Thursday, 17 December 2015

Bath MBA Alumni on hairdressing in Uganda

Dr Janet Fernihough MBADr Janet Fernihough PHD and Bath Business School MBA, and previous Malawi volunteer consultant talks about her experience on the Uganda600 team and the importance of clean water for customers in a hairdressing salon.

10 steps to entrepreneurial success in Uganda!
It sounds like one of those dreadful self-help books doesn’t it? As it turns out, I have helped myself a great deal with my 10 steps, but that’s not the point. My 10 steps were made with the Grow Movement as a volunteer consultant for Uganda600 and the point was to help Sulaina Nantale and her hairdressing salon

Through this process we have become friends, but that’s the least of the story of how a modest scientist in the UK and a wonderful business woman in Kampala have, together, increased the turnover of her business five-fold using nothing more technical than Skype and Whatsapp.

The Grow Movement tries to match clients to consultants as closely as possible in terms of industry, but I admit to feeling out of my depth when Sulaina’s hairdressing salon fell into my inbox. Reviewing my experience of the hairdressing business as “having hair” I was very tempted to back out. However, the Uganda600 project is backed by the London Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to evaluate the impact of virtual consultancy on entrepreneur performance in Uganda. Backing out of such a high profile project and turning it into the Uganda599 project, didn’t feel like an option.

So, Sulaina and I took our first step together in July, assisted by the amazing client manager Emmanuel, who provided Skype on his laptop. Having volunteered for the Grow Movement before, I knew that the first sessions are all about relationship building, so I started with questions about family rather than finance. Sulaina informed me that she is the mother of four children, and her husband is dead. She then asked when we were going to start talking business. Sulaina clearly wasn’t interested in small talk and wanted results. Results for her meant increasing her income so that she could extend her salon. It was clear to me that she needed to improve her marketing, starting with building her brand. Once again I reviewed my experience of strategic marketing and brand management and came up with the answer “two MBA modules”. Admittedly, the brand management module was totally brilliant, for anyone who knows Professor Mike Beverland, but with a background as a PhD scientist, marketing is not my strong point.

Session 2 was upon us though, with the shiny new Project Management System up and running to report progress. So I discussed with Sulaina what she has that her customers absolutely love. Here’s where the cultural divide became obvious. One of the things that Sulaina’s customers love, apart from her wealth of experience and friendly nature is the fact that she has clean water. This isn’t always available from hairdressers who work out of their homes. It’s certainly a benefit, but I couldn’t quite see the business cards with “Clean Water” emblazoned across them as the key to Sulaina’s future success. 

Sulaina’s concerns were at the front of her mind at this early stage: client-friends who don’t pay and a salon that is too small to work in effectively. When she talked about the cost to extend her premises it was in the same breath as she mentioned school fees and it was clear that with around 5 paying customers a week who nearly all turn up at the weekend, an extension was out of the question for a while yet. However, as Uganda’s inflation rate has recently hit 16% I feared that Sulaina will be forever chasing her tail, saving up for an extension that becomes more costly almost daily.
Baby steps were made between sessions 3 and 6, which was not surprising. It’s hard to trust a stranger in a very different world from your  own, who calls you up, once a week, pretending not only to understand your business concerns, but also telling you what to do to fix them. Sessions were frequently rescheduled and when they did happen, Sulaina’s conversation was dominated by ongoing, daily problems. The problem of working in your business rather than on your business is clearly universal. Printing her new business cards was also taking time, delaying the point when she could send these out to targeted groups such as local businesses from where clients could come during the week.  

Sulaina was also still selling handbags in a somewhat confused attempt to increase the income from women who came to her premises. It was so obvious from the pictures of stunning brides that she sent me on Whatsapp that her passion and extraordinary skill is in the hairdressing. It can take many, many hours to create the incredible styles she does, this is not the UK high street world of hairdressing. I asked her to ditch the bags, to remove a source of income from her salon, and she did it. Make up now occupies the space as she vertically integrates her services to include beauty as well as hairdressing.

