When not in the production room, Atuhurra spends some time in her garden. She grows pepper and banana to suppliment her income. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON

|

How sanitary pads turned around Atuhurra’s life

What you need to know:

  • Marjorie Atuhurra’s business started when she noticed a young girl trying to use a banana leaf as a pad. She has since grown the enterprise into a profitable one.
     

Talking to Marjorie Atuhurra, I wish I had met her in person because the stern face in the photo does not carry the intensity of the passion I hear in her voice. 

At 19 years, while pregnant, she ran away from home because she did not want to become an example of one that had wasted resources. 

“I ran away from home (Matugga) and found refuge in the rural women of Mpigi District because I had seen the disappointment in my father’s eyes my mum said she did not have anything to do for me after telling them about the pregnancy. Reaching out to an uncle friend, he told me of a new college; Social Innovation Academy that was starting and advised me to apply for a trainer position where thankfully, I was accepted. Without a mother to advise me on how to look after myself during pregnancy, these women taught me all I needed to know,” she shares about her past. 

However, with time, she started falling sick regularly and consequently lost the trainer position and thankfully, these women took care of her the best way they could. Alone in her one roomed house, Atuhurra was privileged to have caring siblings who visited her behind their parents’ back. It was these that told her parents that they might just totally lose her, prompting them to come for her. 

How she started  
However, even after giving birth, the bond that Atuhurra had made with this community saw her return, if not to find her purpose among them, at least to start a life of her own.

It was here (2015), in yet another one roomed house that she was approached by a young girl whose parents wanted to marry her off after Primary Seven. “Prossy desired to return to school which was against her parents’ wishes. I counted my chances of lending a helping hand in my state and vowed to try,” says Atuhurra. 

Facing the elders in Prossy’s home, Atuhurra assured them that she was taking her under her wing. Met with opposition, she soldiered on promising the young girl to return her to school in 2016 if she helped her take care of her child. However, one day she saw Prossy fidget in one corner with a burnt banana leaf and on inquiring what was going on, Atuhurra learned that it is what her mother had taught her about dealing with periods.

“To say that I was shocked is an understatement because I could not imagine how a banana leaf would help. That night, I went to a friend from whom I borrowed Shs60,000 to make for Prossy pads,” she shares. Very early the next day, Atuhurra was in Owino market buying material to help the young girl.

Blessing in disguise 

Putting her pain aside was a virtue that would help her through her business journey because on that day, Gejja Women Foundation, an NGO was birthed in her mind.
In the beginning, aware that Prossy was a representation of what the girls in the community were going through, Atuhurra and the team started making pads and giving them to the girls. 

“The beautiful thing is that I had learnt tailoring so I could now put it to use. Moreover, well-wishers and friends made the journey possible through donations. We also engaged in educating girls about the pads and how to maintain menstrual hygiene,” she shares about the beginning. 

Breakthrough 
It was through this that their first customer heard about them, ordered for 1,000 Safe Girl pads and needed them within 24 hours. Atuhurra and her team were excited and embarked on producing the pads all night. 
“Unfortunately, we suffered a blackout during the night thus the need to move the machines to another location to continue production. By 6am, we had 100 pads to hit the target and out of courtesy, I called the woman to inform her about our progress,” she narrates. 

However, Atuhurra was so heartbroken when the client got very bitter, saying they were a disappointment and incompetent thus lost morale to work further. “I just cried through the phone call looking at what a mountain two people had scaled yet the client had just pulled out dashing our hopes of earning approximately Shs750,000,” she recounts the bitter moment. 

Nonetheless, Atuhurra learned that in business there is a loss and profit time, as well as the need to always ask for a down payment from a client before entering into an agreement. 

After the initial disappointment, they got another client who was Uganda 4 Her who paid Shs2.5m for 2,000 pads. They also got in partnership with Stanbic Bank Uganda who buy at wholesale price (Shs6,000) and distribute the pads among the communities they work with. A pack contains two pads, a cotton knicker, a piece of soap a storage bag and user booklet.

