Mother’s death births desire for nutrition

Ivan Paul Baguma (left) explains his concept to the Katikiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga. Photos/Joan Salmon

What you need to know:

  • Ivan Phillip Baguma volunteered at Nakasero Hospital where he gained knowledge and skills of operating in a clinic setting, and how to manage patients who are already ill or even sometimes dying.

At 14, Ivan Phillip Baguma lost his mother to what he now knows was preventable through nutrition and lifestyle. 
Then, he wondered what the doctors might have missed that sent him on a quest that later dictated his course at university.
The graduate of Bachelors of Science in Human Nutrition from Makerere University alongside his team bring one in harmony with food. 

That is why he is often referred to as ‘the amicable nutritionist’. Driven by the urge to transform lifestyles for wellbeing using nutrition, health and wellness, Baguma continued his career at Nella Organics. At Nella, the emphasis is to show the importance of balancing physical and mental wellness and empower individuals to take better control of their health through lifestyle change involving diet, mental therapy, fitness and natural remedies.

Entrepreneurial journey
Baguma’s nutrition entrepreneurial journey started in his university final year in 2017/2018. “I had begun much earlier but kept growing in knowledge and expertise. I was able to do much more when I was entrusted by my fellow students to lead them as the President of the Makerere Human Nutrition Students Association (MUHUNSA) where we did many outreaches in the community in partnerships with other universities such as Kyambogo University, Victoria University, FHI 360, the Washington Fellowship Program, Rotary, St. Augustine Chapel and other government and non-governmental organisations and hospitals,” he shares.

Starting out
The start was very trying for ‘the amicable nutritionist’ because many people did not know the healing power of nutrition. “When you were lucky to find some, they assumed they knew more than one who had specialised in it to a greater degree. Therefore, many did not follow recommendations thus failing to get the expected results. The same scoffed at the fees as they assumed it was just a matter of ‘giving advice on what to eat’. Many people actually thought nutritionists are cooks or chefs of some sort thus passing them over for a medical doctor,” Baguma shares. 
Nonetheless, he was able to get a client in 2018; a woman whose mother was wasting away due to cognitive and picky eating challenges. A fellow nutritionist referred her to him believing Baguma had what it took to help the patent turn around. “I did not charge them because I was not only nervous at my first unsupervised case but also desired for them to turn the bend without fees standing the way. They only paid for transport of Shs.25000 for the home visit,” he shares.

Baguma says it was joy when the patient recuperated very quickly and from this he learned to be very confident in what he does. “It opened me up to the value I dispense. I learned that even though I loved what I do so much, I needed to start charging for my services,” he says. 

Baguma used templates and also compared with the prevailing market price. “Additionally, I have always been open to working with others and allowing my strengths and theirs to synergise for an amplified success. As such, in this aspect, I worked with people specialising in accounting and finance to handle my books and records,” Baguma says. 

Baguma started with Shs500,000 which was part of what his family awarded him after completing his undergraduate degree. “It was to start my pilot concept and something in nutrition was what I had my eyes on,” he says. With it, Baguma bought equipment and raw materials to start private practice and continue his nutrition business.

Baguma’s clients encompass anyone that is looking to improve and enhance their wellness. Even with a physical location at Nella Eminence Centre at Grand Imperial Hotel as well as at Nella Organics at 4Matic Mall Level 2 Shop No.7. Baguma uses different avenues to draw customers. “I use digital posts and engagement to show what I can do, share reviews on products and services and create/join conversations on my core offering. I also engage customers in the store and online, on tips, hacks and recipes plus any offering I have,” he shares. Baguma also shares health and wellness tips on NTV Uganda, reaches out to new people for future conversion and shares with corporate organisations about what he offers.

Clinical Nutrition: He volunteered at Nakasero Hospital where he gained knowledge and skills of operating in a clinic setting, and how to manage patients who are already ill or even sometimes dying. 
Applied Functional Medicine under Dr Paul Kasenene and was fully funded by the clinic. “My only contribution to the noble cause of Nutrition Awareness and service was be a member of his great team. This helped me expand my expertise beyond Nutrition and dietetics to integrate a more holistic approach which finds out the root cause instead of just symptoms in order to reverse chronic issues. This also helped me develop models and systems that deliver sustainable results and not just quick fixes,” he shares.
Print, Radio and Television training by the National Christian Students Association (NCSA) which was financed by the association and opened Baguma to online and mainstream media spaces and how to brand himself. 