Eventually, seven steps in, I had the inevitable breakthrough and the words that made me smile and cry at the same time, “I want to set up a training school”. After session five I had logged a very different story onto the Project Management System to indicate progress to “Stage 2”. We had been discussing how to move clients from Saturday to mid-week appointments; nothing about training. My data was now likely to be “scattered” to say the least. Well, that’s for the business schools to worry about, I was smiling that Sulaina had let me in on her dreams. No going back. She took her newly printed business cards to local schools to advertise scholarships and in the process got more customers. They came to her small salon, with no bags in the way, and they paid.

For sessions 8-10 we consolidated the topics we had discussed, but always only once we had asked each other how our kids were doing. Family is very important in Uganda. Sulaina also told me about the impact I had had on Nantale Beauty Salon, “Your ideas are working for me. I put the ideas into practice and I get more customers”. It’s as simple as that. When I presented my work to the Grow Movement at the Ugandan Embassy in London, I was advised that this fluffy “I’m so grateful” crap won’t wash with my fellow business consultant audience though. We want numbers, and for Sulaina the numbers include around 25 paying customers per week now. Word of mouth will no doubt increase that soon.

The impact on my business is as significant. I have a CV that says I can increase the turnover of a business five-fold, over the phone. I have branding and marketing skills that are not reflected in my marketing assignment grade, but I know they work. I have huge admiration for Sulaina and an increased awareness of her culture and the harsh Ugandan environment in which she works.

Now I will let you in on a secret. The Grow Movement asks all its consultants to do 12 sessions, not the 10 steps I alluded to. So what did we do for the last two sessions, apart from swap the Christmas lists that our kids are forever extending? Well, I couldn’t let the business advice drop by the wayside completely. When Sulaina extends her salon, which is now just a matter of time, I advised her to have a massive re-launch party, at which she should start a loyalty card scheme. Sulaina’s ambition is to be known throughout Uganda for her hairdressing. She deserves this, and in my dreams, representatives from magazines such as Bride and Groom attend her party and write an article on her success and involvement with the Grow Movement. For now, she has all her children at home until after the national elections in February. The country is longing for a new leader after nearly 30 years of the existing regime. It is not just Sulaina who is restless for change for the better.
Finally, I have an invite to a salon re-launch party next year in Kampala, and what a celebration that will be.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Tatiana Chamis- Brown Head of B2B Customer Transformation at Orange worked with Ronald Genza on our Uganda600 Project with London Business School. He owns Geldin TLD, in Kampala, Uganda. Here she shares her experience!

I’ve been fortunate to have had great mentors in my professional life, so I’m always keen on paying it forward. Becoming a volunteer consultant for the Grow Movement was appealing in so many levels. Firstly, the potential impact I could make to my client to boost his business and improve his and others’ lives. Secondly,  put to use for a good cause the skills and experiences I’ve accumulated over the years in management consulting and telecoms. And lastly, put technology to good use and learn first-hand about the realities of a small business owner on the other side of the world – all from my home office!

I was assigned to work with Ronald Genza, owner of Geldin Ltd, a small retailer of auto security systems and accessories in Kampala, Uganda. From our first Skype session, Ronald impressed me with his vision for the business, his resourcefulness and eagerness to learn. He had cemented relationship with product manufacturers and suppliers in South Africa, China, UAE and Kenya and had established himself as a “one-stop shop” for his broker and end-user clients. But Ronald felt there were two things he needed to pursue in order to grow his business: improve his financial skills and develop a more professional approach and image to enter the b2b contracts market. These became the focus of our sessions together.

Each session required preparation from both of us. On my side, to think through which tasks to propose to Ronald to help him achieve his goals. For example, to visit similar companies addressing the b2b market and navigate their websites to identify what he’d need to do differently to sell to enterprises. Or to undertake analysis of the business financials to pin-point areas of action. For Ronald, to complete the task, feedback on the outcomes of the ideas he tried out or just come armed with questions we could solve together in the session. For instance, it became clear a high amount of cash was tied into slow moving stock. Digging into the reasons for this led to a few options concerning how to manage supplier order volumes, gain flexibility on payment conditions and improve accounts receivables terms and timing.

