In 2015, Uganda ranked top of the world’s most entrepreneurial countries, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report. However, although 28 per cent of Ugandans start businesses, these do not live to see their first anniversary. It is against this backdrop that Alexander Kyokwijuka, 29, a business development management consultant, trainer, CEO and an author of, How to start a business in 10 days, shares his journey of starting businesses, the pitfalls he suffered and the eventual lessons he has learnt. Having started his business journey in 2012 as a first-year student at Makerere University, after a friend interested him in the prospect, Kyokwijuka found himself doing his very first business – piggery farming.
“I had attended a workshop and we had been given allowance of Shs200,000. When I asked my friend about what kind of business I could do with my money, he told me about his piggery project. I bought two piglets each at Shs80,000 and I put them at his farm. Every weekend, we would buy feeds, he could also collect leftover food for them, and within seven months, they were ready to breed,” Kyokwijuka explains.
Each of the two sows had eight piglets, which he sold and retained only three. “By the time I finished campus, I had around 10 mature pigs. I had to move out from the hall of residence at university, so I sold all the pigs, which gave me Shs1.6m and as a young man, this was exciting money. I used it to rent a house, buy a few household items and that was the end of my first business,” he narrates.
The challenge, like Kyokwijuka would later admit, was that he did not think about a sustainability plan. Soon, he went into paid employment as a professional teacher, earning a little money, then ventured into chapatti business.
“I got a place in Kawempe, paying Shs30,000 in rent. I got a young man from the village, bought all the things we needed and I expected him to send me Shs10,000 every evening. Shortly, this became challenging because I didn’t understand the business. The business was in losses, I got frustrated,” he notes.
He soon abandoned this to start another business selling paper to stationery shops around Makerere University. “One thing I did not realise were the other costs involved that I didn’t take into account, and the clients who wouldn’t pay me. But again, it was not enough money I needed to survive,” he shares. Four months down the road, he was back to job searching.
“I was gradually becoming a professional in starting and failing in businesses. But I also realised the mistakes I was making in my former businesses,” he says.
Shortly, he got into employment at the Management Training and Advisory Centre as an instructor only to return to business in 2017, this time, at a better start.
“I started Brookings Institute, which was meant to be a training and consultancy firm operating to give tailor-made skills through training and building competences to working students and corporate employees,” he says. Two years later, he is planning to start another company, HTB Holdings, which also forms the basis of his book, How to start a business in 10 days where he shares his experience of being an entrepreneur.
What he did better
“For the last six months, I was on a journey of starting this business having understood that starting a business is a process,” he says.
Kyokwijuka further notes that one must understand what business is. It is one’s ability to identify that there is a gap and be able to fill that gap, and those that benefit from it pay for the service. He says after understanding what business is and identifying a business opportunity, there are eight vital things you need to do to succeed.
Ask yourself whether you have what it takes to do business. Are you for example, someone who can easily talk to people, can you endure losses, handle pressure and stress? Can you convince someone to eat something that they had not planned to eat?
If you do not have these qualities, try reading, learning from people who do business, and information on social media, among others.
There are very many ideas but there are ideas that make business sense. That is one which everyone sees they need.
Once you have an idea, then get to planning. Lay out a blue print of how you want to get this idea, into the market and get people to buy it. Set milestones you think you are going to achieve in form of steps that have time limits. And in business, this dream is ideally to make profit.
Part of planning is doing market research to understand your prospective clients.
Know what people are buying, and from whom. What are they doing or not doing well because that gives you room to improve.
You must find a way to sustainably manage employees, suppliers, and clients.
Formalise your business with the necessary paperwork. Running a business that is not registered does not only cripple you, but it is illegal.
Then think about financial planning. Businesses run on money, so any business that is not liquid is susceptible to closing soon. A proper financing plan should therefore be in place. The idea here is not to spend more than you earn.
Most people say they do not have capital, yet this should be the last thing on the list of the process. You can then think about savings, a bank loan, and a friend who can lend you money, a partnership or getting investors. Partly, the failure to sustain the business we have today is because people do not pay attention to the process of starting a business. But if the business’ start-up journey is incomplete, then you have a lot of firefighting to do so that the business does not meet a still birth.