Walking out of his father’s house in a pink striped shirt, Joseph Mwesigwa looks more of a jovial, humble local peasant than the 23-year-old millionaire he is.
Mwesigwa, the fourth born to Samuel Ndawula, a welder in Seeta, Mukono district, and housewife Rose, is described by his parents as a business-minded, inventive person since his childhood.
“I was there one day when he came and told me that he had seen something which he intended to buy so that he could put it to use. I had no objection to his idea, and he went ahead, bought it and started using it,” Rose said of her bespectacled son.
Mwesigwa, now awaiting his graduation from Uganda Christian University with Bachelor of Arts with Education, started “Eyesiga Mukama Crafts” with a start-up capital of Shs 100,000, in 2011. Then in senior six vacation, he started with a single wooden machine (handloom), which he bought from a friend who had failed to continue with the business.
With a labour force of at least 40 casuals, mainly youths, Mwesigwa’s business is now estimated to be worth Shs 80 million, with an average monthly turnover of Shs 1,800,000 and profits of about Shs 400,000. He owns 30 machines, which he uses to produce dining table mats, ladies’ hand bags, and toys from banana fibres, raffia, threads, and dyes, among other local materials.
In 2012, Mwesigwa’s success persuaded Centenary bank to give him an Shs 8m loan to grow his business. He used it to buy a piece of land, where he wanted to build a factory for his business. Unfortunately, town planners told him that he could not build on such land because it was on a slope which was next to a wetland. He planted trees on that land, expanding his investment portfolio.
His crafts business is currently operating from his parents’ home in Upper Kawuga in Mukono. He thought he saw a better use for rooms that his parents used to rent out to university students as hostels.
“I requested to use them for my business [until] I acquire my own land,” Mwesigwa said.
Last year, Mwesigwa participated in the young entrepreneurship facility organised by the International Labour Organisation office in Kampala. He competed and emerged the best young entrepreneur and was awarded a cash prize of $1,000 (about Shs 2.6m).
He says that he used part of the money to clear part of the loan, bought more machines, and started the toy-making business.
“The training also helped me to acquire skills on how to improve recordkeeping and costing of my products,” Mwesigwa says.
Last week, Aeneas Chapinga Chuma, the ILO assistant director-general and regional director for Africa, paid Mwesigwa a courtesy visit. Chuma, on his first visit to Uganda since his appointment in March, praised Mwesigwa for his ability to take a risk after getting a business idea – something he believes is still lacking among most youths.
“Uganda has a very young population, but faces a youth deficit when it comes to job creation. We need to encourage entrepreneurship just as ILO has taken this step,” Chuma told The Observer.
He described Mwesigwa as an “excellent example, perhaps for the future young people to use their ideas to go forward.”
Chuma promised that ILO would continue monitoring Mwesigwa’s progress with a view to inspire other youths in business. Chuma, who arrived here on September 17, met with Mwesigwa Rukutana, the state minister for Labour, as well as officials from the National Organisation of Trade Unions of Uganda (NOTU), the Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), and the Federation of Uganda Employers.
Mwesigwa sells his products through trade bazaars and he gets most customers from Lugogo UMA trade shows. Some of his customers come from as far as Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. He says he will use connections such as those in ILO and social media friends to get more clients.
But all has not been rosy for Mwesigwa, as he has had to grapple with a couple of challenges. For instance, he says, he finds it difficult transporting banana fibres and raffia from Katosi and Nkokonjeru.
“I always call my suppliers whenever I need the raw materials. They then load them for me on taxis and they are at times brought up to my home, but only when I have the money,” Mwesigwa said.
He added that he worries about rain because when it rains on raffia, it cannot be used. He usually borrows his father’s car to transport the finished products to the market.
The fruits of Mwesigwa’s work are already visible. He has managed to pay his own university fees and has been able to lend a hand in his family’s welfare. Mwesigwa plans to become Africa’s biggest supplier of table mats in the next five years.
When asked how he plans to achieve this, he said: “I have a mentor from Crown Beverages. I wanted somebody who is managing something bigger so that I can learn how to do big things. I sit with him and other different people of the same calibre once in two weeks and we discuss on what to do and how to work out things.”
Mwesigwa aises the youths to utilise all the resources around them and to always be patient in whatever they start as a business.
Source : The Observer