Olive Kigongo: Taking advantage of a gap to start a business

Saturday December 29 2012

Olive Kigongo: Taking advantage of a gap to start a business

Olive Kigongo, the proprietor of Amagara Skin Care products. File photo. 

By Esther Oluka

One of the things that will strike you first about Olive Kigongo, the proprietor of Amagara Skin Care products, is her flawless smooth skin.

Her face hardly has a spot on it. When I inquire about some of her beauty secrets, she simply tells me it is using natural skin care beauty products, with the majority being from her own line of Amagara Skin Care brand.

Starting out
Kigongo ventured into making Amagara products back in 2008 because she wanted to prove to her clients that herbal products could actually make one’s skin smoother and healthier. On the other hand, the mother of five felt that it was about time a woman broke into making standardised beauty and skin care products, since very few women had dared venture there at the time.

“Most women in this country invest their money in salons, bakeries, restaurants, and boutiques. It is quite rare to find one saying that she is venturing into making beauty and skin care products,” she explains.

“Therefore, I wanted to set an example to the other women that we can actually do this and all that it takes is a strong will, determination and faith that the business will pull through,” she adds.

A purely home-made product
The beauty care products, ranging from body and face creams, to hand gels and shower creams, are all made here in Uganda from natural fruit, vegetable and other plant extracts, all sourced from Ugandan farmers. “The manufacturing process is done in Uganda at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, and it is made for the African skin. We only use plants, no chemical compounds are added, save for preservatives, which help lengthen the products’ shelf life,” says Kigongo.

That these products, rightly tagged “Fresh from our farmers garden to your skin”, are right from scratch made from Uganda, is not by accident, as Kigongo, the director for Amagara Skin Care, admits, “I’m happy to have finally given back to my community something of good quality and international standards.”

The challenges
The skin care products were officially introduced to the Ugandan market this year, at the launch of the Mosa Courts apartments, another of Kigongo’s business ventures. However, as much as individuals, especially women, are starting to appreciate the value of such luxuries as beauty products particularly those made locally, Kigongo asserts that the journey has not been all rosy, more so in the beginning.

“I just did not know where to start since I had little capital at hand and a very small support team at the time of inception,” she narrates. However, it was a visit to the Uganda Industrial Institute in Nakawa in 2009 that changed everything. There, she was encouraged to go ahead and inact her idea and, most importantly, involve her family members so that they could support her.

The power of networks
“My children introduced me to a small group of Makerere University students doing industrial chemistry. It was these who helped me carry out the research regarding the products,” Kigongo says.

While the students went on with the research, Kigongo was making visits to different rural regions around the country, looking for farmers who could supply her with the different plants that she would use in the manufacturing products. She was able to spot potential suppliers from Masaka, Kasese, Mbarara and Fort Portal. “After seeing their ripe and succulent fruits, I decided to bring them on board as my suppliers because I knew theirs were definitely the best for making the skin care beauty products,” she says.

And thus was the beginning to a business story that can now be rightly termed a success as the products, promising to breathe new life into your skin, are now spread all over the market on supermarket shelves, priced between Shs15,000 and Shs25,000.

It is a story fellow women can learn a thing or two about bravery, deciding on which business to venture into or beauty lessons.