Born 27 years ago, all that Kisaakye knew was a life of struggle. Her late father used to run a small pesticide business. Her mother was a stay-at- home mother. When her father, the breadwinner passed on, her life was never the same again.
She went to St John’s Primary School in Bweyogerere and later joined Kireka High School for O-Level and St John’s SS for A-Level. When she joined Kyambogo University, she could not complete the degree course because her mother could not raise the tuition.
“When I dropped out of university, I went to my brother’s shop (Amos Lubega) along Nasser Road in Kampala, to learn how to make books. The six months I spent learning, I was not paid,” she says.
Around the same period, I got pregnant with my first child and decided to stay at home. It was tough financially, because I was always short of money, whenever I needed to work on personal stuff. I thought it would be best if I also contributed to my husband’s income,” Kisaakye reminisces.
Saving every penny
Unlike other stay-at-home mothers who spend whatever sum their husbands give them to cater for food at home daily or monthly, she decided to save part of the money she got from her husband for home use, commonly known as ‘akameeza’.
“For every Shs10,000 I got from my husband, I would save Shs2,000. When I accumulated Shs125,000, I knew this would be enough for a box of papers and would act as my starting capital. It was easy to start because I had mastered almost everything related to making books,” she said.
Her first batch of books
Kisakye says one box of A3 paper contains five reams, each with 500 papers. This makes up 2,500 papers. With these papers, she was in position to make 50 books of 4-quire size. The same box can be used to make 92 2-quire books. According to Kisakye, A 4-quire has 384 pages and an A4 2-quire has 192 pages.
“A large sheet of parchment is used to fold paper several times in order to produce several pages for a book. The term quire is used to describe a set of leaves that are grouped together. A single sheet of paper is folded and cut in order to produce a quire, with four leaves (eight pages, front and back)”, Kisakye explains.
After making the first batch of books, Kisakye started vending her books to friends, family and acquaintances. By 2016, she says she had generated enough money to hire a stall which today houses her business.
Today, she operates a small stationery shop. Besides making books, Kisakye also sells cold drinks and offers mobile money services to clients.
“I was lucky when I won the tender to supply books in bulk to Kikaaya College School and New Chapter Primary School. Although the market is competitive, making bulk sales was my breakthrough,” she notes.
“The kind of goods I sell are seasonal. Parents and students buy books whenever they are going back to school. There are three seasons but the first term is the most profitable one because I can sell up to 2,000 books. With the 4-quire books estimated at Shs45,000, during the peak season, I can make even Shs10m, she notes.
Kisakye says the income came with independence, relief, choice and fewer worries. She is currently working from home, meaning she does not spend on rent fees. She is currently using profits to start other income generating projects
After venturing into an enterprise that many people hardly pay attention to, she explains that losses are minimised, considering that books have a long shelf life and quite a huge demand.
“Even in your neighbourhood, no matter how poor they are, they will still need books for their children or grandchildren everytime they are returning to school. That is a business opportunity. You don’t need to sit in an office to earn,” she says.
She says she works on more than 2,500 books during holidays and her dream is to stretch to 10,000 in the next two years.
“A few years ago, the price of a box of paper was worth Shs125,000.
Today, we buy it at Shs170,000. But that is not the only raw material. To make one book, it takes a three-minute process of obtaining A3 plain papers from Nasser Road, having them ruled, folded in sets of 9 papers for a 4-quire before they are woven together. After that, one needs a hard piece of paper called a board, marble and synthetic leather cover and glue. The books are then trimmed before they are packed for sale,” Kisakye explains the process of making quire books.
“ A box of boards, which I used to buy at Shs18,000 is now at Shs40,000. This box can make 200 books. All these inflated costs of raw materials are pushing the costs of books higher.” Kisakye says this partly explains why some book sellers cheat clients by selling smaller books than expected.
“Life requires choosing what is best for you and I found mine in making books. I am currently training four other people to make books. Growing up, I did know I would turn out this way. Today, I am optimistic that my hopes and dreams can be fulfilled through this book making business,” she said.