Of course there were challenges – disconnected calls, understanding each other (a huge exercise for me to drop the  “consulting” speak!). But Ronald’s commitment throughout the 12 sessions impressed me. I believe we’ve made good progress vis-à-vis his objectives and truly hope our sessions help him grow his business. It has been a real pleasure working with Ronald and being a part of Grow Uganda 600

Monday, 7 December 2015

How a Healthcare professional worked with a glass and aluminium retailer in Uganda

Fadzai Marange a Healthcare Operations and Service Manager with experience across all managerial disciplines from financial control and planning to personnel management, change management, strategy and process improvement is part of the Uganda600 VC team working with John Sande a glass and aluminium retailer in Kampala. She is part of the team who has completed their project! Well done! Here she talks about here experience.

The Uganda 600 journey
It has been a great experience to be a VC for this Uganda 600 project. While some days were tougher than others however the whole experience has been great.

The challenges
1. Like many other VCs it was a challenge to get all sessions done as a few resulted in no show from client. I had to call the client directly on some occasions to communicate as they could not make it to skype. On one occasion my client turned up we spoke for 10 minutes and the electricity cut off leaving a dead skype line. Some days it was severe weather conditions or family challenges.

2. My client lacked confidence to go out and market himself and his business. The greatest challenge was to get to a level where he believed he could do it; it took a lot of patience, encouragement and tough talk.

The great experiences
My greatest experience has been the feeling of a sense of satisfaction in impacting someone’s life positively. When I started with my client his greatest challenge was marketing. Talking him through to understand the concepts behind marketing and building a strategy was my greatest experience as he followed it through. He now gets contracts huge contracts; the unfortunate thing is that his resources don’t allow him to take on such huge contacts. For example he got a 30 million shilling contract which he unfortunately had to let go as he had no immediate funds to get raw materials. His usual contracts were usually 2 million shillings or less.

Professionally, this experience helped me to apply all the concepts I have been gathering in my career journey. I managed to network with other professionals who helped increase my confidence and helped in a lot of ways. Personally I learnt that having the right attitude matters the most. John has the right attitude to both learn and work hard. He has so many challenges including an extended family yet he remains undeterred. His determination helped me to put my own life into perspective and I now appreciate what I have access to.
My team manager Sean Clancy has been amazingly supportive.

Way forward
It would give me more satisfaction to see John through applications for a grant to expand his business. Hence I would like to do a few more sessions to see which organisations he can contact and help him with the application.

It’s been a pleasure to work for Grow.
Congratulations to Simon Mycock, a British VC based in Dubai, for completing his Uganda600 project in record time! Here he shares his tips on how to be a great VC and have a smooth (ish) experience

  •            Contact your entrepreneur by phone and introduce yourself in the first instance.  
  •       Don’t rely on email and ask your project coordinator to help if you get stuck.
  •       Contact mobile numbers are often changed without warning.
  •          When you first speak to your client, as well as agreeing a date and time for your first session also ask them about the best way of keeping in touch with them. Ask about SMS, WhatsApp, landline, Skype and email but most importantly check how often they access them. Some entrepreneurs may only have access to comms on a very limited basis.
  •          During your first session get to know each other – don’t just focus on their business, ask about their family, where they live and share this about yourself. It’s important to create trust.
  •          Try to understand their weekly schedule, and what time and day of the week is best for them on a regular basis for your sessions. You will need to manage exceptions, however it is much easier for you both if you have a regular time and day to meet.
  •          If communications are difficult, see if your project coordinator can help you by hosting your entrepreneur for their sessions at the local Grow Movement office.
  •          If possible follow up each session with a summary of the discussion and the tasks via email.
  •          Use the project management system to record everything, including comments between sessions i.e. if a sessions is rescheduled – remember Grow Movement are using this to measure the projects.
  •          Prior to the next session send a reminder of the agreed date, time and channel via the most appropriate comms for the entrepreneur.
  •          Don’t try to cover too much too soon – it’s better for the entrepreneur to focus on doing a couple of tasks well and seeing the benefits. 
  •          The day to day running of their business will be put first so it’s important to emphasis they need to set aside time to make any changes you agree.
  •          Avoid business speak and acronyms – take time to explain what you mean and check for understanding. Some concepts we take for granted may be completely new for an entrepreneur.
  •          Try to create a structure for each session – think about using the first part to recap on the previous session, the middle part to continue progress toward the entrepreneurs’ objectives, and the last part to summarize the session and position the next session.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Working on Finance in Uganda

Angela Hohl- Abichedid
Angela Hohl-Abichedid a Business Development Manager for Philips Lighting USA worked with Tumwine in Uganda who runs 'House of Success', a small and short term loans company based in Kampala. They have just finished their 12 sessions together. 

