I find Betty Nakalanzi busy doing paperwork. In her village, she is referred to as mummy. She is warm and welcoming to all the neighbouring people. The mother of six is struggling to give her children the very best.
You would imagine that at 60 years, one should be resting on the couch or taking walks around the neighborhood. But Nakalanzi spends her time signing papers, checking and clearing off her work.
“I love to work. When I was working at Coffee Marketing Board, I established some businesses in 1991. We were paid twice a month. So I would stock, sell bras and knickers to my colleagues on 15th, of every mid-month so that when they are receiving their monthly salary, they clear me too.”
As fate would have it, Nakalanzi and some other colleagues were laid off from work. Having embrace a saving culture while at work, with a sum of Shs200,000, she started to mill maize for sale after her sister in-law shared how it was a lucrative business.
She adds, at that time, a kilogramme of maize was worth Shs200. “I started with one tonne of maize flour at a small kiosk at Exodus Senior Secondary School that was formerly located in Namungoona. The teachers bought for the children and this pushed me to mill more maize. I also sold 50kgs of beans to them. Every penny that was earned was reinvested and this has seen the business grow from time to time. I have tried several other businesses but the maize milling has stood the test of time- 30 years and still counting. We made sales then that we do lately,” Nakalanzi says.
Nakalanzi says, “I can mill 20 tonnes a day and it takes me one or two weeks to sell off. I have the capacity to even mill 50 tonnes a day depending on the demand. I also sell beans in case a client orders for them.”
Her business, known as, MEB ABLE Maize millers, suffered a setback of Shs280m loss to the South Sudan war. “Most business are boosted by bank loans. However we weren’t harassed by the banks because of the good relationship we had established with them. We keep paying back at our pace until the debt is cleared.”
“High charges on electricity are killing our business. When we are out of season, big players with great amount of capital outcompete small scale farmers. They dictate prices to the farmers and one can’t afford, especially if one is hiring a truck to transport maize from the village.”
“Workers too need great supervision because they are involved in dubious production in the night, which consumes many units of electricity. “It’s hard to delegate because few workers are trustworthy. So I don’t reveal my arrival or departure times. It is normally critical to check at midnight but I can’t be there at night because it is risky. But during the day, I have to keep around.”
A mother of six supplements her husband’s income so that their children could attend better schools. She loves what she does because she sacrificed her happiness to support her family. “I have managed to diversify into other smaller businesses like grinding machine of groundnuts.”
“In addition to that, I look forward to expanding into a full food produce company that produces rice, millet, maize flour and others. She also wants to purchase a truck that can easily transport the produce from the villages to Kampala to reduce high transport expenses.”
She reveals that the greatest pillar upon which business stands is customer care. “It’s the customer care that has lured my clients to keep coming back. Customer care involves offering a drink or lunch to a client as they wait for their flour. They feel ashamed to go to another stall after I have treated them like this. Even when I am not available and a loyal customer comes, just a phone call is enough to have them supplied with whatever they want. If a loyal customer shows up with less money, I still offer them what they ordered for on credit.”
To track her business, Nakalanzi says record keeping is one the things she takes very seriously. “I must know how much maize I have bought, the amount of flour produced, I calculate the output, the costs involved, the profits and losses made.”
She plans to add finished animal feeds to the business in the long run and also engage more in poultry, piggery and goats farming.
“Talk about your business idea with people you trust so that they advise you about it. Don’t keep challenges to yourself. Attend seminars to gain new insights in your business. Associate with others and exchange ideas. For one to venture into milling business, they can start with two tonnes, because currently a kilo of maize costs between Shs1,200-Shs1,500.”
Born to Mr and Mrs Maganyi Cyprian of Jungo village, Kasanje Sub-county in Wakiso District, Nakalanzi went to Jungo Primary School Christ the King Secondary School and later joined Uganda Institute of Information and Communication for a diploma.