When the news broke that Uganda had registered a Coronavirus case, there was panic and uncertainty.
Closing public transport made life hard for many of those that commute to work daily and as a consequence, working from home became inevitable.
It may even be the new norm in the foreseeable future. For Rose Sandra Nabaggala, a beauty queen and national woodball player, it was time to step up work on her liquid soap making enterprise under the brand of Pearl Liquid Soap.
This is part of the efforts started in 2017 as a project of Miss Tourism queens. Busoga Tourism Minister Hellen Namutamba is the brain behind the project and offers the three leading women from the Miss Tourism Busoga franchise a skilling opportunity.
Namutamba motivates the girls by giving them start-up materials before they can go on their own.
“She offers her house in Kira to help us make our liquid soap yet even for marketing we deliver with her vehicle free of charge,” Nabaggala says.
Nabaggala, who is Miss Tourism Talent 2019/20, second runners-up Miss Tourism Busoga 201/20 and Miss Pearl Eastern 2018/19, is undertaking the project with the reigning Busoga Miss Tourism Phionah Kyeru at Namutamba’s residence in Kira, Wakiso District.
“The quarantine came at the right time when we had mastered liquid soap making,” Nabaggala says.
Finding a job after graduation is always big headache even for queens.
On March 13, Nabaggala’s beautiful face was used for the 21st graduation ceremony bulletin of Ndejje University. She had graduated with a bachelors in Journalism and Mass Communication. Yet in the meantime, it is her soap-making project that is making her wallet smile.
“I never knew that liquid soap is made from basic things such as salt. These skills will be helpful in the future. Actually, it does not matter what you studied at university. I am yet to get a job but I am already enjoying the benefits of being financially independent. If you want to get money never mind about the kind of job you are doing.”
She says proper planning will enable her to continue with the project. “I have time for everything. Woodball is normally played over the weekend. I can even mix soap in the night when I have a tight schedule. By the way, even students at university can do it to earn an extra shilling. It only takes a timetable to know when to do what,” she says.
Nabaggala adds that it took her just two days to learn the basics of liquid soap making.
“There are people who would like to learn from me and I am going to charge a small fee share this knowledge,” says Nabaggala.
Nabaggala feels determined and empowered through increased income. She confidently states that during this period of Covid-19, orders have increased exponentially averaging sales of 100 litres a day.
“There are many people who cannot access sanitisers and are turning to soap,” she says.
Health professionals advise that the best way to clean hands is by washing for at least 20 seconds.
While hand sanitiser has been harder to find lately, soap has the mechanical disruption to rid hands of the virus. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends soap and water because the process is better at killing certain types of germs including coronavirus.
“This pandemic has helped me earn a living by working from home,” Nabaggala says “because so many people need soap not only for washing hands but also other house chores. We are glad that we make disinfectants too,” she said about the portfolio of their production.
Conventional marketing is not possible at the moment and Pearl Liquid Soap is thriving on the online market. “We are so connected these days and we take orders online with payments via mobile money,” she says. “We proceed with the order after someone has paid for their products.”
A 20-litre jerrycan of liquid soap is available at Shs35,000 with large orders subsidized to Shs30,000. They offer free delivery around Kampala and specifically Jinja for orders of more than 200 litres. Although the sales have grown, she says they miss out on some clients especially those that need small quantities in 10 or 5 litres.
“Normally, people who need soap for domestic use would need smaller quantities and we are missing out on that money.”
Raw material headache
Covid-19 and her sport
Apart from modelling, woodball, a Chinese version of golf, is her passion. Nabaggala was the leading player for the women’s team at the Second Beach Woodball World Cup last year that won gold at Spennah Beach. The number four ranked player in the country partnered Denise Nanjeru, Joyce Nalubega and Joan Mukoova for the triumph.
The Ndejje University Woodball star came to learn of Covid-19 while travelling from Kampala to Jinja.
“I had just recorded my video encouraging people to wash hands when I learnt of Coronavirus in other countries. But when a new case was announced in Uganda I was scared that the Pearl of Africa was at risk too. It only reminded me that these days are similar to the Israelite time when they had sinned against God in Egypt and he sent them plagues. It is time that we repent. I believe God wants to show us that He is God.”
She is now dedicating her time to fulfilling liquid soap orders with training on hold.
“Even though in woodball you can train alone, I have suspended training. First, there is no way I can get to Ndejje for training. But even our calendar is on a standstill. Yet this is a time to be serious with prayer and trying to make ends meet from home,” she notes.
Nabaggala was racing against time to make the cut for the national team after finishing eleventh in the national trials in early March. The team was set to represent Uganda at the Woodball World Cup in Perlis, Malaysia in July.
The tournament has since been suspended. Four days prior to President Museveni’s ban on sports activities, she had been part of the participants at the 10th edition of the Kyambogo Open Woodball Championship.
“Our leaders are doing a great job. We should follow instructions and pray for those already suffering with the virus. For us we should stay home. Don’t go out unless you really have to.”
Liquid soap is usually made with the hot process method, the soap ends up liquid because a different type of lye is used (potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide) and more water is added. Liquid soaps are typically off-white to amber coloured, depending on the oils used. Most liquid soaps are clear or mostly clear. As a side note, most commercial “liquid soap” or “soft soap” is not true soap; it is made with synthetic detergents.
Nabaggala advises against closing shops that supply detergent manufacturers with raw materials.
“When the arcades were closed last week, we ran out of raw materials. But such essential products need to be available. If we are telling people to wash hands, then liquid soap raw materials should be considered essential as many people cannot afford sanitisers,” she notes.
She adds that: “we should stay positive in these times. It is time we pray to God and repent. God is surely with us. Everything will be okay.”.