"Getting started was much easier than I expected. My client spoke English very well, was very open, very eager to succeed and we had the good fortune of a quite reliable internet connection which made video conferencing and file sharing seamless.

We got down to business right away as my client had specific ideas of what he wanted to accomplish: to rapidly grow his business. During the first sessions I tried to uncover as much information as possible while learning about my client’s expectations. After three sessions we were ready to agree on realistic goals. 

Overall I found that my client knew his business very well but needed help with financial record keeping and analysis. I spent a lot of time preparing and teaching financial analysis tools adapted to his business and easy to use. A session would last between 1 – 2 hours and we also communicated via email and WhatsApp in-between sessions especially when sessions had to be re-scheduled. My client now keeps some financial records and is aware of risk. He expressed a lot of gratitude for my help and we still keep in touch.  

Overall I enjoyed this project very much as it challenged me to solve very different business problems than I normally do in my day job. I hope I made a positive contribution in my client’s life. "

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Scottish Minister in Malawi


Sophie Kumwanje
Grow Movement Malawi is supported by Scottish Government funding. Imagine Team Malawi's excitement to meet Humza Yousaf last week. Here Sophie Kumwanje Grow's Country Manager for Malawi talks about her experience.

The Scottish Minister for International Development and External Affairs Humza Yousaf arrived in Malawi on 19th October 2015.  I had an opportunity of meeting him at the luncheon that was organized by the Malawi Scotland partnership in his honour on the 20th of October 2015.

During my networking over lunch, Humza said he is in Malawi to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

The following are the questions he asked about Grow Movement:-

-                      The impact of Remote mentoring on the entrepreneurs and;
-                      Challenges that the entrepreneurs are facing

He was very happy to hear that since 2013 February the following:-


-                      152 completed projects
-                      Conducted impact assessment on 126 projects
-                      158 jobs were created so far
-                      6,920 lives affected  


-                      Communication and Language barriers,

I indicated that the coming in of Scottish funding will mitigate these challenges because of laptops that will be located to some communities to be used by the entrepreneurs and the introduction of non speaking English sessions through a translator.

He commended what Grow Movement is doing here in Malawi and was very pleased with our expansion to Mzuzu.  He also added that what Grow Movement is doing is not only improving people’s lives but also improving the whole country of Malawi.

Humza also commended Claire Jenkins from London and Jerome Roebuck from Scotland for their hard work in securing the funding for Grow Movement  Malawi’s expansion in Mzuzu.

I had a very good experience and I enjoyed interacting with him.  I had seen that Humza is a very good listener, very positive and encouraging.  

Both Humza and  Michael Nevin, Malawi British High Commissioner told me that they follow our activities on twitter everyday!!!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Germany based consultant talks about retailing in Kampala, Uganda

Omar Garcia Uridales a Uganda600 consultant based in Germany with an MBA from St Edwards University, USA, talks about his experience of developing a customer service,  promotional plan and financial model for a retail store in Kampala, Uganda.
Omar Garcia Uridales

Isaac Bamwidhi
 My client’s name is Issac Bamwidhi and he owns a convenient store at Masiro Road Kasubi, Kampala Central Region of Uganda. The street which Issac’s convenient store is located is near the Kasubi Tombs in Kampala which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and he is also seven kilometers away from the downtown area of Kampala.

 Issac and I primarily use WhatsApp as a means of communication. We also have used Skype video with the assistance of Ms. Pamela Ayot, Client Manager for Grow Movement. Ms. Ayot has been an important reason in giving us the reassurance of assistance and easing the challenges of communication within our project. At start of the Grow Movement project, Issac had identified the following three challenges he was faced with at the start of his business:

- First challenge was to  develop a strategy for Customer Service in order to attract and retain clients.
- Second challenges was to create a business strategy in which his store would differentiate his competition. Keeping in mind that at the same street where his store is located within twenty meters away there is a cluster of stores that compete with him.
- The third challenge was creating a financial model in which he could manage his store and to keep track of his products sold at his store.

