Aisha Simba did not grow up like any other child. In fact she has no experience to tell having taken on adult roles at quite a young age.
At 18 years, Simba had already started the hustle, marshaling money here and there to partly contribute towards her education at Kyambogo University.
“I would write short news stories and sell them between Shs15,000 and Shs20,000,’’ the graduate of management science, says.
Faced with a tough childhood, Simba had learnt the hard way because she understood at a young age that she could not get the life she wanted to live from her mother.
And this is how she was able to operate a number of business including attending her uncle’s boutique at Ham Towers, a hair salon on Gazaland and a milling machine in Kisenyi, down town Kampala.
In 2013 after working for a year in her uncle’s boutique, Simba secured a Shs2m loan from a relative with the promise to pay back Shs3m within a year.
“A friend who operates a solon at Gazaland [in down town Kampala] had told me of someone selling her solon at Shs3m. I picked interest but I did not have the money. I decided to borrow to see how I could take advantage because I believed there was money in the salon business,” the 22 year-old, says.
With only Shs2m, Simba had no any other alternative but to use some of her tuition fees to pay Shs2.5m with a promise to pay the rest of the money in installments at a later date.
“I started running the solon in January 2013 after getting some people to assist me with plaiting and treating hair,” she says, narrating the ordeal of the salon business that she had thought would be a profitable business.
After four months of running the salon, Simba had come to the hard reality, failing to even make enough money to pay her bills, notwithstanding the fact that it was always a hustle to get customers.
“You had to basically stand outside the salon or on the street asking every woman passing if they were going to plait their hair,” she says, adding “I have not seen a hard business like operating a salon, especially in Kampala.”
Caught between a rock and a hard place, Simba took a decision and sublet a section of the salon which would allow her to split the Shs750,000 per month for rent fees in addition to other bills for electricity and garbage collection, among others.
But even then money was hard to come by, which forced her to sell off some of her personal property to raise money, part of which she used to renovate the salon.
Entering the milling business
By the end of 2013 she had raised enough to expand into a larger salon but sold it off in March 2016 to pool money that she used to buy shares in a milling business in Kisenyi, Kampala.
However, as fate would have it, the milling machine together with some of her stock was ravaged in a fire that burnt through the milling business area in Kisenyi early this year.
This was an unfortunate turn of events but one that would later become a turning point in her seemingly sorry life.
“Amid all these struggles, I resumed writing and emailed my articles to The Independent. Most of them were never published but I think Andrew Mwenda [The Independent Publications managing director] had begun appreciating my potential. I met him some day and he told me I was a good speaker and writer, who could do well with PR [public relations],” she says, narrating the start of her journey into the PR world.
Earlier, Simba had met and had a chat with Chris Obore [Parliament director of communication] during a conference at Kampala Serena Hotel, where she admittedly picked inspiration into doing PR.
“I had a chance to speak to Obore and told him how I had been inspired,” she says
Unknown to her what started as a simple chat would turn into an opportunity that later landed her a PR role at Parliament.
“In October I received a call from Obore asking if I would take on a public relations training. I could not refuse given the challenges I was going through,” she says.
After five months of training, she was offered a job at Parliament as a public relations officer starting the journey into formal employment.
Simba’s journey has not been without challenges, it is one of determination and patience that she has carefully and patiently weaved.
Apart from the difficulty with balancing school and work, Simba had to learn that the world was never going to favour her as she twice thought of pulling out from both her salon and milling business.
“I had failed to take in the practice of having to pull someone’s hand on into the salon. It was a hard job by itself,” she says.
Beyond that, the events of the milling business were hard to take in given that she had invested all her money in there.
“That was one of the hardest days. I was woken up by a call. The person on the other side sounded cold as he told me the machine and the stock had been burnt,” she says.
FOUR THINGS ABOUT SIMBA
1 Starting the day
Simba wakes up as early 6.30am to prepare for work This, she says, inspires her to do things early enough to organise herself to do other things outside her formal job to allow her get an extra income. By at least 8am she is at office preparing for work that officially starts at 8.30am.
According to Simba, there is fire inside her that keeps telling her that she needs more and “knowing that my mother was not going to provide all I needed, I had to get on my feet and fight hard to provide for myself a life I have always desired”.
3 Four rules game
To Simba there are four rules when it comes to business, dream, focus, turn up and repeat.
“The moment I started the solon with or without money, I would turn up for work. Rain or shine, I was there even if it was for a few hours because business is a relationship you ignore it, it will as well ignore you.”
She also believes that she has the right attitude and that is how she has been able to interact with people who she only grew up seeing on TV and reading about in the newspapers.
Business is like a relationship the moment you do not communicate then it dies. You can be your own salesman and public relations officer. This does not require you to have attained a degree. Use all that is at your disposal to drive yourself where you want to be.