What you need to know:
Patrick Ogwang runs multiple successful businesses in the US; Nile Trucking, a logistics business, an online retail business, multiple investment clubs and partnerships
Of the seemingly random dots that make up Patrick Ogwang’s life, his innate love for business comes from some of the very darkest ones.
Ogwang lost his mother at the tender age of three due to poisoning at the hands of one of her family members, jealous that she had married a good man. By the time of his mother’s death, Ogwang’s father was away from home, in Australia, reading for his masters degree.
He was a young statistician, working for government at the time. His young wife of five years had been lured to Gulu by the some family members before serving her a poisoned meal. The only silver lining is that she somehow never shared the meal with her first-born three-year-old son, Ogwang.
She died in her sleep. Ogwang remembers trying to wake her up in vain before he just abandoned the efforts and going out to play.
“Before I knew it, I saw people running into the house with a jug milk to try and perform first aid. It was too late,” he says.
Five-year-old Ogwang was caught between a rock and a hard place.
When you lose your mother as a toddler, you don’t know what death is, you don’t grieve her passing and you don’t know the ramifications of it. But as you grow older and look back on this dark day, it occurs to you that the first time you ever heard of death, your very first encounter with the grim ripper was when your own mother had died. You get to accept early in life that life is unfair and that this (unfairness) is nothing to fret over.
The orphaned Ogwang was handed to an aunt and an uncle to look after him as his father returned to Australia to finish his degree. Both caretakers were technically children because they were both under the age of 18. It goes without saying that the burden of feeding the three weighed heavily on Ogwang’s father as he studied for his post graduate degree some 12,000 km away.
So he sent money back home as regularly as possible but the money sadly never made it to its destination. Like most of us, Ogwang’s father had been plagued by the human pathology of being poor at reading character. In the absence of his late wife, the person through whom he sent the funds had better use for it.
It was in the mid 80s and communication technology was still in the dark ages. The post office was an actual technological marvel. Ogwang’s father had no way of knowing what was going on with the children save for what his ‘friend’ told him. The children also had no way of telling him that they were really, really hungry.
One day, Ogwang’s 16-year-old aunt, the older of the two guardians, rubbed tears off her eyes and sought a solution. Survival instincts had kicked in. She borrowed some money from friends and started making banana pancakes and chapatis for sale. The profit from this is what she used to feed the three of them.
Such are the dark circumstances under which Ogwang was first introduced to business.
“Many years later, in 1999, when I was at campus, I started my first business. With my pocket money of UGX shs 5,000 bi-weekly, I bought exotic alcoholic beverages from the duty-free section at Entebbe airport and sold them at campus for good profit,” Ogwang says.
Ogwang never forgot the fundamental, almost spiritual aspect of business which is, creating money out of thin air. He also never forgot that business is what saved his life during his early childhood. So naturally, he has always gravitated toward the thing that gave him a fighting chance.
Today, Patrick Ogwang runs multiple successful businesses in the US; Nile Trucking, a logistics business, an online retail business, multiple investment clubs and partnerships.
When he moved to the US in 2000, Ogwang started off by working for Walmart. At the time Walmart was the number one supermarket in the world with over 7,000 outlets. The outlet Ogwang worked for was doing over $100m in yearly sales alone.
“I started off in the produce department and in 9 months I got promoted to department manager. Two years later I was enrolled into a management training program and subsequently promoted to store manager. At Walmart I learnt, how to read financial reports, Inventory Management, Operations, People, Merchandising, Marketing,” he says.
From a bird’s-eye view, it looked as if an invisible hand was clearing a path for him to take. But up-close, Ogwang pushed himself like Michael Jordan and applied his passion for people like a revolutionary.
One of his responsibilities as manager at Walmart was to receive inventory which meant that he dealt with truckers on a daily basis. He learnt a lot about the trucking business as a result. It occurred to him that the transportation business was something he could try his hand at.
