Irene Namazzi checks on her plants on the vertical garden. PHOTO/ESTHER BRIDGET NAKALYA

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Namazzi turned a hobby into a lucrative venture

What you need to know:

  • In 2018, with the assistance of Irene Namazzi’s old friend and a neighbour Bruce, the plant vendor knew she had to rent out a space in order to attract more customers away from her ordinary clients and referrals. In this way she expected to grow her hobby into a lucrative venture.
     

In 2014, Irene Namazzi discovered a new hobby. It was her love to tend to plants.

At the time, she was an instructor in painting and decoration at Kyambogo University, a role she holds to date.
Namazzi would pick plants from her friend’s home and plant them in her own compound. In this way her interest and curiosity grew.

She then decided to gather more knowledge about plants by browsing the internet. 

Starting 

In her search for knowledge on plants, she developed a profound urge to plant more plants hence filling up her home space with various plant species.

Her home became attractive to her neighbours who would request to pick a few plants from her. One of whom was Bruce a neighbouring tenant.

“Bruce discovered that I had little time to tend to the plants as I was always away for work so he volunteered to help me water and clean them while I was away,” she shares.

The plant lover would then sell to her immediate neighbours at Shs5,000 for each plant in polythene bags, as she could not afford to invest in clay pots.

Four years later, one of her customer advised her on starting a business in plants specifically succulents as it was a rare species. 

Capital 

“It is from this idea that I collected all my savings of about Shs500,000 to venture into plant business,” she recalls.

Namazzi created a name to go with it and identified her business as Friends of Nature.

In 2018, with the assistance of her old friend and neighbour Bruce, the plant vendor knew she had to rent out a space in order to attract more customers away from her ordinary clients and referrals. In this way she expected to grow her hobby into a lucrative venture.

“I started reading more about succulents since I had found a new love for that particular specie as a unique plant,” she adds.

In the start, she would charge about Shs10,000 to 15,000 for a plant. Given the increments in tax on planters and rent she says, Namazzi now ranges from Shs15,000 or even more.

The highs

It is usually a bright day for Namazzi at her venture in planters. This is because she has a genuine love for plants and a strong drive to do better.

According to the plant seller, the business is worth a fortune, nevertheless she is tight lipped on sharing her earnings on a good day.

“Today, my business has grown to be worth Shs3,000,000 of investment as capital,” she reveals.

Despite the surge in Covid-19 infections that created lockdowns and a halt on her operations, Namazzi has a number of things to stay thankful for in regards to her business.

“I am capable enough and able to take care of my personal wellbeing. I can afford to pay my bills and fend for my family through my growing business,” she says.

The lows

Unlike other business ventures, planters are not for hand to mouth source of income. According to Namazzi, the business requires patience as it is does not create a daily income.

“The succulents are very picky and thrive mostly in clay pots which are breakable hence creating losses in business. They require a lot of attention as they rot easily under heavy rains,” she explains.
Namazzi experienced many challenges in the start dealing with the rare plant species until she equipped herself with knowledge on how best to handle them.

“I had to understand them better and given that they only require gentle wipes off their leafy structure and a few water sprinkles, I found it an easy job to carry on,” she adds.

The plant lover found the need to appreciate the demands that come with succulents and recognise that some losses such as breakable clay pots are unavoidable but for the plants well-being as clay allows for plant not to accumulate coldness hence rotting.

Tips

Just like Namazzi many plant lovers have faced their great and overwhelming days with plants. However, the maintenance strategies always count.

Advice: Typically during the growing season, plants require about an inch of water per week. If there has not been rainfall, make sure you are providing a sufficient amount of water. PHOTO/ESTHER BRIDGET NAKALYA

The plant lover urges individuals interested in plants to devote full attention and care to them.

“Unlike other products that hold batch numbers and expiry timelines, plants communicate when they are sick, rotting, attacked by pests and this can only be avoided when you have time to closely study them,” she says.
Namazzi advises plant lovers and business people to be knowledgeable about their products and their value to those that purchase them for usage.

“Understanding a plant’s name and value addition to users allows for me to increase and sales and meet the needs of my customers especially those having health needs,” she says.

Conclusively, the plant vendor tips individuals to exhibit great selling strategies such as showing a great deal of experience and personal usage of products by either having the plants in their home spaces or testimonials of their health benefits.

Vision

To advance in business, proprietors need a positive mind-set and clear outlook on how they sight business growth.

For the middle aged businesswoman, a home endowed with more than 1000 different collections of succulents is the big dream. “I see myself owning a museum with a nature filled ambience which collectively seats many plant collections and have people across the neighbouring countries and from far visiting and paying to tour the sites,” she shares.

Tips for starting backyard garden 

With the right tools and the proper know-how, you can easily learn the gardening basics needed to turn your backyard into a thriving plant paradise.
Determine your climate zone. Success in gardening is all about putting the right plant in the right place at the right time. 

That starts with an understanding of the crops suited to your climatic region and the season in which to plant them. 

Find your zone and familiarise yourself with the fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that thrive in it.  Now, when you go to your local garden center, you can look for plants labelled with the number corresponding to your hardiness zone.  If you are buying seeds, compare the number of “days to maturity” listed on the seed packet to the length of your growing season.

