Mulinda serves a guest at a recent function. The entrepreneur says Covid-19 lockdown had a negative effect on his business. PHOTO/ESTHER BRIDGET NAKALYA

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With just Shs3m, Mulinda built his juice business

What you need to know:

  • At Ga’ Njovu, one cannot help but want to enjoy almost all the different juices made. Steven Mulinda outlines some of these adding that they are not only healthy drinks but also jaw dropping.

The juice business is one lucrative venture that has greatly evolved over the years. From the packed drinks to the bottled refreshments usually sipped on at functions by guests. 

The market has grown to embrace fresh natural drinks. Traditionally, among the Baganda, the in-laws are served a local dish known as Luwombo.

This obviously cannot be served without a freshly prepared fruit juice to soothe one’s throat after such a delicious meal. 

Today, many hosts have disregarded the acidic drinks loaded with preservatives and opted for natural fruit juices for their guests and families. 

Even better, the market is not picky. The fresh juice is consumed by the elderly, the children, and the middle aged individuals. 

The health benefits are also inexhaustible especially for those allergic to sugars and gas from carbonated drinks.

The entrepreneurs have made the business appealing as they prioritise hygiene and neatly organised serving equipment. Dressed in aprons and matching outfits together with hair wraps, they grace various events as they serve the attendees’ with fresh juice.  

Birth of Ga’Njovu Juice World  

Born of the Njovu clan in Luwero-Nakaseke District, and raised in Makerere Kavule, Steven Mulinda is not only a conservative but also a great salesman.

He has a deep love of culture and exhibits this in his fresh juice business which he branded after his clan name, Ga’Njovu Juice World.

Mulinda is the last born of five children born to the late James Kakembo Mukubira, a businessman and Peruth Kakembo, a florist. 

“Growing up around Makerere-Kavule was a blessing in disguise as my parents often sent me to go shopping for passion fruits in Kalerwe market. I would gladly take on the errand as it helped me learn how to make budgets,” he recounts. 

Mulinda says he was given Shs5,000 for passion fruits only. He would use it sparingly and buy other fruits such as watermelon, pineapples, and mangoes in order to blend them when he got back home. 

“I did this to experiment how the fruit mixtures would taste away from the usual passion juice we normally made,” he shares. 

Training 

Being close to his mother taught him a few or more pointers in business management. 
“My mother would build a strong trustworthy relation with suppliers and clients. She would plant flowers and sell them to shops within Kampala on credit where I was expected to pick up her money from the clients after a month,” he explains. 

He attended  All Saints Primary School and Buganda Road Primary School for his primary level.
He then proceeded to Old Kampala Secondary School for his secondary level where he was cut short of a school term after a few weeks from joining. 

“I was expelled for escaping from school. I thought the head teacher would not notice but he had a good headcount of all the students at school,” he narrates.

Eventually he resumed his studies at Highway College Makerere before joining Makerere Business School.
While there, he pursued a Bachelor in Business Administration. While at it, he balanced work and school. 
“It was tough juggling work and books but luckily I was an evening student,” he says.  

Mulinda gained experience in events planning as he worked for a number of events companies and finally joined UAP Old Mutual as a risk advisor a role he resigned to concentrate on his new found business. 

Starting

Mulinda identified the need to venture in juice business after attending a number of functions. 
He shares, “the guests would leave sodas in their glasses which I thought to myself, could be due to too much sugars that they probably disliked.”  

His origin being the Njovu clan in Buganda, he created a quick name sprouting from his love for culture, and this is how Ga’Njovu Juice World was birthed in 2016. 

At the time, he was still an employee at UAP Old Mutual and not many of his friends believed in this venture. 
“The beginning was very discouraging, because I got a lot of negative feedback and backlash from friends, also I had never produced big volumes of juice,” he says. 

With about Shs3m and a small home space to operate, Mulinda bought some equipment such as juice dispensers, juice blenders, glasses, and jugs and started out. “I had to resign from my job to focus on my business which at the time had only three staff, paid on mutual understanding, two ushers and one to assist with operations,” he says.

The fact that he always prayed to God to bless him with his own money making venture, the juice boss kept on amid all the challenges.