Training 
The journey necessitated that Atuhurra and her team learn a couple of skills to run the business such as costing and pricing where courses and business incubation programmes such as from Social Innovation Academy, Start-up Uganda, and Sinapis came in handy. “From here, we learnt how to budget and plan accordingly, and the rise and fall of prices too in the global market,” she says.

Other trainings have been the social entrepreneurship training with Acumen and Vital Voices Grow which was very helpful in growing the organisation and learning how best to improve the product. The other was at Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) to learn how market trends run.

Capital 
Atuhurra shares that under the foundation are various programmes and projects run and managed by the Gejja Women. “Besides the Shs60,000, these women and girls were my capital because their challenges propelled me to see how best we could empower them,” she says.

The products of the organisation save the pads are Gejja Wine and crops from the Gejja model farm. They sell the safe girl reusable pads to females under the menstrual bracket. “We also supply them to supermarkets, pharmacies and retail shops. We have also partnered with wholesalers in Kikuubo and some supermarkets to sell our wine while agricultural produce is for families, markets and lovers of organic produce,” Atuhurra shares.

Located in Mpigi District, Bulyasi Village, two kilometres off Masaka Road, Gejja Women Foundation markets their products through social media platforms, their website and the women centre where they host various visitors save for current pandemic. “The land housing the centre was bought from a donation received in 2018 which also catered for construction. We are glad that there is a place for the women and girls to call home,” she shares.

Challenges 
The organisation has challenges in marketing their products, say the Safe Girl Reusable pads, as there are price falls and lack of raw materials in the country yet importation is also costly. 

Lack of funding also limits  the impact reach of the organisation.

That said, Atuhurra is glad that they have empowered more than 350 women through their business programmes, reached more than 100,000 girls in their menstrual hygiene outreaches, produced 50,000 Safe Girl Sanitary pads, and currently have 45 women under the seed-loan programme.

Her monthly expenses are approximately Shs4m and these cover operational and administrative costs. On the other hand their biggest weekly sale was Shs1.2 m collectively from the various products manufactured and sold.

A worker displays some bottles of wine made by Atuhurra. She has diversified into value addition to make wines and hot pepper. JOAN SALMON 

While she wishes she had started out earlier when in high school, Atuhurra is encouraged that it is never too late and everything has its own timing.

Future

The future holds so much for Gejja Women Foundation and she says they are building a women center in Mpigi, a place that will house female innovations, modern farming techniques and a variety of stories to colour the world of entrepreneurship.  

Training
Getting skills:
The journey necessitated that Atuhurra and her team learn a couple of skills to run the business such as costing and pricing where courses and business incubation programmes such as from Social Innovation Academy, Start-up Uganda, and Sinapis came in handy.

“From here, we learned how to budget and plan accordingly, and the rise and fall of prices too in the global market,” she says. Other trainings have been the social entrepreneurship training with Acumen and Vital Voices Grow which was very helpful in growing the organisation and learning how best to improve the product. The other was at UIRI to learn how market trends run. 

Challenges

The organisation has challenges in marketing their products, say the Safe Girl Reusable pads, as there are price falls and lack of raw materials in the country yet importation is also costly. 

Tips for starting a business

Everyone needs money, but not everyone knows how to make money. If you want to know how to get engaged in a lucrative business in Uganda and make big, you should proceed. This post is about small business to start in Uganda with little capital, and maybe you will get inspiration for your own venture.

Lucrative businesses 
Every successful company started small, which means everybody can repeat their achievements. The researchers say that the time of economic crisis is the best time to start a business.
You may not believe, but the business opportunities in Uganda are basically endless. And you will not always need a huge capital for starting your own profitable business in Uganda.

Many of them are possible to start with a small capital. If you are witty, smart and a good leader, you will make money from your business in no time. You will only have to develop some business ideas in Uganda and decide which one is suitable for you.

