Wopo training a dog at his Bugema centre.
It is 6:00pm when I call Michael Wopo, the founder of Kaisha Dog Trainers about an appointment we had set for 7:00pm. Before that appointment was set, I had been through 2 futile attempts that always looked set, except his secretary would cancel the last minute over an emergency.
This time, however, luck was on my side. He told me he was already seated at Café Javas, Kampala Road. This was an hour before our appointment. In his words, it is key to make it an hour to the meeting place so as to prepare for the meeting. That’s when it hit me that this was going to be a deep interview.
His company, Kaisha Dog Trainers has, for the past couple of years, been famed for selling dogs to the affluent citizenry of Uganda. Notable among them were city stylist Brian Ahumuza alias Abryanz, Kim Swagger, Sheilla Gashumba, among a number of musicians. He left his job as a police officer to start the company and it has thrived and turned into a multi-million enterprise.
Who is Michael Wopo
Founder and CEO Kaisha Dog Trainers, Michael Wopo aged 33 is married with two children and he insists to refer to them as two beautiful girls. To his income muscle is commercial housing, transportation and dog training. He studied Dog Training in Israel at the Israel Army K9 (Canine) Institute. He is born to Zuena Manahe and Bukawa Kasim.
Wopo went to Nabumali Primary School for his PLE, Nabumali Senior Secondary School for his O-Level and Nkoma Senior Secondary School for A-Level. He thereafter did a certificate course in Wiring and Electricity at Elgon Institute Wiring.
“As a youth in the village, with little to no talent, or a marketable skill set as what I had studied was null because the village I was living in had no electricity. I knew I had to start hustling. I did a lot of jobs. Most of them were not good.
Listen as I speak: Wopo 'speaks' to a dog
I soiled my hands in some, broke a back and greased my dignity in many of those jobs. In 2006, I got an opportunity to join the Uganda police force, around June. I did the initial training, from Kabalye, Masindi. After the training in August of 2007, we were deployed. I was deployed in the dog section, and that is how my story started,” recounts Wopo.
When he joined the Dog Section in Police, it was regarded as that for failures of police exams. It was a rumor that whoever went there had failed. The 10 deployed there, 8 men and 2 women became a laughing stock. Instead, Wope saw a chance to change the status quo.
“When I joined, as part of orientation, they asked us if we had previous relationships with dogs. Whether we liked dogs. Many people were honest, and said they didn’t like dogs. They feared them. I on the other hand realized dogs were my fate. I remembered that because of my family’s Muslim back ground, we could not raise dogs. But I had friends.
Many had dogs. And for a moment there, that felt like the best feeling ever, hanging out with the dogs. The creatures, intriguing as they were, felt like family. I had a deeper connection with the dogs. And as the commandant asked questions, I realized my deployment wasn’t a mistake, but rather a blessing in disguise. A stroke of fate, so to say.
After relaying my love for the dogs, they were wowed. They gave me the responsibility to manage the dog kennels, putting me 3rd in the ranks. From the management of the kennels, I observed and learned behavioral patterns, the breeding, training, feeding, which grew my love for dogs.
After a few weeks, we started induction; a dog training in Nsambya Police Barracks and from there, the then IGP; Kale Kayihura talked to us. After that opportunity, is when the opportunity to travel to Israel to learn about dogs and then another in Egypt. When I came back, they transformed the dog section,” recalls of Wope.
Vet Dr Martin Mugume, a commissioner of Police liked him so much because of his dedication. “All those trainings I went through, I attribute it to him. He picked me because of the interest I had in dogs. From being a dog trainer, I grew to the chief instructor. I started training people how to train and handle dogs,” confesses Wope.
The transformation from Policeman to an entrepreneur
Saracene used to bring their dogs to train with us. When the opportunity came, the manager who was handling the Saracene Canine, given our good relationship, got me a deal with Saracene Uganda to sell and train their dogs.
I handled tracking dogs, Human scents et al. It was huge. Got about sh100m. I imported the dogs from Kenya. From that money I saved, I bought a taxi at sh38m. It was giving me, sh800, 000 weekly for a long time. I realized I wanted to be more than just a policeman, so I left police.
Sh360m was what the business plan I required. I didn’t have it yet. So I decided that I will save more. The car worked for about 3 years. At the end of 2012, I sold the car, and together with the money I had saved, I managed to get land of about 2 acres in Bugema, Zirobwe Road.
I erected permanent kennels and dared to roll. They were not the best standard, but they were permanent. I bought a vehicle, to aid transportation. I got an office on Gayaza Road, Wampewo and started marketing. I and a friend did the door to door marketing, distributing fliers in Night Clubs, parking lots, estates, residential homes. It took a while, but eventually we started getting clients.
I am married, 2 children and they are going to good schools. Built a home in Mbale and commercial houses; 3 cars, land dispersed in places of Uganda, but most importantly, I am doing something that I love. It’s fulfilling. I have travelled around the world.
We needed to do good breeding so I needed and acquired a bigger space and got quality kennels.
In the breeding section, I have 60 standard kennels. I can currently accommodate 120 dogs.
Well ventilated kennels. We started importing different breeds of dogs. Pedigree of the dogs brought in.
We employ 30 skilled personnel at dog handling. We train dog handling, training courses, grooming services, (bathe construct kennels) brushing teeth, bathing and trimming fur.
Build dog kennels according to one’s financial muscle.
We can finally offer the 360 services of dogs (breeding, feeding, boarding services (keeping dogs) training dogs, veterinary services, dog handling and training School.
Meeting client expectations. Genetic characters, most people bring dogs that are genetically imposed to do different things. Some people fail to tell that from as young as a puppy selection, behavioral tendencies dictate the kind of dog it will be. Some people bring pet dogs to be taught security.
Dogs are hard to study if they are not monitored while in their infant stages. It makes it harder for us to handle them when they are brought as adults.
Ugandans are not so much into dogs. They don’t understand their prices. They can’t distinguish a pure breed from a fake breed. We have people selling fake cross breeds to people for lower prices.
People leave dogs for longer months at our premises. We incur expenses that they don’t want to meet.
The dog feeds are expensive. We should ask for like sh1m because of the expenses incurred. But clients wouldn’t understand the vet services, disinfectant chemicals, are expensive. Don’t want to understand. People negotiate without considering.
One has to be patient and endure. There are so many things you go through. The good things are always in the longer run. If the plans are intact, then stick to them and you will make it.
In business, once you start it, there are losses and profits. If you make a loss, it doesn’t tell you to give up. Miscalculations are part of the learning process. Instead, it teaches to tread carefully.
Types of dogs
Pets, compound dogs, security, Sniffers, (explosives, narcotics)