“My first customer was my boss at office, Ms Evelyn Lumkusa whom I supplied 200 litres of juice at an introduction in Kayunga District,” says Mulinda. 

This he admits was his first big order and he pulled through with the best juice leaving his client impressed.

Products and costing

At Ga’ Njovu, one cannot help but want to enjoy almost all the different juices on display. Mulinda outlines some of these adding that they are not only healthy drinks but also delicious. 

Cissy Mwendwa a client testifies to this saying her favourite is the sugarcane flavour blended with ginger.
“I attended my best friend’s traditional marriage ceremony before the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, I was consistently keeping hydrated on warm fluids and ginger. It was timely for me to land on a ginger infused refreshment which excited me,” Mwendwa testifies.

According to Mulinda, their most rare flavours are a smoked kind of juice which he refuses to disclose ingredients.  “We produce grapes, hibiscus and coconut juices among others. These range from Shs10,000 per litre,” he says. 

The juice boss also listed a package for massive guest numbers which he says is Shs6.5m and he identifies it as  a “drink till you drop package.”

The special drink which comes all smoked up, he explains costs about Shs400,000 . 

The juice expert says there has been growth in income and capital of the business as he now requires Shs120m to produce big volumes of juice and more equipment as well as transportation and paying workers.

The market and challenges

For Mulinda, a bad day would be when he has to disapprove a client’s discomforts with fresh juice. “I have encountered clients that do not trust fresh juice due to hygiene issues,” he says. 

To resolve some of these challenges, Mulinda has to earn the customer’s trust by keeping high levels of cleanliness as juice is sensitive to dirty hands.  “Engaging the best hygiene processes starting with cleaning equipment and rinsing them with warm water, to wearing gloves while handling fruits, one can achieve a good result,” he says.

He is also required to move with enough ice cube boxes while travelling to remote areas to keep the juice fresh.

Covid-19 woes 

As many businesses took a down turn brought by the pandemic, Mulinda’s business was not left out. Having his biggest clientele to be event planners and bridal events, he encountered a significant reduction on sales.

“The first lockdown greatly affected my business as some orders were cancelled and the new normal of scientific functions reduced on the number of consumers hence less profit,” he explains.  To create a solution for this financial shortage, the juice boss had to reduce his work force. 

Additionally, he also opted to return to employment. “I was taken unexpectedly by Covid-19 and decided to return to my former job at UAP Old Mutual, where I was welcomed due to my good record,” he reveals.

Steven Mulinda joins his workers to serve juice during a function. PHOTO/ESTHER BRIDGET NAKALYA

Resuming his former role at the insurance company has enabled him to work out the losses in business and re-invest to the growth of the same.

Future goals 

Mulinda envisions his business advancing from producing juices and coffees to making wines, waters and a tour and travel agency in line with promoting culture. 

For any successful business, he outlines the following; integrity, honesty, believing in oneself, and trusting God in everything one sets their mind to.

He also exhibits a great deal of commitment and good relationship with customers. “I have built very good friendships around me and different people through the business whom I keep in touch with for recommendations,” he says. According to Mulinda, a great business is achievable dependant on how much time and friendships an individual invests in it.

Tips for starting a juice bar

To open a juice bar or storefront that serves fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies, you will need a prime location, savvy business plan, and juicing equipment. Starting costs range between Shs50m to Shs100m.
Successful juice bars require hard work, creativity, and a passion for fresh foods. The most important steps to open a juice bar are:

Learn how juice bars work
Before you open a juice bar, you need to learn the ins and outs of how juice bars operate. Juice bars are shops that serve freshly prepared beverages such as cold-pressed or fresh-squeezed juices and fruit smoothies. 

Other popular menu items include protein shakes, juice shots packed with vitamins, and simple food items such as sandwiches and salads. The best way to learn how juice bars operate is by working for a juice bar.

Before starting your own business, consider working for a successful juice shop to see how juices are created and what the day-to-day aspects of running a juice bar look like.

If getting first-hand experience at a juice bar is not an option, you’ll have to do market research from the outside. 

Study successful juice bars in your area including their marketing campaigns and advertising efforts, menu items, peak times, number of employees, and their operating hours.