Decide what to grow 
Use the constraints of your climate zone and your personal preferences to determine what plants you would like to grow. 
Do you want a flower garden, vegetable garden, herb garden, container garden, or a combination of several options? Ask yourself what kind of fruits and vegetables you like to eat, and plant those. 
Also, take into consideration your available home gardening space. If you only have room for a small garden, it’s wise to avoid large plants.

Ideal garden location
Most flowers and vegetables require several hours of direct sunlight a day, so look for an area that receives enough full sun for what you’re growing. 
Growing plants will also be easier on a flat piece of land that’s near a structure that provides some wind cover.
Acquire basic gardening tools. At a minimum, you will need to invest in a sturdy shovel and a pair of gloves when you start your garden. 

But there are several other tools of the trade that might come in handy: a potting soil scoop to easily fill pots and planters, a standard kitchen knife to make precise cuts when harvesting vegetables, a battery-powered or rechargeable cordless drill to make drainage holes when converting found objects to planters. 
Others include as knife useful for dividing clumps of roots and other coarse garden tasks, hand pruners to cut stems and branches up to a half-inch in diameter, and a small pruning saw designed to access tight spaces when pruning trees and shrubs.

Test your soil
Before starting a garden, get a soil test, which can be obtained for a small fee through your extension service office. In addition to identifying the proportions of clay, sand, silt and organic matter in your garden soil, you will learn if your pH level is off and whether you have any nutrient deficiencies. You will also receive instructions to correct any imbalances. 

Ask for a test that covers toxic substances that are occasionally found in the soil, such as lead and arsenic. If toxins are found above safe thresholds, do not plant edibles in the soil. Instead, grow food in wooden raised beds with a barrier on the bottom that prevents the roots from getting into the ground below.

Make your garden bed
The first step to creating a garden bed is clearing away the existing vegetation. Weeds may be pulled by hand. Just make sure you get the roots so they do not resprout. If you are starting with a lawn, you may want to rent a gas-powered sod cutter to remove the grass. 

Then you need to prepare your plating space. It’s best not to till unless it’s absolutely necessary—digging can disrupt life beneath the topsoil (from worms to beetles to bacteria), which is not ideal. Instead try no-till gardening: Once you’ve removed the debris and grass away, spread a thick layer of compost on the growing area (at least four inches thick). 

If your weeds are particularly stubborn, you can also try sheet mulching, or the process of using cardboard to compost weeds while preserving soil structure. It is best if the beds you create are no more than four feet wide so you can reach into the center without stepping onto the soft soil and compacting it, undoing all your hard work.

Decide whether to grow from seed or transplant seedlings. Seed starting might save money, but it’s a long process with potential bumps in the road. Some seeds are stubborn about sprouting; others take ages to develop into healthy plants ready for the harsh outdoor world. As an alternative option, you can also go to your local nursery to buy young plants grown in a commercial greenhouse. Just remember you don’t necessarily want the biggest plants in the batch, as these are often “root bound.” With a dense thicket of plant roots beneath the soil, these seedlings have outgrown their pots and might not transition well into the garden.

Plant your seedlings with care 
When planting seeds, make sure to sow them at the proper depth indicated on the seed packet, tamp the soil firmly over them with the palm of your hand, and water them whenever the surface of the soil dries out. When planting seedlings, carefully turn the pot over while putting your hand on top of the soil with the stem between your fingers. Gently squeeze the pot on all sides and shimmy it off. Grasp the mass of soil in your hands and massage it lightly until the roots are no longer stuck in the shape of the pot. If the plant is root bound, you’ll have to massage it more vigorously, perhaps even using a knife to loosen the mat of roots. Finally, use your hands or a small trowel to create a hole in the soil no bigger than the root mass. Position the plant, cover the roots with soil (making sure not to cover any part of the stem in the process, which is a death sentence for many types of plants) and press it firmly into the earth.

Water sufficiently
Typically during the growing season, plants require about an inch of water per week. If there has not been rainfall, make sure you are providing a sufficient amount of water. To eliminate guesswork, an easy way to check if plants are thirsty is to simply stick your finger two inches deep into the soil. If it feels dry, then it’s most likely time to water. And remember, most plants are better off slightly dry than sopping wet. Too much water can cause harmful root rot. When watering, your goal is to make the soil moist but not soggy.

Use mulch
By covering the soil with rocks (which can keep the soil moist and warm) and organic matter, weeds have a hard time germinating and the earth is kept cool and moist. Worms and other beneficial soil creatures love mulch; as it decays, it becomes fuel for the soil food web, just like compost. It’s important to match the right type of mulch with each crop. Wood chips are ideal for fruit trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and other large, long-lived plants. 

Maintenance   
There is a seasonal rhythm to garden maintenance. During rainy season, it is all about keeping the weeds from getting a toehold. The dry season requires extra vigilance to keep the garden well watered. Throughout the growing season, pay attention to what the plants tell you. A yellow or deformed leaf is a sign that you should clip it off. A plant collapsing under its own weight is calling out for staking. Dense, overgrown vegetation demands careful pruning to open things up so that sunlight and fresh air can circulate.

*Additional information source: businesspartnermagazine.com



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