“I knew that in future, it would turn out to be a great disappointment for me to have learned so much from Walmart and never having applied it to get myself a head in life. I set myself a goal to start my own company before I turned 30 but every time I tried to quit, they gave me a raise. I eventually quit, bought my first truck and started off with $10,000 operating capital,” says Ogwang.
Making the first million dollars
He started Nile Trucking in 2013 and within three years, Ogwang’s fleet had grown to 13 trucks, with an annual revenue of approximately 3.8 million dollars.
“We employed, introduced and trained many, including Ugandans into the trucking business. The trucking industry is worth $875 billion per annum and there is plenty of opportunities for everyone to make money with the right knowledge,” he says.
But as his trucking business was about to reach the right altitude to allow for autopilot, his father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Now he would have to divide his time between running his fledgling business in the US with talking care of his ailing father back home in Uganda.
“I traveled back and forth several times between 2015-2017. It was a challenging time for the family. It was expensive and my priority became to do whatever I could to save my father’s life. It was tough but the Lord needed him home. In 2017, dad passed on,” he narrates.
Because of the costs of constant travel and the huge hospital bills, his business took a hit. His business shrunk to just 2 trucks by the time his father passed on. The death of his father and the fall of his business threw Ogwang into an existential crisis.
What is the meaning to life? What’s the purpose of success if my beloved father can’t eat the fruits of it? Who am I anyway? Why am I on this planet? What’s my reason for existence? And how do I want to be remembered?
It was time to recalibrate.
Ogwang realized that he had always been passionate about people and he figured that his purpose was not just to run successful businesses but to also give other people a much-needed push to succeed as well.
Contesting for UNAA presidency
In 2019, Ogwang ran for office of the Uganda-North America Association (UNAA). He ran his campaign on the tagline, ‘Aspire to be more’, with the aim of inspiring his fellow countrymen to achieve the highest possible success individually. Though the he did not win the election, he won many hearts and something good was birthed out of it.
“After the election, we managed to turn the campaign into a company. Aspire to be more LLC. We were able to leverage on our human capital and financial resources to create an alliance with an Vietnam-based company, Makassi Beverages LLC to import and distribute Juice in the US,” Ogwang says.
Soon after he had created the import company, Covid19 spread across the world and drastically changed consumer behavior forever. Online shopping for food became mainstream for the first time ever. “We sold out,” he exclaims.
UNAA president 2023-2025
Ogwang currently self-identifies as ‘UNAA president 2023-2025’ on some of his social media platforms because he believes that he will win it this time. His self-confidence is one of the first things that you pick from his aura. He also has an uncanny ability to get you feeling comfortable enough to allow him to influence you. Makes you feel like you have known him for decades. Agreeable yet not a pushover. Warm and firm in speech. Humble but strong. Intelligent but self-effacing.
“My vision is to restore hope and togetherness in our diaspora community. We have recently had two major break-aways from the organization. And as we know the world today is about numbers. A united people of Uganda in North America is preferred and gives us leverage to negotiate better opportunities for our diaspora community,” Ogwang says.
Ogwang says he intends to tackle issues of Immigration in Ugandan communities, build partners with colleges to provide education scholarships for Ugandan students through sports and purchasing a physical office for UNAA.
“We shall also create a vehicle to financially empower our diaspora one community at a time,” he says.
Creating an initiative to financially empower his friends is not alien to Ogwang. In 2013, he founded an investment group with 27 other Ugandans in the diaspora.
“We built a team of 28 members, drew the rules and regulations and started putting aside $145 every month. Two years later we had over $100,000 in cash,” he narrates.
The team came up with a business proposal to run a property trading business in Uganda with their largest clientele being majorly Ugandans in the Diaspora. He hopes to replicate the success of that investment group to include all willing Ugandans in the diaspora.
Few people are lucky enough to have Ogwang’s level of business acumen but fewer still were introduced to business in such dramatic fashion, so young in life. Truly one in a million.