Most importantly, you will not only need to create a successful business venture but put your whole heart and soul into it. This way, you will love what you do, and it will simultaneously earn you money.
Besides, this is the era of technological progress, so it has become easier to make a profit not only by performing regular job duties but also by doing something outstanding on the Internet.  
Without further delay, we will have a look at some of the most profitable small business opportunities in Uganda that you can start without having a huge capital.

Uber driver
Seeing how many people, especially in big cities, use the Uber service, you can definitely say that the Uber drivers earn good money. If you are a good driver and know your city very well, you should not pass up this opportunity.

Uber driving is one of the most profitable Ugandan business ideas right now, and the best thing about it is that you may work whenever you want, without any obligations.
Some drivers choose to work full-time, while for some it is a part-time job to earn extra money that they do on weekend or after their main job.

Social media specialist
It is impossible to live without social media nowadays – so many people use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and the other popular platforms. Of course, they are also good sources for making money – you only need to share the content that interests people and gain yourself a trustworthy follower base. This can be one of the business ideas that you can turn your attention to if you are good with social media and have enough creative content to post.

When you become a popular social media personality or influencer, you can be contacted by major companies who would want you to post their advertisements on your page. Depending on how many followers you have, you can charge money for their ads. This business idea requires time and patience because you will not be able to create a popular account in one day, but over the time you will understand that it is so worth it.

Web designer
Are you good at internet designs? Then you should totally try out such opportunity as web design or development. Even if you feel like your skills are not so professional, you can easily attend related courses or webinars to improve your abilities and get new knowledge. In a short period, you will be able to create your own websites. 

Graphic designer
If you have always been good with Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or other similar programs, and possess the artistic skills, then you are recommended to try out the graphic designer freelance job.
There are a lot of graphic designers nowadays, and many of them are appreciated by big companies. But it also means that the competition is extremely high, and to stand out, you need to be really creative and original.
You can start with posting your art on social media and taking commissions – this will get you into the swing of things. You will have to invest in graphics tablet – most digital designers nowadays use it for convenience.

Content writer
Are you good with words? If you consider yourself a talented writer, then you might try a freelance job connected with writing articles, posts, or advertisements.
Lots of websites nowadays are in need of a creative writer. Some of them also need the administrator to post it on their website, which you will receive the additional pay for.
You cannot only write content for them but create your own blog and post your thoughts there. The best thing is that this job is not full-time – you can do your work whenever you want, not depending on the time of the day.

Blogging
This is one of the most popular and profitable sources of income these days. Thousands of bloggers create their own content, covering various topics from fashion and lifestyle to celebrity gossips and film reviews.
You can try starting a blog by finding the particular niche that focuses on something that would be appealing to the public. If you are a gifted writer and have some understanding of marketing, this would be a huge bonus.

Bakery
Perhaps your friends acknowledge you as a great cook, but you never thought of taking this skill higher? There is no need to worry! Nowadays, people earn a lot of money from the bakery business. All you need to do is create a social media account where you will post your bakery and contact details, use the appropriate hashtags to advertise your work, gain the interested audience, and take requests from different people who need cakes or cupcakes for their birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
Your business can begin by baking right at home – in this case, you will only have to invest in the ingredients. It would also be quite effective to send the examples of your work to any parties that would be interested, in hopes that they will approach you with the business offer.

Clothing designing
Of course, if you aspire to become a designer of clothes, you have to possess some work experience, talent, and creativity.
However, you can always get these skills from attending courses and being interested in the subject. Once you learn what it takes in this industry, you will be able to create your own fashionable clothing. This business is very well-paid, and you have a chance to become a professional designer one day because the designers that are popular nowadays also started on a small scale.

Fast food business
So many people go somewhere out to eat, so this is, without any doubt, a profitable business that can make you rich. This business can take off with even a minimal capital, depending on the size of the business and the categories of customers.

In case you would like to serve the customers with low income, then you will not need a whole lot of money to start. The eateries are very popular in the big cities, where there are thousands of them.

---- Ambassador Victor Chedira

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.