After the demise of his mother, Baguma got inspired to venture into healthcare.

Prescription for natural cures sponsored by Nella Organics which enabled Baguma grow his competence in incorporating natural remedies such as Ashwagandha, superfoods such as Spirulina, and essential oils such as Peppermint to optimize mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. “I have found that these improve outcomes and also make the wellness journey so simple and easy because they support the bodies’ own natural ability to heal itself,” he shares. 

Baguma says there is a poor perception toward natural remedies as a way to improve health and wellness. This is drastically changing though. 
Another is that inasmuch as there are testimonies about natural remedies, there is still inadequate publicity about how they can prevent cancers, diabetes, and hypertension. “Nobody can imagine that their last meal could be the cause of their illness, discomfort and pain. Additionally, weight loss is 80 percent nutrition and only 20 percent exercise. That is why even those ardent gym goers still struggle with weight,” he says.
The other is that some of the clients he deals with are not willing to share their testimonies or before and after pictures as they prefer to remain private, especially concerning their health status. “That said, their testimonies would help grow the business,” he shares.

With more than five years of experience in a field he chose and loves, Baguma is exhilarated. That is not forgetting that he has helped many to achieve their ideal weight, prevent and reverse chronic issues, and restore their digestive health using natural means.
“It is also heart-warming that my teams and I have been able to run more than one successful business venture such as Vyakula. We have also pioneered several start-ups such as the SINZA Project which are doing well,” he says.
As the general manager at Nella Organics where Baguma leads a team of dieticians, herbal medicine consultants, wellness nurses, other wellness experts, and support staff, they are turning lives around. “We use a naturally easy lifestyle and longevity approach to health involving diet, and lifestyle modifications with Chinese, Ayurveda and western herbal remedies for wellness,” he shares.

These are quite many and they include:
• Becoming president of the Makerere University Human Nutrition Students Association.
• Participation and active contribution in the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan Uganda themed “Accelerating investment in Nutrition for Sustainable Development in Uganda” which was held at the Office of the Prime Minister.
• When the SINZA project (one of the start-ups I was a part of) won the best animation for the Uganda Film Festival Awards.
• When Dr Kasenene Wellness helped NSSF win the Human Resource Managers Association Uganda Award for the Workplace Health and Wellness category.
• When Nella Organics won the Women in Business Month with Sanyu FM’s Influential Women in Business. “We emerged winner when one of our female managers won the competition which got us a month of free advertising with the station,” he says.
• Nomination for most outstanding alumni entrepreneurs for the School of Food Science, Nutrition, Technology and Bioengineering (SFTNB).
• General Manager at Nella Organics for a year before the strategic change to concentrate on Dietetics, innovate and grow in that specialised role whilst stepping away from managing the daily operations, teams, sales and marketing.

Sad moments 
When one of his first ventures: Juice Up collapsed, it was saddening but offered a learning curve. “I learnt I could not see to all the business daily operations and still give a consistent service or product at each given time. “This led me to work more in or with teams instead of a sole-preneur,” he says.
Trying to meet the need he saw, Baguma scaled up “The Amicable Nutritionist” but the sales were still low. While they picked up with time, it was discouraging that many wondered if there was a future in nutrition. “All my peers left the city for the very lucrative jobs upcountry with NGOs and Government organisations while I insisted that there was a great need/gap in the city despite all odds,” he shares.

Baguma hopes to be a contributor to ending hidden hunger, where people do not just meet their daily macro nutrient and energy needs but also the micro nutrient needs such as vitamins and minerals. 
He also looks to championing a trendy revolution with natural remedies, nutrition and lifestyle.
He hopes to create a health pandemic where people need not die from Non-Communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension or be inconvenienced with allergies, chronic inflammation or metabolic disorders but rather live a harmonious life.