Within three months, we have solved Issac’s first addressed challenges in the following manner: First issue to address was to develop a strategy for Customer Services. I encouraged Issac to develop a report with his customer. By doing so, we better understood the needs of the customer and we were able to identify which products Issac could consider to sell at his store. We also understood that word of mouth was Issac best form of advertisement at the moment in which we have used to channel information such as sales promotion that runs from the middle of the month to the end of the month. This has empowered Issac’s customers to have purchasing power during the time of the month where the financial resources our not as plentiful as they are at the start of the month. This has also attracted a customer flow within his store.

Second issue that was addressed was creating a business strategy in which his store would differentiate itself from the competition. The strategy we created was developing a sales promotion starting in the middle of the month. Before we started, no competitor had an existing promotion strategy. The strategy also allowed Issac to evaluate from his promotion if some of his products that he was selling could be discontinued and replaced with different products. Currently Issac now has the information in which he can then evaluate if he is able to discontinue a product and with the same amount of investment used on the discontinued product of that of a new product such as spaghetti and eggs which have  proven to have a higher demand.

Third issue was to create a financial model in order to manage his store. The approach taken by Issac has done very well. For this, we made a financial plan together while I mentored him. This was done with the idea that Issac would be self-efficient after the project with Grow Movement is completed. Currently Issac now knows how to keep track of his sales items and expenses with a record keeping log for his store. He also knows how to read and develop a Balance Sheet and Income Statement. We are currently reviewing how to analyze Inventory Turnover and how to accept and reject the introduction of a new product within his store. This learning approach would have not been as affective without Issac wiliness to learn and develop as a business owner.

We are entering our seventh session and Issac just recorded for the month of September 2015 Sales Revenue of UGX 1,953,700 which is a 39% increase from the Month of August. Currently Issac is experienced a growth within his store and the opportunity to evaluate future plans of growth. For example, he wants to start to selling chickens at the Christmas and New Year’s event held at his town. Therefore, the remaining of the sessions I will assist Issac in learning how to evaluate and monitor his store’s growth and financial analysis. Issac told Grow Movement that in three years he wanted to have a Supermarket and enter the wholesales business sector. Therefore, I plan to give him the knowledge and assist him within the remaining sessions on how to guide his growth. 5

I am grateful to have worked with Issac and Grow Movement. I have only positive things to say from my experience of working and interacting with individuals that make Grow Movement possible. I have not only gained the experience of consulting a micro business in Uganda but I have also seen first-hand how Grow Movement has the empowerment of instituting growth not only to the Entrepreneurs we work with but also to the consultants that take part of the mission of Grow Movement.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Dubai Consultant talks about debt, honesty and loan sharks

Volunteering with Grow Movement throws challenges at even the most talented and experienced of consultants. Zeynep Saka from Dubai talks about the challenges of honesty in cross cultural communication in difficult business times. An incredible result from her sheer drive and determination to support Robert a retailer in Uganda.

Entering into a reality with constant suspense
Zeynep Saka

Robert is a veterinary by education and has opened his shop in February 2015 to sell agrochemicals to farmers in Gayaza area with the money he saved from working as an extension worker for 3 years and the long-term loan he took from a bank, or so he had said…

He doesn’t own a computer nor knows how to operate one. He didn’t have an email address or a Skype account up until July 23. Even if he goes to the internet café in Gayaza, there’s no Skype on their computers so the only way we can have lengthy sessions are with the help of Stella, our client manager, using her Skype account on her computer. The one technology he has is the whatsapp on his phone, through which we are able to keep in contact regularly.

When I asked Robert about his goal during our first session, he said he wanted to become “the one” who gives the best agrochemical input to the farmers in the Central Uganda Region.

