About five years ago, Ms Priscilla Ray, was one of Kampala’s socialite models. Seeing her do the catwalk like other top models in the world, one would be convinced she was the epitome of her career in the modelling industry. Yet to her, it was just a season in her life.
“Modelling was just a seasonal thing and that’s not what I wanted to be in life,” the 28-year old entrepreneur recalls.
Ms Ray says she was motivated by the fear of being an ordinary person and this pushed her to work hard.
Birth of the idea
With her shared goal of doing business and improving others’ welfare, Ray turned her friend’s frustration about poor quality diapers into a business.
Two years ago, her friend, also a first-time mother, was agitated about how her baby’s diapers would leak in addition to being uncomfortable.
Although Ray could not help immediately, that ordeal was the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey.
“She was always complaining about the quality of diapers that would leak,” Ms Ray recalls.
That is how she considered the idea of making baby diapers that would address the above woes.
From this experience, it was clear that Ray was interested in working on important social problems as well as making money.
She then started researching about diapers on the market.
“I moved through Kikuubo in Kampala where I talked to retailers, distributors and wholesalers –asking them about what brand was popular. This took me nine months,” she said.
Transforming the idea into business
After the research, Ms Ray hopped onto a plane to Thailand to find which factory would help her make the diapers according to her specifications.
“I found Thai factories expensive and it was hard to convince them about making diapers according to my specifications. So I failed to sign up with them,” she recalls.
Luckily, she had a friend who lived in China. Ray’s friend helped her do a research on which factories that manufacture quality diapers.
In January this year, she went to China to visit the seven-factories which her friend had identified.
She however adds: “Some of the factories wanted me to be like a trader, just buy whatever brands they had, others gave me bigger orders yet this was expensive for me. I later narrowed it down to two factories which were willing to fit into my specifications and do what I wanted”.
She carried some of the brands sold on the Ugandan market as samples for testing.
“I wanted to make money without compromising on quality,” she said.
When she signed up with the factories to start implementing her dream, she came back to Uganda together with her brand managers.
Knowing that design is about making things better helped her select the colour, packaging style and name of the brand—Wellness diapers.
“I went back to China and started manufacturing the diapers. I stayed there for almost a month until the production of the first batch of diapers to production,” Ms Ray shares.
Ms Ray’s secret behind the name Wellness Diapers was something related to the comfort of the child.
She adds that muchas this was going to be a Ugandan product, she would not look out for a local name but something that would appeal to customers not only within Uganda, but also the region and Africa.
Having been on the market for more than two-months now, Ms Ray is over-whelmed by the response of Wellness diapers from customers.
“I was worried about how people would perceive my products-knowing that Ugandans are so biased about any local tailored products. Many still have that belief that Ugandan products are inferior and believe in foreign made products,” she notes.
The diapers have received positive responses from customers, thanks to her direct involvement in marketing them. She moves to different retailers dropping samples of her products.
Ms Ray’s products are packaged in small, medium, large and extra large sizes and each pack contains 10 to 22 diapers ranging from Shs5500-(10pack) and the largest pack costs Shs14,000 to Shs16,000 wholesale price.
She makes special orders which are shipped and for the last two months, she has brought in about five 40-foot containers.
Investment and market
So far, Ms Ray has invested more than Shs200 million and employs 10 people who help her sell and distribute the products in Kampala.
Her products are present in Game Stores, Embassy Supermarket, John Rich Supermarket, Supermarkets in Entebbe, Kikuubo and Supermarkets in and around Kampala and Mukono.
She believes that once she satisfies demand in Kampala, it will be easier to venture into other parts of the country.
Given that her product has been on the market for a few months, it is still hard to tell how much money she makes on average in a month because whatever she gets is reinvested into the production of other diapers.
She intends to diversify into other sanitary products such as pads and establish a factory in Uganda in two years.
While advertising her products on television enables people know her products, it takes a toll on her earnings.
“Putting up adverts to run for only two-months on television at a cost of Shs70 million is costly for someone like me who is just starting,” Ms Ray said.
That Ray’s Wellness diapers have to compete with so many other brands makes business challenging.
“Some of these diapers are not certified by Uganda National Bureau of Standards and SGS-an international certification body. Certification alone is expensive because one has to spend Shs7 million just to comply,”she says.
Paying up all the import taxes involved plus the local taxes imposed by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) for Ms Ray who is just starting business, is a challenge.
“I have spent taxes more than Shs20 million on only one container in addition to the KCCA off-loading charges when one is delivering the products to the clients. To make it worse, these charges are paid multiple times depending on the deliveries I make in a day,” she says.
The 28-year-old is the third born to a Mutooro mother and Italian Father. She started school at Jack and Jill for her nursery, went to Shimoni School, Kitante Hill School and Kampala International University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration. Ms Ray immediately joined UK’s West Minister’s University for a Masters in International Business Administration.