Making ends meet through ushering

Saturday November 9 2019

Sylvia Mbabazi, the proprietor of the business.

Sylvia Mbabazi, the proprietor of the business. PHOTO by Joan Salmon. 

By Joan Salmon

For many years, Sylvia Mbabazi contemplated on many business ideas but somehow, she could not zero on one. Three years ago, after tossing and turning the idea of ushering at events, she was convinced this is the kind of business she wanted to do to earn a living.
“In March 2018, I shared my business idea with my friends- a group of 10 women. Fortunately, they bought the idea. We discussed what we need to kick-start the business- uniforms, nice pairs of shoes, openers and how to market our business. I was also open to learning new ideas and mingling with people in my field of interest,” Mbabazi speaks about turning the idea to reality.

Mbabazi and her team one of the events the

Mbabazi and her team one of the events the ushered at in Kampala. COURTSEY PHOTOS

Inspiration
Mbabazi’s love for ushering was unrivalled. She says she does the ushering work passionately even without expecting any returns because she enjoy it. Mbabazi believes that someone who does what they love is likely to yield better results than when they do it out of need.

Capital
“We started with Shs400,000 which was collected by 10 women I work with. We needed to procure a uniform that we would use to usher at a friend’s wedding. The first five functions we ushered at were for free. These offered us a gateway to referrals and this is how we got our first clients. When the money started coming in, we were very excited. The first payment we got was Shs400,000. We shared amongst all members and we reserved Shs100,000 to buy tags, openers, and umbrellas to make ushering service better.”
However, the team did not settle for ushering only because events are periodic. “After a brainstorming session on how to make more money, in October last year, the team decided to venture into make-up services. “Our first client, a bride, paid us Shs200,000 to provide make-up services for her bridal entourage. We used that money to buy our first make-up products,” Mbabazi recollects.
She says just like in the ushering business, they employed the same marketing tactic of offering free make-up services at the start.

The journey
Mbabazi says: “I believe in humble beginnings and over the years, I have gained numerous skills. I always yearn to learn something new or a new skill. When I pick interest in something, I look for means of learning and practice it until I am good at it.”
She says she started doing make-up in 2015 without any knowledge about foundation and other make-up products. She started making up her friends for free. “Because I did it every day, I perfected the skill. Even with bridal makeup, the outcome keeps getting better,” Mbabazi reveals.
In her ushering business, Mbabazi works with a group of women and men from her church. Operating under Dary bakers, The Usher’s Touch also offers decoration services on different functions. “In our church, the team that ushers also can decorate perfectly well at different functions. A number of us can do make-up, plaiting and hair styling. Those were the opportunities we needed to exploit to make money.”

Marketing
From the services Mbabazi and her team offer, their clients recommend them to other potential clients. “We also use social media platforms and to share our works with the world,” Mbabazi shares.

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Achievements
Mbabazi shares that through the services they offer, she has networked and made useful connections. She also prides in having original make-up kits and cosmetics which enable them to offer quality services. “We have also been able to usher at big functions because our services are trusted,” she shares.

Mentorship programme
Mbabazi shares that the mentorship training has encouraged them to remain focused on their business plans. They have also learnt to continuously look out for business opportunities. The programme has also acted as a platform for Mbabazi to meet and exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs.

Challenges
Just like any other business, Mbabazi says they are exploring means of expanding, relocating and improving their services. She adds: “Many people today have ventured into ushering and make-up services. The competition is stiff but the only way to overcome is through offering quality, unique and affordable services.”

Future plans
Mbabazi together with her team are planning to train more ushers, increase visibility and expand services to every part of the country.
advice
“As long as you have a picture of what you want in mind, Mbabazi believes nothing should stop or limit you from fulfilling it. “I encourage everyone to take action, do not procrastinate, and it is okay to start small but do not stay small.” Mbabazi also urges women never to compare their success to others but learn to celebrate success at every level of life. “If you cannot appreciate the small successes, how will you celebrate the bigger milestones?

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