Immaculate Nakyeyune (centre) with one of the exhibitors at a Mkazipreneur exhibition. PHOTO/Joan Salmon


How Nakyeyune uplifts women in business

What you need to know:

  • Nakyeyune is a strong believer that women will be in the frontline in changing Africa for the better. She has worked with more than 1,000 women.
  • The French Embassy selected her as one of the winners for Challenge des 1000 African entrepreneurs award 2020, recognising her effort and commitment towards the upliftment and empowerment of women. In 2022, she was recognised among the Top 40 under 40 youth creating change in their communities.

Watching how she interacts with some of the businesswomen she mentors so they can learn how to pitch, it is evident that Immaculate Nakyeyune Ainomugisha, the founder and team lead Mkazipreneur is passionate about empowering women.

Years ago, at her 8-5 job, Nakyeyune’s department was outsourced to a company and subsequently, her neighbours to the right and left were fired. 

“I knew I was the next hence starting up my first job- a cleaning company. I had never done it before but this was out of need and to make it work, I outsourced help as I remained at my office job. I also mobilised two of my workmates that were still at the company to start side hustles as well, just in case they woke up to no jobs,” she says. They also had monthly meetings to evaluate their operations and with time, started inviting other women hence continuous growth in numbers. Looking at the expansion, she thought that they could grow this into a mobilised community of women.

“That way, we would know what their needs are hence structure a programme to offer them solutions to address the gaps such as lack of markets, business development, services, and marketing. That is how Mkazipreneur started in November 2018. Then, we skilled women for free, partnering with various players such as NSSF, UN Women, USAID, MasterCard Foundation,” she says.

Her investment was Shs1m from her salary to formalise the business which included ensuring that all the paper work was in order.

Nakyeyune (right) during a Mkazipreneur exhibition. PHOTO/ Joan Salmon

Starting out
However, all these strides are dipped in the years Nakyeyune vested in Rotary as these years greatly shaped her. For instance, she was the president of Rotaract Club of Kampala South in 2017/18 hence knew how community programmes run. 

“I had thus exposed myself to community projects such as one in Kabale District where we did a classroom block renovation, health camp, an entrepreneurial development camp for women and a legal clinic for women who had land wrangles. There was another in Kiboga District where we did a tree planting project as well as community mobilisation drive to ensure the trees planted were protected. Through these, I learned how to lobby for funds through seeking sponsorship, and how to showcase my work to show impact. The years in Rotary have and continue to be instrumental in my work,” she says. 

However, the cherry on the cake was when Rotary sponsored her trip to San Diego, California in 2019 where Nakyeyune met young people that were doing impactful projects outside Rotary. That is where the need to create change for people in the community was birthed in her while also breaking the monotony of her 8-5 job that was starting to ‘eat’ at her nerves. 

Partnerships and projects
Nakyeyune, has banked on partnerships to further her quest to positively influence women. With NSSF’s financial literacy programme in 2018, Mkazipreneur ran a financial literacy programme for women. They have also worked with UN women as well as Akina Mama wa Africa who did mentorship in a women accelerator programme in 2019.

In 2020, she started a women digital masterclass with Innovation Village that attracted 300 women. It took them through the Covid-19 period until 2021. 

“Covid-19 shined a light on digital illiteracy so we continually refined how women can use digital skills to sell their produce, use ride hailing services, such as SafeBoda to sell their products. The programme was impactful as it helped women to open e-commerce platforms, and create catchy profiles which boosted their brand,” she says.

In 2020, Mkazipreneur had a mask making programme in March in partnership with Motiv. 21 female tailors from the Mkazipreneur community were brought on board and these made masks from their homes and sent them to Nakyeyune for packaging and selling. 

“This helped these women make money in strenuous times but also birthed innovativeness and resilience to get better at mask making. That was because in the start, we had to go online to get inspiration, and perfect dimensions, which was a learning curve,” she says. 

A stall at Mkazipreneur exhibition. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON

The project ran for just a year as the market became circulated. However, by its end, the organisation had made and sold 8,000 masks.

In January 2022, the organisation got a grant with USAID to do a one year women accelerator programme with Capital Solutions, monitored by Aspen ANDE, based in Kenya. Under this programme, Nakyeyune says they focused on building, skilling, mentoring and investment readiness for 100 women in business. These received mentorship on how to grow their businesses and also received business development services for their businesses. 

“We also exposed them to spaces to get financing which started with pitching before potential finances. Some have already got financing while others are still on the journey. The goal was to make them business investor ready which means all their paperwork is in order. We achieved this through this training,” she says.

This year, Mkazipreneur is running women accelerator programmes under the NSSF Hi-Innovator sponsored by MasterCard where they were on-boarded as a hub to prepare women entrepreneurs.

Holistic growth
Mkazipreneur’s goal is to empower women because Nakyeyune learned that while it is often said that Uganda has several women entrepreneurs, most of them are those in our markets and are stagnant. Therefore, she and her team are ensuring that these women grow because at the moment, most run businesses for survival. 

“We thrive that these women businesses expand and grow, keep pivoting to better. As such, we work towards a holistic growth where the supplier and retailer are empowered to do better. If the supplier is empowered while leaving the retailer behind, there will be no one to take up the supplier’s produce,” she says. 

In-house innovations
Nakyeyune says the major problem facing women entrepreneurs is lack of cheap financing because there are limited low interest loans. That led them to create a savings investment platform for women in 2022 called Mkazinvest. 

“It is all in an effort to improve how women handle money,” she says.

Mkazipreneur also signed a memorandum of understanding with USAID feed the future Uganda Strategic Investments Activity to conceptualise a loan portfolio model for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) women businesses. 

“The partnership is aimed at governing the financial and investment eco system for women owned business in Uganda,” she says.