Joseph Kanaaba is the director of Kan Kan Builders Point Ltd which is in the business of supplying construction materials. The point began as a hardware shop in Kitende in 2016 because he thought it wise to have a family business when his wife left formal employment.
“My wife had left formal employment, so I thought a hardware business work as a family business but I was still working as the executive director Youth Alive,” he recalls.
In a bid to effect his dream, Kanaaba got a salary loan from DFCU bank worth Shs118m as initial investment for the business and it was to be serviced in five years.
Making it to the market
The construction supply business is very competitive, according to Kanaaba, “But the requirement for accommodation cannot be met because of the population growth of our country. People are always constructing and thus the need for building materials all the time. The clients will always be available.”
He thinks that one just has to have enough competitive edge in terms of cost for you to outcompete other people.
“Most of the people in the construction space are looking for cheaper material but we decided from the onset that we are not going to be providing poor quality for the sake of being competitive. In the beginning it was challenging but with time, people got used to our building point as a place where you find unquestionably quality and genuine building material.”
Working with brands that have been known for quality for a long time is what has kept his business on market.
He also thinks convenience and comfort are what have revolutioniSed the construction supply business because it is what people want besides quality.
“You can choose your construction material at ease without the risk of being knocked over, Kanaaba says. The customer care, cleanliness and comfort are top priority and what keeps us trending. We deal with steel, cement, adhesives that are self-leveling, decorative finishes, tiles and floor systems, water proofing materials as well as paint.”
Opportunities come to those that have taken the risk and a year after starting operations, he was contacted by Sadolin paints to run their colour centres.
In 2017, Sadolin Paint partnered with Joseph Kanaaba to launch a Shs180m colour centre located at Freedom City, along Entebbe Road – a few kilometers away from Kampala City as a franchise.
The Dutch based company – AkzoNobel Coatings International BV – which is behind Sadolin Paint in Uganda – funded branding and imaging activities of the centre while Kanaaba catered for rent, the setup and stocks of paint costs.
“Our hardware in Kitende was very organized and after evaluation, which included a review of the company documents, recommendations from the bank and financial predictions, I was able to obtain a partnership with the company and the standard payback time was set for six months,” he recalls.
Kanaaba explains that he was able to pay back on time although there was a time when things did not work out well but even still, he would pay back depending on how much he was able to sale.
The colour centres have multiplied over time and he now owns the centre in Ntinda and Nakasero on top of the one in Freedom City and the hardware that still exists in Kitende.
The centres are a real experiential shopping for colour and paint which also offers advisory services on what type of colour one would need for their house and other property basing on location and other specifications.
He says, “Anyone can become a partner as long as they are interested and the amount of paint stock given depends on the amount they can sell. I was also taught how to mix the different colours depending on what the clients want but also from the colour wheel provided by the company.”
Our business in terms of annual turnover is about Shs 3.8bn from an investment of Shs 118m but also we hold big inventories of about Shs 600m at the end of the year.
He expects this to grow even bigger because there is space for the construction supply business to grow.
He is left with two years of servicing the loan and he also left his formal employment to devout his efforts to his growing business because it can now sustain itself and service the loan.
The paint industry is a growing one with increasing demand for even new brands such as wall, roof guards as well as damp shield paint. It is expected to continue growing and is worth investing in, according to Kanaaba.
“And the good thing, he says, is that people now are more aware of what they need and are now sticking to quality. People know when and where to apply particular paint types and more so those that are affected by moist, molds and fungus.”
“I look forward to starting manufacturing industry so that I am able to employ more young people. The target is to help 10,000 young people find something to do because they are the generation of tomorrow. They need to be empowered.
Kanaaba has been able to open up two more colour centres, agent banking at all the centres, start an exporting company and is over joyed by the ability to employ 37 young people in most of his enterprises.
“I know I need money for the business but my joy and dream is to employ as more young people as possible. There are drivers, people that clean, those in the agency banking which are at the different outlets. I want to have an impact on the youth. This is what matters to me. It is more satisfying than having a big bank balance,” he says.
Tips on running a successful hardware
There is growing demand for housing in Uganda each day that passes. Many people are putting up big and small structures and there is a ready market when it comes to construction and building material.
Hardware is a good business idea where many people can invest because the demand continues to grow each day that passes. However, not all hardware stores will be successful unless there are good quality materials.
Kanaaba says, “I made a decision right from the start that I was going to deal with companies that are known for their excellence and quality. Dealing in good quality products has kept my hardware on market. The construction supply industry is a competitive one but you choose what you are offering the clients to outcompete the other suppliers.”
“The materials that we deal in are of unquestionable quality because the construction projects are meant to last for a lifetime.”
High level of organisational planning is very important in making a successful hardware. Know who is responsible for what and also have organised company documents for the expenses and incomes such that even when you want to get a loan from the bank, you can easily get it because of the transparency. It also helps you while doing the financial predictions. This also exhibits your good entrepreneurial skills.
Good customer care
Offering good customer care attracts clients. Once they are treated well, they will always come back even for the smallest items or even refer their friends to your hardware.
“At the colour centres for instance, we offer the clients a chance to choose the colours they want. We help them make informed decisions about how they can come to a certain shade of colour,” he says, adding that, “they make the order when they are seated down and they have assurance from us that the order will be of the exact quantity and quality as they wanted it. It is about comfort.”
With a hardware store, you need to develop a regular stock taking exercise done every fortnight. This will help you evaluate and know which products have a high rate of turnover and those that stay for a long time so you can know what and when to restock.
“You do not want clients to ask for a product and it is out of stock. But also, he says, you will be able to notice any theft by the employees since it is one of the challenges in running a hardware store.
Where your hardware is located should be a big concern. As an estate grows, your hardware business will most likely grow to benefits from customer loyalty but after operating in the area over a long period of time.
Kanaaba says, “It is a good idea to have a store started in a place where people are starting new settlements; more like an upcoming community of people. Start small but remember to choose a market that has enough purchasing power.”
By Beatrice Nakibuuka