Growing up, Mariam Kilande witnessed the hardships that one of her elder sisters (deceased) went through when she was impregnated at the age of 13. This was the first teenage mother she had witnessed and she narrates what the entire family went through having a child despite her sister being a child herself.
She was stigmatised, ridiculed and felt disappointed. While Kilanda had the desire to help her sister, she did not have the means to and the whole experience left her with many questions.
The increasing number of teenage mothers in her village coupled with the need to earn a living compelled her to start Living Love Ministries Africa, a community based organisation, in Bukhaweka Town Council, Namisindwa District.
“I wanted to start up a business to earn some money for myself. But I also needed to offer entrepreneurial skills, social and emotional empowerment to struggling teenage mothers,” she says.
In March 2019, Kilande decided to venture into baking. Having seen her mother bake during childhood, she did not need to undergo training.
“I started with my cousin, who was also a teenage mother. We had one packet of baking flour, yeast and a few utensils that I bought using Shs60,000. The other things I needed were already at home,” she speaks fondly of her humble beginnings.
Her first product was just a sample for home, but she also decided to supply to one kiosk owner in the area to see whether the customers would like the snacks.
Together with her cousin, they made 10 cupcakes, which a kiosk owner reluctantly accepted to sell. To her surprise, they were all sold out and customers asked for more.
Using the market price of Shs500, Kilande found it easy to sell her snacks and by the end of the week, she had made a profit of Shs27,500. At this point, they both decided to make doughnuts to increase their clients.
“It was that kiosk owner that gave me a stepping stone. She took a leap of faith in supporting a beginner like myself, even though she did not know how consumers would respond towards my product,” she says.
Just like many budding entrepreneurs, Kilande would have started earlier but thinking that she needed a lot of capital and equipment kept holding her back. “I thought I needed about Shs5m to start, because I wanted to have a fully-fledged bakery. But I didn’t have money to buy everything, which was very frustrating. When I baked my first doughnuts and sold all, I realised I could make money out of it.”
Kilande started going door-to door selling to her neighbours. From the proceeds, she increased production and saved Shs200,000. With these savings, she bought a bigger mixing trough, a bigger pan plus more items. She also expanded to a bigger space.
Kilande brought four other teenage mothers whom she training in baking. She also upgraded and built a small local oven a month later. The girls started supplying products to other retail shops.
Interestingly, even her girls whom she gave transport facilitation from the daily proceeds also became her customers taking cakes and doughnuts to their homes, their neighbors and kiosks in their areas. “This is how we got more customers and increased production.” Looking at her start, she has come to appreciate that those closest to you can form a great clientele base.
While Kilande was new in the market, she had to find ways to remain competitive. She did this by looking doing market research, which helped her to balance her expenses, sales, in relation to prevailing market prices and profits.
Desiring to increase her earnings, Kilande had thought of setting camp in the busy town of Mbale. Gradually, her business is growing into a social enterprise that uses baking skills to generate income as well as empower the teenage mothers.
Kilande has and continues to use word of mouth, through the girls she trains to spread the word of their products. “I have also uniquely branded our products, as ‘MayiNami - The best baked products from a mother’s hands with love.”
Kilande says she sells her products to the community of Namisindwa District which includes kiosks, retailers, schools and homes.
Benefits from the WiB training
Miriam says the training was a real boost in terms of skilling her and other teenage mothers in entrepreneurship skills, accounting, financial and general business management skills. She says she also gained a network of businesswomen who keep following up and encouraging her.
Kilande says somethimes their products are not sold, and they end up going bad, something that eats into what should have been profits.
The other challenge is their creditors failing to pay for goods taken. “These are usually kiosks and retail shops that we have an understanding with to pay after some days or a week. However, some take long to remit the money and this cripples business operations,” she says.
Kilande also still has to deal with managing girls who miss work due to family challenges. “Some of them had earlier on been refused by their parents to participate in our venture. While some come around, others still find reasons to stop the girls from working and marketing products.”
Their greatest challenge so far has been fall of market during the Covid-19 lockdown period. “We have struggled so much to the point of tremendously cutting down on production. Nonetheless, we are slowly recovering.”
While she has been in business for some time, one of greatest joys is having her business registered. After taking part in Women in Business training, she was encouraged to get her businesses registered.
From packing her products in plain polythene bags, Kilande was introduced to proper branding, something that makes her products appeal to clients and compete favourably on the market.
Kilande has trained more than 100 girls whose lives have been transformed. “Some are bakers in their own businesses, while others are working with us. We hope to train more to work in other ventures we intend to start for the girls and women.”
Being among the top 10 winners in Rising Women in business proposal competition was a turning point for Kilande. She says this gave her a platform to connect with other businesswomen and to exchange knowledge. “I was given an opportunity to go for a business and entrepreneurship trip to Nairobi and this has increased visibility for our enterprise,” she says.
Things you wish you knew when you started out
Things rarely go as planned when engaging in any venture. Building a business requires commitment, patience, persistence and consistency. Success doesn’t come overnight regardless of how exciting a venture is.Satisfying customers is not as easy as making your product.
Building a business requires commitment, patience, persistence and consistency. Success doesn’t come overnight regardless of how exciting a venture is.Satisfying customers is not as easy as making your product.