Seeds of adversity, grit in Kampala inspired Twinomujuni to soar in UK

Sunday January 24 2021
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Fortunate Vanessa Twinomujuni (centre) at work. PHOTOS | COURTESY

By Tonny Mushoborozi

Fortunate Vanessa Twinomujuni decided to move to the UK in 2014. Her reasons were simple and straight forward: to study and add value to her life and career.

Twinomujuni had been a corporate banker with one of the banks in Kampala right before she left. She had also been running a small real estate business and another in produce trading. She lived in a nice apartment in a dustless part of Kampala.

She drove a nice car and frequented Kampala’s exclusive restaurants with her friends because she could afford it. Hers was an affluent life of an accomplished middle-class young achiever.
But Twinomujuni didn’t let that fool her. This was not the time to get complacent and comfortable. She wanted much more from life than just a nice job and a flashy lifestyle. She never forgot that life had dealt her several raw deals in her childhood.

Childhood
In 1985, when she was just a few months old, her father was killed as the NRA Bush War was rounding its last corner. Her mother had had no choice but to get tough as nails. She had three very young children to look after, including Twinomujuni who was breastfeeding at the time.

So she had had to scrap around to make sure her children had food on the table and went to school. She tried her hand at produce trading in Kampala and worked hard to make it work. Ten years into it, she had become really good at it so much that she was trading produce all across East Africa.

When Twinomujuni clocked 13, her mother was turning in very handsome profit from her business. By this time, Twinomujuni and her two siblings had been living a very comfortable childhood for a few years.  
Then when she was 13, her mother passed away, ushering in a life of unfamiliar hardship and uncertainty.
“Losing my mom at such a young age changed a lot about my childhood, but equally made me the woman that I am today. My mum is my inspiration. She is my mentor and my role model,” she says.

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“My dream is to be even just half the woman she was. She was a very hard-working and enterprising lady. Very kind and compassionate. That is where I believe I draw all my ambitions and passion to be who I strive to become.”

So while Twinomujuni was living the life of a young achiever starting around 2012, she never forgot the taste of wealth that she had experienced during her childhood in the late 1990s, albeit for a short time. She had fallen in love with entrepreneurship as she watched her late mother progress in produce business.

As a young adult, something in her just wanted to continue her late mother’s legacy. In honour of her. Working a regular job for a salary, handsome as it could be, was never going to be satisfactory for her. There were bigger things one could do in the business world. But there was one thing she needed to do first in order to fully prepare herself for the life she envisioned; getting her first degree.

Dropping out of university
Twinomujuni had dropped out of her Bachelor of Commerce degree at Makerere University Business School, Nakawa (MUBS) when she was in first year in 2005 because of lack of funds. She would promise herself that if God ever made a way for her to study someday, she would do so exceedingly above and beyond.

“When I dropped out of MUBS, I worked with Mitch Egwang’s Eclipse Events. He advised me to study for a professional chattered course, however small. So I joined UMI (Uganda Management Institute) and did a professional marketing certificate,” Twinomujuni says.

It is that same certificate that would open doors for Twinomujuni, each one bigger than the preceding one another until she got a job at the bank. Which is testament to the fact that hard work and a great personality are bigger factors to success than all manner of qualifications. She had climbed the corporate ladder to the top with a mere certificate. And time had come for her to get her bachelor’s degree.

Moving to the UK
In mid-2014, Twinomujuni arrived in the UK to do her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations at Birmingham City University. To supplement the savings she had moved with, Twinomujuni would take up various jobs working for the NHS in the social care service, Marks and Spencer in the customer care service, Grenade’s Marketing department as Loyalty and Retention officer and for The Midlands Organization as a client account manager where she resigned at the end of 2019.
By this time, she had finished her BA two years prior and her entrepreneurial antennae were twitching.

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Business journey
“At the beginning of 2020, I embarked on my new journey of self-employment. The lessons I had learned while working on all those jobs was vast by now. I understood how the aspects of inclusion and diversity affect the African communities in the corporate sector in the diaspora. I had seen how hard it was to make it to the top regardless of your qualifications,” she says.

Her tenacity and entrepreneurship spirit has always pushed her beyond limits. All Twinomujuni needed to break some boundaries in the diaspora was the right qualifications. Now she had her degree and a boatload of experience. She remembered how her mother had been rewarded by her entrepreneurial undertakings and she wanted to go to that sweet spot.

So during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020, six years after her arrival in a foreign country, Twinomujuni beat all odds to build and register two companies: Fortune Corporate Solutions and Fortune Meals. Both businesses are founded in Twinomujuni’s two passions; public relations and produce.

“I’ve always loved marketing communications and public relations. It’s my passion and profession. I acquired a lot of transferable skills from my small businesses [back home in Kampala] which propelled my marketing and PR career. But after graduating my bachelor’s, with a chartered professional diploma in marketing, I decided it was about time for me to start my own PR firm in the diaspora and make a difference in our [diaspora] community,” she says.
 
Twinomujuni is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Marketing and Management at Birmingham City University.

Fortune Meals
“And about Fortune Meals Company Ltd, when I arrived in the UK, I knew I had to eat mostly organic meals. I was very health-conscious, knowing the unhealthy eating patterns in the diaspora that depends on fast foods and GMO foods. I obsessively challenge myself to eat healthier. Healthy cooking is a part of me. So I decided to turn this into a business,” she says.

Own your health. That is the tagline for Fortune Meals. The company website promises meals that will help the customer cut weight by eating right. The fortune menu on the website helps you choose from a list of healthy meals, mostly plant-based, delivered to customers on Mondays and Thursdays. But for now, one has to be a resident in West Midlands for the delivery to work.

Ordinarily, it would be too soon to call this a success story owing to the fact that Twinomujuni only opened these two businesses just last year. But when one has a track record like Twinomujuni’s, you just have to forgive those rooting for her in her brand new ventures.

But that’s not all, really.
“After my graduation at Birmingham City University, I participated in a Pitch My Idea competition organised by the European Union. My organic meal prep company idea won in the competition. I used the little funding that came with the top prize to start small. Now we are on mission to inspire communities to live healthier by availing healthy, organic and delicious plant-based meals and a variety of sustainable food menus,” Twinomujuni says.

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