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 cafĂ© 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.

HULT MBA Alumni talks about sharing business skills

Jackie Ngu

Jackie Ngu runs a family business here in London supplying healthcare professionals to the NHS. A Hult MBA Alumni she talks about the challenges of volunteering by skype and mobile as part of our #Uganda600 programme.

The Experience
When I first received the details about attending an event at Hult International Business School, called Grow movement, I didn’t need convincing. I have always donated to charities but never felt like I was actually making a difference as you never knew really where your donation was going. Unfortunately I was not even able to attend the event as I had to do a presentation, but as I said before, this was not necessary. I just knew that it would be a privilege for me to be given the chance to empower African entrepreneurs not just waiting to get handouts but wanting to be able to provide for their family.

My client
I think I have been very lucky with my client. Gorreti is hardworking with 2 shops selling a range of items from electrical to stationary items. She is always willing to try out new ideas and we have very good discussions about the way forward. She knows exactly where she needs help and where she wants her business to go. I am hoping I can work with her to make a positive difference.

Our one and only main challenge has been getting Gorreti connected onto the internet. This is not something she had done before and very difficult to assist someone with this over the phone, when you are not sure what they can see. We are getting there as she has been able to open my email and also the attachment. Just need her to be able to send me an email. That will be the next challenge. Going forwards it would be great for Grow Movement to supply more basic IT skills to entrepreneurs before they start the programme as it can be difficult to consult entirely by Skype.

Jackie we totally agree with you! Our vision for the future is to have more basic training up front before releasing to VCs to start. All in the plans we just need funding!