When women come together for a common and developmental goal, then there is more reason to smile. A group of women came together and decided to improve their livelihoods by starting an income generating project. This idea of determined women saw the birth of Hopeful Mothers Foundation, which was established in 2018, with an aim of saving, making money and empowering women.,
Among a myriad of business ideas, the group decided to grow mushroom and make crafts for sale. There was one huddle though. Most of these women were not working or those that did, earned peanuts. So, how was this group going to start a business without funds?
Samali Namugaya, the chairperson of the group, says the group drew inspiration from several groups they had visited in different areas and those they watched on television. “We realised women were thriving and improving their standard of living through undertaking projects. We decided to start an income generating project in our community.”
In order to raise capital, Namugaya says members had to commit to weekly savings. “We collected Shs1,000 from each woman every week until we raised enough money to buy craft materials. We also needed money to pay the trainers. We also had to construct the room for growing mushrooms. This is how we started,” says Namugaya.
Although the idea seemed unachievable at the start, considering that the amount saved weekly was low, the group was more than determined to make a difference in their lives. Today, the foundation is fully registered with Nansana Municipality as a community based organisation.
The foundation also opened up a savings account for members to earn interest and daily expenditures are well tracked.
All the group’s earnings are banked and in case there is an expense to meet, three persons; chairperson, treasurer and publicity secretary must sign.” In a drive to improve the livelihoods of members, Namugaya says that they are planning to start a Sacco so that borrowing and saving on a small scale can take-off.
The foundation makes different crafts such as doormats (Shs50,000 – Shs300,000), bags (Shs10,000 - Shs100,000), paper beads products, baskets (Shs7,000 – Shs10,000) among other things. Namugaya says the products are marketed through hawking and trade exhibitions.
Namugaya says the group sells fresh mushrooms in supermarkets. She is however quick to say that but there are times when the mushrooms are in surplus, which requires machines to preserve them. “We also usually seek permission from health centres so that we make the selling of our products legal. Fresh mushrooms go for Shs1,000 to Shs10,000 while dried mushrooms are sold between Shs1,000 and Shs5,000,” she says.
Namugaya says women have learnt how to save. She says “Previously, most of these women never saved which made taking care of their families burdensome. However, with various trainings, we have learnt the benefits of savings.” Women have also been exposed to record keeping skills in business.
“Some customers take long to pay and this disrupts the business operations. Women also need to preserve and dry mushrooms but we lack solar driers to dry the mushrooms while preserving their nutrients,” says Namugaya.
“The Women in Business mentorship has taught us product packaging to meet customers’ expectations, saving and honesty. These have helped us to produce more products, improved the quality of our products and has attracted more clients.”
Namugaya says they are planning to empower more women with business skills in order to improve their livelihoods. “We want more women to come on board. The era of waiting for men to provide everything for the family is long gone. We also intend to add value to our mushrooms.”With more funds, Namugaya believes that they will be able to acquire machines to make their own spawn. “We are also looking at sensitising people in our neighbourhood about the benefits of eating mushrooms. This will increase our client base and ensure that households eat healthier meals,” she says.
Namugaya advises women to start small and to approach customers with a smile. “Be neat and tidy because no one wants to buy from a dirty and disorganised person. Identify your customers’ needs and find ways of solving them.”