From poverty to employment: How some youth got themselves jobs

In Part VI, the last part of the series, we bring the stories of youth who have managed to find employment, or improved their businesses after training with Enterprise Uganda. This was under the Northern Uganda Youth Entrepreneurship Project. The stories show people who have found opportunities where many see none.

Friday August 29 2014

Ms Catherine Obote says the youth should not wait for

Ms Catherine Obote says the youth should not wait for the government to create them jobs. They should start small income-generating activities. Women need to make better use of little cash that comes their way.”  

By Josline Adiru, Simon Emwamu & Bill Oketch

‘I started a business with Shs3,000’

Mary Abalo is a mother of one and a second-hand clothes vendor in Pece Vanguard, Pece Division, in Gulu Municipality. She is happy with her work and is clearly doing well.

But things were not always like this. In 2001, her husband, who was the sole bread winner in the family, passed on. Life got tough and she realised she needed to find a way to make a living. And so she started her business with only Shs3,000 as her initial capital.

“I decided to start selling green vegetables [locally known as boo], because of its high demand in the area and also as a way of creating employment for myself. My earnings were not so profitable, but at least it used to sustain the family and on good days, I would earn Shs12,000. I saved Shs4,000 each week,” Abalo says.

When her savings grew to Shs200,000, Abalo, in 2005, started selling matooke. She would get it from West Nile region and sell them at Gulu main market.

“Business at the main market was competitive and most of the customers wanted quality products, I was able to capture their attention since my matooke was good. This made me get higher sales.” Abalo says from her daily sales at the market, she made sure that she saved Shs10,000 every week.

In 2006, she started selling second-hand dresses for women with an initial capital of Shs600,000 that she had saved from the previous business.

“At that time, I had the capital to do a bigger business, however, I was limited in business skills,” she says. This hurdle was jumped when she went for a workshop on entrepreneurship. In October last year, she attended a one-week business skills training that was conducted by Enterprise Uganda.

“I heard over the radio, about free training skills workshop that Enterprise Uganda was going to conduct for the youth within the district. I registered and to the date, I am reaping from the acquired skills.

I have since then invested Shs1m in produce business specialising in selling cereals like beans, maize, groundnuts, sorghum and millet, that doing quite well on the market,” she says.

Rearing local breed chicken is another business she is doing that supplements on her incomes. “I started with only two chickens early this year that I bought at Shs11,000 and within six months, they have increased to 11. If I sell them at the current market price, I will earn Shs210,000.”
On average, Abalo gets Shs1m in profit every week, from selling cereals.

She says she has been able to pay her son’s school fees in one of the best boarding schools in Bunyoro region and also provides all the basic needs in the family without any difficulty. “Soon I will not be renting,” she boasts. “I have been able to purchase a piece of land where I will soon put up a shelter.”

There are still some challenges she faces. She needs more capital for her business to grow, in order to realise good profits. She also laments the taxes imposed by the Gulu Municipal authorities, saying they are hefty.

But that is not putting her down and she has even bigger plans. She hopes in the next five years, to supply most of the traders in Gulu main market and others in the region with cereals and venture into commercial farming.

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