About 3 weeks, 3 sessions and many whatsapp conversations into our working together for finding ways of making Robert’s business more profitable, Robert’s debt problem became the main topic. All of a sudden his loan from the bank was no longer long term and his business was to be taken over by the bank if he didn’t pay the debt of about $200 on time, or so he had said…

As I came up with suggestions on how he could solve his issues with the bank, Robert was reluctant to consider them, and more fixated on asking my help to rescue him from the situation by sending him the money. He was not able to provide any official documents on his debt, so I called the bank to inquire about Robert’s situation and support him by introducing myself as his business consultant, but they couldn’t find Robert’s account…

The truth came soon after: Robert did not have a bank account; he had borrowed the money from a loan shark; he was 3 months late on his payment, he owed in total $500, he had his shop and the motorcycle he co-owned with his brother under collateral, the loan shark was threatening him with taking over everything from him unless he paid his debt in full.

Robert had been ashamed to admit before that his borrowings were from a loan shark and that he had failed. He apologized and again asked for my help. I was disappointed, worried, upset, angry, scared, mistrustful and confused on what was the right thing to do.

After consulting Stella, Claire, Himanshu and other consultants from GrowMovement, I decided I was not going to give him any money, but I was definitely going to stick around and continue with my utmost support to Robert to save him from the situation because I was not going to judge his reality as per the the rules of mine.

Finally we did manage to find a way to pay off Robert’s debt and rescue his business from the loan shark. It took two weeks of constant coaching on negotiation, thinking outside of the box to sell 50% of his stock, by just being there for him.

We are now passed our 9th session and looking into ways of restarting his business.

Robert says, in Uganda if someone does something extraordinary for you, you give him or her a rooster as a sign of appreciation; so he wants to give me 10 very big roosters...

Friday, 2 October 2015

We are Champions! Grow wins awards at Third Sector Excellency!


Grow is thrilled to annouce winning 'Volunteer Manager of the Year,' and being highly commended in two other categories, 'Volunteer of the Year' and 'Small Charity Big Impact' in the Third Sector Excellency Awards London.

Grow was honoured to be selected for its volunteer management over much larger charities including Air Ambulance, and Age UK; demonstrating that you dont need large budgets to take care  and thank your volunteers.

Mark Neild, Claire Jenkins and Jeremy Roebuck
As a Charity that is focused on operations and outcomes it is a difficult decision to invest time in writing applications when those hours could be spent elsewhere. Fortunately Grow has an a great group of writers who were only too  keen to get involved, and what a great job they did! Three categories and achieved in each one! 

CEO Claire Jenkins says
CEO Claire Jenkins receiving her award
"I was immensely happy and proud to receive this award on behalf of my volunteers and operations team. We work hard to look after our volunteers across 65 countries!. When  I first started at Grow Movement I bought a book on how to run a charity, as this is what we do in my family when we have a knowledge gap, ...straight to Waterstones! The second chapter was on Donor Management. 'Always look after your donors!'. I thought, easy, I only have 3. I then turned the page to read 'Most charities forget that their biggest donor is their volunteers, so  make sure you look after them'. I have never forgotten this and remember always that I could not achieve our impact without the dedication of our volunteers and my operations staff that look after them'.

"Going forwards we want to have our volunteering experience and impact recognised and awarded within the business community. We have more applications coming out, watch this space!

Hult MBA Alumni 'It's a cultural bath'

Chris Morton

Chris Morton counts nearly 20 years of international experience in Industry (aero, auto, renewable, mechanical and growing in bio-mechs) providing and developing B2B products and services in Engineering, IT and engineering consultancy with a focus on new tech adoption and deployment.  After completing his MBA at Hult Business School he joined Grow Movement to share skills with a Ugandan micro entreprener.
June 2015, I can't wait. I am about to be assigned my first African entrepreneur...

"My name is Alfonse Okaka. I started my business "Ocok Construction" in 2007. We do all sorts of things: construction work, maintenance and repairs. Most of our work comes from private contracts and also from public bids. We are doing ok. However, we are finding it difficult to grow. There is a lot of competition out there and it is not easy to differentiate ourselves from others. Some competitors are very big firms. This is where we want to be... Also, it is difficult to find good workers. Last but not least, clients pay late or sometimes do not even pay."

This was it... And then it hit me. I know nothing about Uganda and I only know cowboy builder stories... Actually, this is not true, I have a lot of friends in the building trade. But, still, I am not really familiar with the industry.Breathe... one step at a time, I have to prepare my first call. The first impression always counts...

