He makes high quality shoe brushes from cow tail

Enoch removes the rough patches inside the shoe brush before fixing bristles.

What you need to know:

Enoch Muwanguzi, an agricultural engineer, and founder of Deploy Resource Africa Ltd, was among 30 participants who scooped a Shs113.2 million seed fund from the National Social Security Fund Hi-Innovator programme.

Small and medium enterprises need training on how to navigate the mucky waters of business. That way, they can beat the statistics which say that only 30 percent of SMEs live beyond three years.

Enoch Muwanguzi, an agricultural engineer, and founder of Deploy Resource Africa Ltd, was one of the 30 participants who scooped a $30,000 seed fund from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Hi-Innovator programme in partnership with mastercard Foundation. The programme, according to mastercard SME Lead – Arnold Byarugaba, looks to identify young people with potential that can have high impact, sustainability and can be scaled in the future.

Before graduation in 2018, Muwanguzi, unlike many graduates, got employment as a sales executive and engineer trainee at Engineering Solutions (ENGSOL). The position was a probationary three-month contract that was later extended to six months.

His days involved going to the field, conducting trainings, gathering prospects, then sealing deals on tractors, and other equipment sales. Muwanguzi was glad to have closed two tractors and two tractor equipment sales in the first three months.  The experience and exposure through daily interactions with farmers was amazing. The Alumnus of the mastercard Foundation Scholar’s Programme Makerere University (Cohort 1) and YALI RLC EA Alumnus (Cohort 41) was not content.

“I had a mission to give back to my community. But the job somehow hindered me from fully achieving it. Oftentimes, I felt selfish because while youth in my community had resorted to gambling, I was unable to help. Quitting was the best option to pursue an idea I had conceived in 2018 to ensure I employ the young people in the community,” he says.

Muwanguzi dreams of intelligently deploying the underutilised resources in Africa to make eco-friendly, long-lasting, and effective products that relieve customers’ pain. The journey started with making shoe brushes whose inspiration comes from a statement by a shoe shiner Muwanguzi spoke to as he polished his shoes on the way for an interview.

“I asked him where he bought his brushes as they polished nicely. He said he had bought them from downtown. Then he added, “These brushes come from Kenya. Do you think we Ugandans have knowledge to make such high-quality brushes?” I went silent because this was a blow to me, who had gone through four years of engineering training,” he recalls.

Two days later, Muwanguzi returned to the shoe shiner whom he gave money to get him the same brush. At this point, Muwanguzi tasked himself with designing a shoe brush similar to his purchase. Using Reverse Engineering skills, he started the journey of learning how such shoe brushes are made and discovered the techniques for fixing the bristles. The challenge then was getting the horsehair bristles they were using.

“I shared this idea with a colleague, Paul Soddo, who was interested in the concept. By the time of quitting my job, we had just discovered that cow tail hair could act as a replacement for horsehair,” he shares.

The need to make more steps prompted Muwanguzi to apply for the United Social Ventures internship. It ran from June to August 2019. Here, they had an in-depth design thinking process that helped Muwanguzi and Soddo discover crucial information about the sector, customers, competition, and channels to the market.

For instance, they learned that more than 20 million Ugandans wear leather shoes that need daily polishing owing to the weather and road status that leaves many dirty and dusty.

However, inflated prices make high quality brushes (with natural soft horsehair bristles) costly going for $4 (Shs14,400). That forces people to opt for synthetic brushes that are at $1 to $1.5 (Shs3,600 to Shs5,400).

“The downfall is that the latter scratch the leather, wear out fast and are not biodegradable. These findings came from a survey that involved 135 respondents in Wakiso District,” Muwanguzi shares.

By August 2019, the team had a shoe brush prototype they named ‘Ugabrush’. Customers loved the brush and it is this response that gave the duo confidence to establish a shoe brush manufacturing company.

“Using our savings of Shs1.1m, we started simple shoe brush production using borrowed equipment from the carpenters around Bweyogerere,” he shares.

However, that was not sustainable. So they applied for the MasterCard seed fund competition in November 2019, where they pitched and emerged winners out of over 30 ventures. The company (Deploy Resource Africa Ltd) was later registered on January 6, 2020 with a vision of using indigenous resources to produce high quality products.

That seed fund ($6,640) an equivalent of Shs25 million, was used to acquire some basic woodworking tools, and raw materials.

However, just a month into mass production, the Covid-19 lockdown was instituted which affected their sales. With this setback, a lot more was needed to make Muwanguzi’s dream see the light of day. Fortunately, in October 2021, the company got an opportunity to pitch to the Hi-Innovator Programme team where they won up to $30,000 (about Shs113.2 million) in funding and technical assistance.

Enoch removes the rough patches inside the shoe brush before fixing bristles.

“Since then, we have never looked back. Having NSSF as our partner has helped us to increase employment opportunities for young women who do the tufting of shoe brushes.”
Currently, the company directly employs eight women and two men and indirectly, there are more than 20 people.

NSSF Hi- Innovator programme

The NSSF Hi Innovator programme offered Deploy Resource Africa Ltd $10,000 (Shs37.7 million) in Business Development Support (BDS) and directly injected $20,000 (Shs75.5 million) into the company which was used to lease land for five years, construct a company toilet, train extra women workers, widen production space, stock company raw materials worth 5,000 shoe brushes and purchase a company motorcycle. In addition, the company launched a new product called ‘Dusting & Shining Glove’ that is reusable, portable, and soft for fine shining all kinds of leather, cleaning laptops, and wiping office furniture.

Save the clientele earlier gained, the company continues to reach out to potential clients such as men in the formal sector, students, parents with pupils, and the street shoe shiners. The avenues include online stores such as Jumia, supermarkets, and shoe care accessory shops. Muwanguzi says their selling point is that they are the first-ever Ugandan licensed company to produce shoe brushes that are soft on leather, low-priced (Shs8000), durable (over one year of daily use), and offer a fine shine quickly.
In a good month, profits are approximately Shs6m after deducting operating costs of about Shs4m.

Raw materials
Deploy Resource Africa Ltd mainly uses wood cut-offs sourced from Ndeeba and cow tail hair from abattoirs in Kampala. Since some raw materials are scarce, and the entire production line is labour intensive, they need a machine to ease some production processes.

Success tips
Despite all the hurdles the company goes through, Muwanguzi finds joy when lives are impacted.
“The success of any entrepreneur lies in the number of lives impacted by their innovations.”

Future plans
Deploy Resource Africa Ltd plans to purchase extra machinery to boost production capacity thus ably reach out to other markets such as other East African countries.


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