In Kireka, a busy township in Wakiso District, Mofi Guest House is tucked away between semi-permanent structures stretched out along Namugongo road.
The guest house has and 16 bedrooms, each with an aerial view of the cluttered township.
On the ground floor is a supermarket and pharmacy facilities that are just a short turn away from the restaurant and bar.
From a wide passageway, Martin Owako emerges before he sends for a chair to take us on the journey into his retirement. Owako retired at 48 years after he had quit his job at Diageo’s Nigerian, South African and Kenyan business units.
For years, he had sold space, automobiles, fast consumer moving goods and coaching salespeople but his heart was somewhere else.
In his last assignment, he had worked at Smile Communications for two and a half years within which he set himself up for strategic investments.
“I stayed outside employment for two years trying to consolidate the family business,” he says.
What the economist and marketer consolidated was Mofi Uganda, a company he had established from sheer sacrifice.
“I was a field sales manager which meant I did not need to touch my salary. For 10 years, I saved 100 per cent of my salary and constructed my guest house,” Owako says.
What he wanted when he was 50 years was to access his withdrawal benefits at National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
Once he received the Shs205m from the Fund, what he did not want was to put his eggs in one basket.
Owako had seen people lose money and a profound look into his business led him to choose to build new businesses while consolidating on old ones. But creating a comfortable retirement life came first.
“I set aside Shs60m for a residential house in Pallisa. Within that place, we fenced off one and a half acres for chicken and turkeys, spending Shs15m on everything. Shs60m was used to purchase a new van for our transport and tours business. We boosted the supermarket with Shs30m which has now given birth to the pharmacy. We used Shs10m to renovate the guest house because customers want a fresh environment all the time,” he Owako says.
Something else about his marketing consultancy became of concern. Occasionally, he was asked why no one had a PhD while bidding for contracts and so he invested Shs25m from his benefits.
“I want to be the top consultant in Africa. Before I complete, the PhD is already helping me earn. So many people are coming with research work. I touch business plans and I am paid,” Owako says.
His marketing expertise enables him to sell his businesses at a low cost, especially in the wake of digital media.
Owako has a lot on his platter as the company struggles with late payment pitfalls, high taxes and quality customer care.
“Clients spend two years without paying us and over Shs20m is out there. So, now we have to be careful who we deal with,” he says, adding: “Taxes are not just high, they are many, from property tax, room tax, rental tax, income tax. Even a signpost is paid for. My fear is that small businesses may not swim through these taxes.”
In the middle of the hurdles, he still manages to quantify his success. He collects revenue of at most Shs6m a month from the guest house.
The tours business brings in at most Shs5m every month while the supermarket rakes in about Shs3m a month.
The restaurant and bar brings in a combined Shs2m per month.
For now, the consultancy earns Shs3m a month. He describes the first harvest from the poultry as “marvelous”. About 100 turkeys were sold in Kampala during Christmas. Each of them fetched an average of Shs130,000, earning him Shs15m. This year, he hopes to sell over 130 turkeys.
Owako retired at 48 years after he quit his job at Diageo’s Nigerian, South African and Kenya.
For years, he had sold space, automobiles, fast consumer moving goods and coaching salespeople.
His last work was at Smile Communications, where he worked for two and a half years before he quit.
According to Martin Owako 50 acres of land have been secured in Pallisa to grow his poultry business.
The poultry business, under Mofi Uganda will open a turkey butchery so that a 10 kilogramme bird earns him Shs200,000.
His plan also includes a new four-storeyed building with a modern bar, restaurant and conference hall on Namugongo road.
The high poverty levels and low illiteracy levels are appalling, he says and have him preparing to set up a secondary school in Pallisa.
Owako today finds himself in constant reflection on what he would be up to at 53.
“I would not have pulled out of employment if not for the benefits. How would I have strengthened my business?” Owako wonders.
God willing, he say, he will save with NSSF for the next 30 years under the voluntary savings arrangement.
In the NSSF Friends with Benefits contest, he is confident of a victorious ending given he is running several successful businesses while pursuing a PhD.
“It is not easy to run a business that closes at midnight, besides several others, and still excel academically,” Owako concludes.
To vote for Martin Owako in the NSSF Friends with Benefits competition, dial *254# or go to www.nssfug.org”