Gladys Buteraba had wanted to do a business outside her office job. The mother of one, a boy aged three years, works as an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) service manager at NTV Uganda.
A few years ago, she tried her hand at selling foodstuff such as Irish potatoes and fruits. The problem with dealing in these edibles was that they were perishable, which Buteraba found quite challenging.
Along the way, she began thinking of what non-perishable product to invest in and possibly, last longer on the shelf. In 2017, an idea struck. “I zeroed down on starting a groundnuts business. The idea was to buy raw ones, roast and then package them for sale,” she says.
Before starting the actual work, Buteraba embarked on planning and research for the business.
Part of the preparation involved sharing the idea with a few family members and friends about the business.
“I had to tell some people about my plans so as to understand their thoughts and ideas. Most of them were very encouraging and urged me to push forward.
Meanwhile, others gave me tips on running the business and eventually stand out in the market,” she says.
Also, Buteraba went out to different communities interacting with members so as to understand what kind of product they wanted to see on the market.
“I was brainstorming with all kinds of people and coming up with different ideas for the business,” she says.
Eventually, she had to sit down to define her product, suppliers, clients, and various channels of distribution.
At hand, she had capital of Shs200,000. The money was injected into product design which included aspects such as coming up with product logo and packaging, among other things.
At the time, Buteraba had a sister-in-law who was a distributor of raw groundnuts. “I shared with her the idea of buying from her a few kilogrammes of groundnuts on credit, then, eventually, when I started selling and making profits, I would pay her back,” she says.
Her sister-in-law consented to the idea. Buteraba was given groundnuts that amounted to about Shs400,000.
Once the product design, branding and logo had been decided on, the real work started.
She employed the services of two women purposely to help with sorting.
In order to minimise costs, she resorted to work from home, her place of residence in Nabweru, a Kampala suburb.
The business officially started in October 2018, calling it Maido. On why she settled for the name, she says, “It is a catchy word and is used in some tribes in Uganda to mean groundnuts.”
According to Buteraba, most interested consumers will find it easy to identify with the product.
Making the product
Besides her sister-in-law, Buteraba has other suppliers, farmers from Iganga and Tororo districts. She buys 100 kilogrammes of groundnuts once every two weeks. The cost of each sack of groundnuts ranges between Shs300,000 and Shs500,000.
The two employees, then do the sorting by removing filth such as stones, and any other kind of dirt from the groundnuts. The sorted groundnuts are then cleaned with water before being dried under the sun. After drying, they are then roasted by Buteraba.
Often times, she puts the groundnuts inside a saucepan and roasts using fire from a charcoal stove.
“Sorting is done during weekends. At least by then, I have time to oversee and supervise the process,” she says.
Previously, her niece, Alice Naikoba, was helping with the packaging but after returning to school for Senior Five, Buteraba had to hire another employee purposely for this role.
Packaging involves carefully measuring designated amounts of the roasted groundnuts into a sealable transparent polythene bag.
Each polythene bag containing the groundnuts is then carefully placed into a brown paper bag.
Buteraba has a contract with someone in Kampala town who makes these brown paper bags.
Packages of 450 grammes cost Shs5,000 each while the ones weighing one kilogramme costs Shs10,000 each.
Juggling office work and business
As Buteraba goes for her office work on weekdays, she ensures to carry at least 14 packages.
“I often carry 10 packs of those weighing 450 grammes and four of those weighing one kilogramme,” she says.
Usually, as she goes about her day in office, she receives orders.
On some occasions, she personally does the delivery (during breaks or when she is a little free). When she is busy, she hires the services of a SafeBoda rider to make the delivery to the client who has to meet the transport.
One time, shortly after starting the business, Buteraba remembers walking into an office trying to market her product. She approached one woman trying to interest her into buying the groundnuts. Her response however perturbed Buteraba.
“I remember she took one of the packages, held it, looked at it and then gave it back to me. Suddenly, she burst into laughter before saying, “how can I buy something I cannot see.” Buteraba recalls of the moment.
Although she was hurt by the woman’s actions, Buteraba preferred not to respond. She simply smiled and walked away, continuing with her marketing business.
“I do not know why she reacted that way, and, rather than sit down and sulk, I was even encouraged to work harder to push the product. In some way, I wanted to diffuse that laughter with success,” she says.
In other words, this incident was a sign to Buteraba that despite the hard work she invests into making the product, not everyone appreciates her efforts.
Among the challenges, there are moments when the groundnuts from a supplier are of poor quality and not actually suitable for consumption.
On such occasions, she does not roast the groundnuts, but, rather checks with another supplier to see if theirs are of better quality. In the past, she has also faced difficulties with some previous workers who do the sorting.
“There have been moments when they do not turn up to work and whenever that happens, I have to sit down and sort the groundnuts myself, sometimes, even doing so after a long day at work,” she says.
While most of the groundnuts are roasted for sale, others are made into paste which is sold off to local shops around the neighbourhood.
Buteraba says there are a number of things she has learnt from running the business. For example, she now knows what it means to operate one’s own business.
“It is not easy being your own boss. There are so many things business owners deal with including setbacks,” she says, adding, “I now appreciate the hustles of other business owners.”
Buteraba says she has now gained more experience of how to deal with both staff employees and customers.
The experience has taught her that one can actually earn income from multiple sources. “You do not have to only depend on your office job for money. There are many ways you can earn a living,” she says.
Buteraba encourages other corporate women to get side jobs that can enable them boost their sources of income.
Be patient and allow the business to grow. Having a slow progress in the beginning of the business does not mean you have failed.
Always find ways of improving your business.
Understand your clients’ needs, and, learn to receive feedback regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
If your business is not doing aswell as expected, you may need to go back to the drawing board to find out what you are not doing right.
Consistence is very important to ensure success of your business. Consistence should be in terms of delivery and quality.
Many times, business owners like shying away from answering questions of how much profit they make from their enterprise.
Gladys Buteraba is one of such individuals. Although she does not want to reveal how much exactly she makes, she gives us hints.
If it is a good day, she sells 20 or more packages (those of 450 kilogrammes). If it is a bad day, she will sell at least 10 packages.
The one kilogramme packages are not bought on a frequent basis. Clients especially those from upcountry or those going abroad buy them once in a while.