Together we can make a difference

Two months spent in rural Uganda while volunteering / experteering with women. I think it’s time to reflect on what was achieved and look at the impact of my stay in the communities.  

Those two months were all about empowering women to develop their businesses to increase their household income. I worked with two women groups: Kasaana, who make recycled paper beads bracelets and Luteete, who are single mothers making various other handcrafts from locally available resources. 

As a typical consultant I have put some measurements in place to help us stay on track. So our wildly important goal (WIG) was to increase sales revenue from xx to yy by end of 2019. In order to achieve it, we identified two leading activities:

  1. Offer our products to every identified potential business partner (i.e. handcrafts or tourist shop and hotel).     
  2. Place pictures and descriptions of our products on social media channels (i.e. Instagram and Facebook). 

A simplified version of 4DX method brought us great result and were happy to see a major peak in our sales revenue over the last month. We expect sales to drop in the next months, however I am confident that improvements created over the last weeks will be sustained and sales will pick up in the very near future. So what did we actually achieve over the last two months? 

Women started new businesses to diversify income

Kasaana women group consists of over 20 women and they are all making one product – recycled paper bracelets. This product is not easy to sell in the local market, so we started to brainstorm what other business ideas we could introduce. 

Piglets initiative was already started by Integrated Villages beforehand and the results were great. We decided to continue with this initiative and bought three new piglets for the families whom want to start this business but struggled to do so due to lack of funding.

We also identified a need for tailors in the village. Before buying a sewing machine, we explored the market and concluded that there is lots of potential for a tailoring business. A beautiful Singer sewing machine has arrived from Kampala and I had the honour to transport it on a public minibus. It was not an easy logistical operation and I was slightly worried, but it worked out pretty smooth in the end. 

The new sewing machine has created lots of joy in Kasaana and women have already started tailoring courses. I hope soon Kasaana inhabitants won’t need to travel far to get their new clothes. We are especially excited to start making school children uniforms. Currently there is no single tailor who could make them all, so parents were going to villages further away to get this service.  

In Luteete each woman has their own business and sell their handcrafts to neighbours. However,  sales are still low so we see a need to introduce another business too. After a group brainstorming session, we concluded that buying an event tent as a group is a great idea. The tents are very popular to rent here for various occasions and we identified its demand in Luteete area. We are certain that with a small investment into marketing, we can generate a constant flow of revenue, which can be reinvested into other business ideas or shared among each group member. 

This business would also give an opportunity for up-selling other services, such as tent decorating or food catering. We are even thinking to build a stand for our handcrafts, thus each time we have a new customer picking up a tent, they can take a look at other available products we sell. 

We didn’t buy the tent yet because it’s a slightly bigger investment, but I am sure we will get there very soon, as we already have approximately half of the investment needed. 

New business partners to sell the handcrafts

After my business trip around Uganda, I would like to give credit to all sales professionals in the world. It’s such a difficult job, something I have experienced myself whilst in Uganda. Fortunately it was pretty fruitful;

We have managed to find three business partners who will start selling our products. One in Masaka town, which is the closest where we stay, and another one in Fort Portal. The last one in Queen Elizabeth national park. So far just three, but many business cards and product samples have been handed to potential partners. I am sure some of them will call us later. 

Women were always asking me about getting international clients, as they are able to pay a higher price. We did have a few leads, but it didn’t materialize yet. Shipping costs are high, delivery time is long and most simply don’t trust the Ugandan postal services. We could of course ship with DHL, but then the costs would be extremely high. Again, quite many potential customers are approached and maybe some will still lead to a signed business agreement.  

So happy to have found the first business partner to sell our products.

Improved bracelets quality

We want only happy customers, always! However, we realized that our product quality was not up to par. With hard work, dedication and passion, we made it. And you can read a full story about our quality improvement initiatives here.

Improved working conditions

I believe everyone in the world deserves to work in a safe environment. We have identified a couple of near-misses which we have addressed by applying 5S + 1 method. This has also improved our productivity, so I am happy to see that LEAN methods and tools are working in Africa too. 

Created a focus for Integrated Villages organization

My weekends were all about working on NGO organization challenges. After we conducted a team reflection session, it was clear that we cannot continue with so many initiatives and activities. So we worked together with Godfrey to define the organization’s WHY, supported with HOW it will be achieved and WHAT activities will be done. I have used my favourite concept of Golden Circle developed by one of my favourite inspirational speakers Simon Sinek. 

I am happy with the result and soon it should be reflected on their website. The new organization will focus on only ONE thing, which will be supported by the team with relevant capabilities.  

Integrated Villages team reflection session

Planted trees in Hill View primary school 

After Bob and Wow analysis, I decided to plant eleven trees in Hill View in honour of my family who supported me so much during this adventure. My family is a bit smaller, so I multiplied it by two to diversify a risk if a certain tree doesn’t grow. I hope one day I will come back there together with my family and we can enjoy oranges, avocados, pomegranate, papaya or guava. 

Planting tress with kids from Hill View Primary School

Cement bags purchased

When visiting homes of women with whom I worked, I recorded a couple of videos (i.e. Josephine, Sumin, Jane, Saidat). Josephine’s video especially touched my friends’ hearts. They are doctors and felt like supporting Josephine with buying cement bags, so her children don’t need to sleep on the dusty floor. You can take a look at the video to see Josephine’s joy.

Increased awareness of poverty issues in rural Uganda

When I started working on my blog, I knew it would be a huge time commitment towards my readers. But I had a clear vision in my mind that I want you to feel, see and hear as much as I can pass directly from the field. I experienced that it’s still difficult to pass all the emotions and experiences, because touching and feeling it by yourself is way more impactful. However, lots of good actions start from awareness and I was so happy to receive all the supporting messages from you. You were a true inspiration for me to continue my work in the field. 

When I finished this post and looked to the list of our achievements, I was so happy! It’s actually quite a lot what we were able to do over the course of only two months. None of this could be implemented without your support. So I would like to thank everyone who supported me along this adventure. 

I am so proud of what we have achieved together! For me it was a good lesson and confirmation that you can make a difference, even in a short period of time, as long as everyone collaborates together.

Webale to everyone! (Thank You!)

The farewell song by Luteete woman made me very emotional – I will miss them a lot!
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