A bookshop at your doorstep

Many a motivational speaker will tell you that for one to be a successful entrepreneur, one should be a risk taker, innovative and creative.
At Gulu Main Market, Kaunda Grounds in Gulu Municipality, the sight of a tricycle parked next to a second-hand cloth stall on the northern wing of the market, will definitely catch one’s attention.
From a short distance, one spots the beautifully decorated tricycle, painted with pictures of books, mathematical sets, pens, pencil and rulers.

On a closer look, you will observe an arrangement of items such as books, pencils and printing papers inside the tricycle. A man sits inside watching TV and occasionally looking outside for potential clients. Seated in the driver’s seat is another young man, also seeming focused on the same mission – looking out for potential clients.
Ibrahim Ojara, 30, and his younger brother Stephen Komakech, 21, have been operating this mobile stationery shop business since 2011.
Ojara, a Senior Two dropout and resident of Layibi Division in Gulu Municipality, says the fact that they are orphans made them realise they have to start something to fend for themselves. Born to Margaret Atim and Christopher Obote, both deceased, the two brothers became orphans at a tender age.

“We do not clearly remember when our parents died, but all we hear from our relatives is that both our parents passed on when we were still toddlers. We grew up as orphans and did not have much chance at going far with education since we had nobody to pay for our school fees. This made us do all sorts of odd jobs in order to survive,” Ojara recounts.
“I cannot count the number of odd jobs we have done but we believed that was the way to go other than stealing,” his younger brother Komakech chips in.

After dropping out of school in 2010 due to financial constraints, Ojara wondered how he and his younger brother would survive without a decent job.
“After doing several odd jobs such as serving at construction sites, I grew simsim on a small garden at home and harvested one bag out of it,” Ojara says.
At the time, simsim prices were very good and he sold the bag of simsim at Shs150,000. “This is the money we used as start-up capital for this stationery business,” he says.
The two brothers bought rims of photocopying paper, pens, books, pencils, shoe polish, bar soap and tooth paste, which they hawked within the municipality.

“The first two months were not easy. At times, we would sell just a book or nothing at all. It was also tiresome since we had to walk from one place to another, generally, we thought of giving up,” Komakech narrates of the tough beginning of their business.
However, in December 2011, one of the busiest months as people prepare for Christmas, they saw an opportunity to make money. To add onto their stationery products, they blended their business with more marketable products at that time such as children’s clothes, sugar, salt and shoes.

Their strategy paid off. They made profits to the tune of Shs350,000 a month, money that they used to expand their business with more stock and a cart for transport since the stock had become heavy.
In January last year, the young entrepreneurs decided to station their business at Gulu Main Market, where they thought business would be better.
“This decision saw the number of our customers grow,” Ojara says with a sense of triumph.
As the business thrived, the brothers agreed that one of them concentrates on the mobile stationery business as the other continues with odd jobs so as to maximise their income. In this arrangement, Komakech remained in the stationery business as Ojara took on odd jobs.

With this arrangement, the two brothers managed to save Shs7million after a few months. With this money, they used Shs6.6 million to buy a tricycle in December to ease their transport. They ensured the machine is customised to suit their business.
“We made sure the top was covered to protect the goods from rain. We also ensured a solar panel is fitted, a television set and a sound system for attracting customers and also entertaining us during work,” Ojara explains.
The modification work on the tricycle took one month and it cost about Shs300,000.

Within a month, the duo had captured the attention of many customers, given the uniqueness of their business.
Currently, the two brothers earn between Shs1 million and Shs1.5 million per month in profits from their business depending on the season. They say sales are low during the rainy season and when children are on holiday.

Achievements
Ojara says this business has enabled him to take care of his family. He can comfortably pay school fees for his four children and also rent for his family.
Komakech proudly reveals that he is using some proceeds from the business to do some small scale farming. He has also managed to buy a piece of land in Gulu Town.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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