“One day, I returned from work to a house devoid of a househelp, in November 2017. My children were all alone, cold and hungry. I had no idea why she had left and where she fled to. But I thanked God because my children were safe,” Mariah Lubwama recollects.
Because she had an office job, she had to work regardless of what had happened. Lubwama took her children to their grandmother for a week and concentrated on work.
How her idea was born
Lubwama says: “During this week, I would physically be present at work but I kept thinking about the safety of my children. I thought of business ideas that I would invest in without necessarily leaving my children in the hands of strangers. The idea of starting a daycare centre kept on reechoing in my mind.”
While she wanted the business to takeoff, she needed more information on how such a business works, capital, rent, and needed to generate a business plan to give her day care business a sense of direction.
She says: “I did research and I discovered that many parents, especially mothers, were facing the same predicament similar to mine. I realised that I would keep my children and those of my neighbours safe by taking good care of them during the day.”
At the back of this business idea was the joy that Lubwama experienced working with children. Starting out, she considered her home as a homely and conducive environment to take care of children.
By the end of December 2017, Lubwama tendered in her resignation. Armed with determination, in January 2018, she opened her business doors to the public and during the launch, she had four children aged between six months and two years plus her own. The venture progressed because her first clients referred their friends to her day care centre-Mother Mary Kids Academy, located in Najjanankumbi.
She says: “At that point, I started thinking about expansion. More clients meant more space. I also had a challenge. Besides ensuring that my clients’ children were safe, I needed to provide an additional service of teaching them and creative ways of keeping them busy through the day.”
Lubwama fell back to the Shs2m savings she had accrued while saving with a group of friends when she was still employed. However, she realised that she needed to top up to meet the operational costs of the day care centre. She says she obtained a loan worth Shs3m from the bank. As numbers continued to increase, she started scouting for bigger premises. “Early this year, I got a bigger place in Najjanankumbi, the new premises of the day care centre,” she says.
Lubwama says she has reserved and registered her business name, Mother Lubwama Kids Academy, with Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). “Since the business is new, there is a lot I have to put in place in order to be fully registered. I have also liaised with a team from Ministry of Education and Sports, as well as KCCA and they gave me time to ensure all the requirements are put in place for the smooth running of the business.”
Apart from monetary benefits, Lubwama gets an emotional reward of nurturing her dream business. “Taking care of children is a fun activity. It makes me forget most of my troubles. Unlike office jobs where you worry about your boss, deadlines, mistakes, getting fired any time, this job gives me emotional stability. As a mother, I get to spend a lot of time with my children, which is more fulfilling,” Lubwama narrates.
According to Lubwama, one of the essential tools in marketing her school is by word of mouth. She augments that with fliers, brocures, and banners.
She says: “Parents are everywhere and so every opportunity I get to interact with parents, I talk about my day care center. Networking and referrals are other ways through which we have been getting children. But we are planning to host an open day event to create awareness about the school.”
Lubwama reveals: “No care taker can ever assume absolute control over all the children’s movements and actions all the time. While we do our best to minimise risks, minimal accidents happen and parents hardly buy into explanations.”
While survival of this business entirely depends on how much parents trust a given business proprietor, Lubwama says building trust among parents is another huge challenge and takes a lot of time.
Other challenges she faces include finances needed to meet operational costs of the day care centre, retention of qualified staff who are constantly yearning to earn more regardless of whether the business is hardly making any profits or not.
Despite all these challenges, Lubwama is optimistic that she will overcome and even soar to greater heights.
Women in Business
Through Women in Business programme, Lubwama says she has learnt how company culture affects any business, how to manage staff, finances, her personal and professional development in general. “Through this programme, I have interacted with other business owners who have shared their journey and exchanged knowledge with me,” Lubwama emphasises.
Lubwama says: “I am planning to make gradual investments in the business in the coming years. I am sourcing for funds to acquire assets to improve our services.”
She adds: “We need a van to transport children, more scholastic materials and playing equipment to enhance the overall learning experience of our children. The classrooms will need expansion and renovation to accommodate increasing numbers. I also plan to open a new branch in future to capture a larger marketshare.”
Lubwama urges women to start small, invest in continuous learning (learn from others) and be ready to try out new things. “Business is all about risking. Know how much you are willing to risk and what you will do to be successful. There is always market for a quality product,” Lubwama advises.