Monday July 28 2014

A lesson in honesty, hard work and creativity


By Carol Beyanga

Rehema is a 20-something woman who lives in Kyaliwajjala. She is a shopkeeper, dealing in mostly cereals like rice, beans, posho and other such stuff. When the shop opened, there was only one sack of rice, one sack of posho and another of sugar. It looked quite empty actually.

But as the weeks went by, Rehema added one thing after the other. She bought washing soap, toilet paper, salt, some food spices and a few other things.

Once the community around got to know her shop existed, they started to buy and the money started coming in. But Rehema did not settle for that.

Having walked around other shops, she had noticed that a fridge could bring in a bit of money. Many people who worked around there always stopped by shops that had fridges to buy water and sometimes soda.

Rehema decided that was what she needed next. She placed a call to her employer and begged that they get a fridge.

Her employer saw the sense in it but asked her to hold on as they looked for money to buy one. Rehema was relentless. She kept asking and pleading for one.
Finally the fridge was delivered to her shop on a Friday afternoon. It was old but it worked well. She was happy. She stocked it with boiled water in buveera, as well as mineral water.

She also put in it soda. Days later, someone asked if she had bushera. She did not. But the next day when another customer came calling for bushera, they found it. She had made some during the night. To that, she also added slices of pineapple.

Rehema also figured out that if people came to buy a drink and sat outside her kiosk to take it, they would be tempted to buy a cake or some biscuits too. She started buying those too.

In the meantime, the sale of rice especially, was picking up. The faster it went, the happier she was, of course. But when she got three-quarter way the sack, a new problem presented itself. The rice at the bottom had many stones.

Customers started complaining. One of her good ones, who usually bought more than five kilos at a time once came into the shop and ordered for six kilos, then she remembered that the last time she bought some, it had stones.

She complained and told Rehema she was going elsewhere, but unlike many business people in this part of the country who just give you a bored look when you complain about their services, Rehema apologised and told the woman to go run her errands and come back in a few minutes to pick the rice.

She was going to clean it. The woman found that agreeable and when she came 20 minutes later, the rice was clean. Rehema was able to keep her customer.

Rehema is happy. She is not making profits yet, but she believes she will get there soon. At least this is much better than the previous business she had, selling clothes. That had started out well but suddenly declined and she had to close shop.

She remained without a regular job for seven months, before her employers got her to do what she currently does. She does not earn that much yet, but what she gets is enough to pay the rent and bills and keep her moving.

But Rehema is dreaming big. Right now, she wants to buy many more items to put in her shop so as to attract more customers, and of course get more money.

But in some years’ time, she always tells the madam (her employer), she would like them to have a supermarket. She smiles as she says this, believing deeply, that it is possible.

Every time I talk to Rehema, I go away with a lesson in honesty, hard work, creativity and gratefulness. And I hope, like Rehema, that we will one day have that supermarket.