate for young people in Uganda ages 15-24 is 83%. This rate is even higher for those who have formal degrees and live in the urban area. This is due to the disconnect between the degree achieved and the vocational skills needed for the jobs that are in demand for workers.
To make ends meet, many youths resort to starting businesses. However, many do not celebrate their first birthdays. This is because many lack entrepreneurial skills, while others lack mentors to help them sustain the businesses.
According to Deborah Natujuna, the Engagement Manager at Resilient Africa, the mandate of the training was to nurture innovative young entrepreneurs such that they are more resilient to natural shocks and stresses in business.
According to her, it was realized that many young entrepreneurs right from the start of the business, have many gaps that make their business not to succeed.
Hence the only solution is to invite successful professionals and experts from various industries to come and share their wealth of knowledge.
"The professionals talk about key techniques, concepts and also share experiences of how they are managing the business world. We want them to know the challenges faced in the world of work and how they can be overcome," said Natujuna.
She added that the event has been specially designed to inspire youth into ventures through an interactive debate with leading customer experience managers of top brands.
"The interaction helps entrepreneurs to get an expert opinion on current business practices, and keep up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry," she stressed.