Create a budget
Budgeting for your future business is going to be more of an educated guess than an exact science. 
But, it is still important to create some road maps and guidelines to ensure your cash flow remains healthy. 

Your business likely will not make a profit for months, if not years, after opening, so you need to figure out how much you can invest, how much outside funding you will receive, and create a plan for covering all of your expenses.

First, determine how much money you will need to open your business. Consider storefront costs, construction costs, juicing equipment, license and permits, etc. 

Then, determine what your monthly fixed and variable expenses are. Fixed expenses are things such as your storefront rent payment, your phone bill, which will not change. 

Variable costs are more fluid, such as the cost of juicing ingredients or marketing campaigns.
The most difficult part of setting your budget is estimating your monthly sales after you open. Be as realistic as possible and air on the side of caution.

It will be better to being in more money than expected than to come up short. Now, subtract your fixed and variable costs from your monthly sales. That is your estimated cash flow. 
Again, it is best to have a large contingency fund in place to use to cover expenses if you do not meet your sales goals upon opening.

Write a business plan
Once you are familiar with how juice bars operate, you will need a juice bar business plan. Business plans are necessary for securing funding such as bank or small business loans. Plus, having a business plan will give you an idea of what to expect financially, and help you iron out a plan to ensure your business becomes profitable. When writing a business plan, use the format and software you are most comfortable with.

Many people opt to use a traditional word processor such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You can also create your business plan in a presentation format using PowerPoint. There are also business plan software programs that offer templates and guide you through the process.

Franchise options
Instead of opening an independent business completely on your own, you can choose to open a juice bar franchise location. 

Franchises provide built-in name recognition, national or regional marketing efforts, and typically offer guidance on managing day-to-day operations with set policies and procedures. However, opening a franchise can be very expensive.

Legal structure 
Choosing a legal structure for your business is important because it determines how you will collect and report taxes, how you will get paid from your business, and your level of personal liability. 

There are many types of legal structures, but the two most commonly found in small businesses such as juice bars are sole proprietorships and limited liability companies (LLCs).
Sole Proprietorships are the default legal structure your business will fall under if you don’t register for an LLC. Sole proprietorships lump together your personal and business finances, which means your business income is considered personal income. 

However, it also means that if anything goes wrong (lawsuits, bankruptcy, etc.) your personal assets, such as your house and car, could be at risk. Some retail business owners opt for a sole proprietorship, but this legal structure is mainly used by freelancers and consultants.

Location 
As with any storefront, the location you choose can make or break your business. That kind of pressure can make choosing a location feel overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you know which areas will be most profitable? First, narrow down the geographic area by considering what’s practical.

When you open your juice bar business, you’ll be putting in long hours every day, so make sure you choose a location with a commute that is feasible. Once you have narrowed down a geographic radius, analyse the different neighbourhoods. Here are the different elements to consider when choosing a location.

Equipment 
You will also need to purchase commercial-grade juicing equipment. The specific appliances you will need depends on what kind of menu items you offer. But investing in high-quality equipment is important so that the tools can grow with your business and you do not need to worry about replacing or repairing appliances.
The following are some of the equipment you will need for your juice bar: Commercial blenders, juicers, refrigerators, ice machines, scales and measuring tools, quality knives, cutting boards, storage containers, napkins and utensils.

Strategy
To successfully open a juice bar business, you will also need a branding strategy and marketing plan. You will want to develop a logo, colour scheme, and a plan for attracting customers to your business. For most local stores, effective marketing strategies involve a combination of digital and offline tactics. But the basics include designing a logo and creating a website.

As a business owner, having a website is crucial. It will help potential customers find your business when searching on Google. Creating your own website from scratch is not as complicated as it sounds. There are many easy ways to make a business website for little or no money. You just need a registered domain and a web hosting service.

When opening a new local business, you want to really make a splash so that the local community knows you are there. The best way to get a lot of attention is by hosting a grand opening. Make sure your event is well attended by recruiting friends and family, but also by starting your advertising efforts as soon as you have a date planned. Draft up a press release to send to local media outlets and neighbouring businesses.

Additional information by ---- Ambassador Victor Chedira

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