I go on Google. Amazing, the facts about the building trade in Uganda are complex. I decide to take a step back. First, let me see what I can find about Uganda.

Now, I am at my desk, I have my brainstorm paper, A2 sheets, I cannot work on A4. At the centre, one word: Construction. I start to lay out all the things that can impact the trade. I list activities, clients, supply chain, workers, finance, regulations, etc. Climate... political environment. Good. I think I have it all. Oops, I had forgotten competitors...

My first call with Alfonse; bonding is important. Pamela is also there. She is my client manager in Uganda. We have already spoken. I am glad she is here.

The call goes well, we touch on everything, the business, family, life. All good. Alfonse volunteers to prepare an email with some pictures of his workshop, to introduce two of his trusted colleagues to me, and to send me some information about the company and the projects it undertakes.

I wait... Nothing happens. I, then, receive a message from Pamela explaining Alfonse had not received my email. She forwarded it again. Eventually, I receive a very short email from Alfonse. Well, it is a start. I had been warned no to ask too much in one go...

I call Alfonse, and decide to focus. Let's talk projects, in particular the successful ones... 
Little by little I get a picture of what works and what doesn't. What he enjoys and what causes despair: taxation, as usual, is one of them... :) 

Clearly cashflow management and payment terms are a problem, and they are substantial. To win a project you need money in the Bank, says Alfonse. But inflation on construction material is linked to the exchange rate between the shilling and the dollar. In the past 6 months, it has depreciated 29%. Wow, this is something Alfonse is very sensitive to. 

There is my trigger, my hook! 

We start to talk about the business, how the money is managed and where it goes: project management, accounts payable, accounts receivable, credit lines, etc. Yes, now we can focus...

I will be back for round 2.

For me, volunteering for Grow is a fantastic experience from every angle. To have the opportunity to share the experience I have acquired in business with driven entrepreneurs is amazing. To do so whilst discovering a new country, new people is extraordinary. 
I feel I am receiving as much as I am giving if not more. It is a cultural bath. But not only, even from a business perspective, it sharpens my reflexes. Simply, because I am facing issues that are out of the ordinary in a developed economy, "things" we take so much for granted...
Last but not least, the Grow team is a wonderful family, from our boss, Claire Jenkins, to the people on the ground, to each and every volunteer. It is an immense pleasure to be a part of it.

Regents University Alumni in Japan #skyping with Uganda

Tafadzwa Chakaodza a graduate from Regents University now working in Japana first joined Grow a year ago volunteering with our Malawi teams. Here he talks about his experience as a #Uganda600 consultant.

My Uganda 600 client is Ronald Irumba-Juro, the very proud owner of a unisex hair salon in
Mutongo. The salon mainly offers services like women’s perm re-touches, braiding and dreadlocks with the dreadlocks being the main service he is known for.The business being in the low cost tier segment of the market, serves about 5-10 customers on average a day with the target clientele being women aged 30 and 50 with the children’s segment both girls and boys being small but growing. With about 3 part time employees, space restrictions have led to a suspension of the provision of male services as the business hopes to move into a larger location within 6-12 months.  Ronald went into business after the local salon he worked for closed down and he needed to provide for his family.

We communicate for meetings over Skype but at times when internet connections fails, which is more often than not, we continue on Whatsapp on his phone or over email. Sometimes he uses a laptop he has or we Skype at his work place. With a time difference of 6 hours we usually communicate during Uganda day time and Japan after 10 or 11pm.

 We have had 5 sessions to date with about 4 sessions have been held back at this point due to Ronald’s unforeseen circumstances including the loss of a family member, family illness and a burglary that happened at his residence leading to many gadgets having been stolen. Throughout all of this, Ronald has remained steadfast and keen to follow through with the process.

Some of the problems identified include high and fluctuating rentals from his landlord, electricity supply shortage,s having no generator, knowledge of proper income and expenditure, cash flow and financial budgeting systems, employee labour turnover and remuneration issues as well as marketing strategy. I have given him homework to gather financial records however they are kept, competitor services analyses within his area as well a look into pricing structures which he did well and came back with great insights. We continue to work to make the business thrive as we go on.