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Candles light his path to wealth

By: BRIAN SSENOGA

Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with more than 78 per cent below the age of 30.

But for 22-year-old Deziderio Byansi, a resident of Kasokoso Kiganda zone, a slum area in Kireka, job searching has never been on his to-do list. Byansi employees four other young people at his company ‘Dezi Smart Entrepreneurs’ and he has trained more than 75 young people from Kasokoso, Mutungo and Mbuya communities to make a range of products including; candles, paper bags, school chalk, liquid soap, hair shampoo, bar soap, book binding and charcoal briquettes, among others.

Challenges

Although he sells his products in the environs of Mutungo such as some supermarkets in Mbuya, Kiswa, Mutungo, Nakawa and Kireka, Byansi is finding difficulties.

“The challenge is that big supermarkets [Uchumi, Nakumatt, Tuskys] are hesitant to take on some products because our company is not yet registered.”

There is also a knowledge gap among some Ugandan entrepreneurs about the Uganda Registration Services Bureau website that helps people to register their businesses among other things. “At first, I lacked the right people to advise me about what to do reagrding registering a company. I did not know what to do and where exactly to go.”

Byansi tried to register the business last year but found the process very bureaucratic and expensive. “The lawyer wanted Shs400,000 which I did not have . So I was advised to first register it as a Community Based Organisation and I have already submitted all the necessary documentation to Kampala City Council Authority for review. I will then proceed to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau.”

HOW BYANSI ACQUIRED THE SKILLS

In his Primary Seven vacation, the second born of three worked at Silver Springs Hotel for Shs2,500 a day, which he saved in preparation for secondary school level where he learnt the skill of making candles, paper bags and liquid soap, among others.

In 2010 when he organised a group of 19 other youths from Mbuya community. He formed the first group with the sole aim of trying their entrepreneurial skills at poultry farming.

However, this hardly survived its first anniversary. This is when the Kampala Area Federation of Communities— an organisation that works with orphans and other vulnerable children in the slum areas of Kampala and the surrounding areas, heard about Byansi’s group and connected him to Child Fund Uganda which took to training them.

“But by that time some were discouraged and opted out of the group. Those that remained chose bakery but because of conflicting business interests, we could not continue together and the business suffered,” he says.

Byansi benefited from Child Fund’s entrepreneurship training classes. By then, he was about to complete his Ordinary Level at Kololo Secondary School, facing a challenge of what to do during holidays. It was at the same time that he rekindled his candle making dream.

Pursuing the candle-making dream

Byansi says he lacked a work station until the school offered him space. It was at that point that the current entrepreneurship club was born at the school. It now boasts of more than 200 members.

But during the holidays, all he needed was just Shs30,000 to start doing business as he waited for the exam results.

“With that money, I rented a room to work and also bought raw materials to start making candles again. My heart is in candle making. But a few months after the business opened, I found all my raw materials had been stolen.”

But, just like his motto ‘Brain is our capital’ he did not give up. “I believe in using what I have to get what I do not have. I went back to Child Fund Kampala offices, explained the situation and borrowed some machines. I also borrowed some Shs30,000.

In two months, I was able to buy two candle making machines and up to now I have been producing about 1,000 candles a day.

Byansi, whose major market is in Uganda looks to widen his footprint in the regional markets because of the diversity of his products. “These are home based products that both the rich and poor need. For the rich I make candles in different shapes and colours, at a price of Shs1,000 to Shs2,500 but for the poor, it costs Shs300.”

Targeted market

He adds, “The rich and poor need and use soap and they cook with the briquettes but when I make envelopes, I am targeting organisations which communicate mostly through writing.”

Byansi buys raw materials for candles and liquid soap from Desbro in industrial area. He buys paper for making envelopes from Nasser road.

TRACING HIS ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY

His love for making money started way back in Bihanga, Kamwenge district, when he was in Primary School.

That is when he started selling sugarcane from which he made a good profit. He then decided to start a beverage business.

“My mother knew about my business and she encouraged me knowing the money helped in buying clothes, books and other things.

But we had to do it without the knowledge of my father otherwise I would lose my business. We had a grass thatched house that was always cold so the sodas and other beverages were always cold since I kept them undercover.”

It was not a secret anymore when many people began flocking the place in search of a drink. That coupled with Byansi’s continued absence at school saw his father suspend the operations.

He then whisked the boy off to Kampala to his uncle’s place in Mutungo so that he could continue with his studies. Byansi was then enrolled at a boarding school but he could still work as a porter during the school holidays.

What Byansi has learnt about business

Business is not a joke. You have to love what you do to benefit. I have learnt that sometimes, you have to lose or sacrifice certain things to get what you want.

All entrepreneurs sometimes sacrifice a lot for the little now which will bring a mega bonus in the future. I have learnt that people are the major resource of any business enterprise so I have to treasure the people I work with; be it a trainee or any of my four employees.

I have also learnt that while starting is not a simple thing it is also a challenge to maintain and grow. Our first year of business was difficult because we were robbed of machinery and raw materials but I never declared that the company had gone back to zero, no. I was still alive and a month later we resumed work.

Another lesson is that persistence will always be recognised and rewarded be it in good terms or otherwise.

Despite my humble start and the challenges someone nominated me for the Junior Achievement award. This encouraged me to integrate briquette making on which I spend little money since all the raw materials like papers and matooke peelings are free but the project is in line with conserving the environment.

The money his business brings in

Although demand for other products is still low, Byansi’s 20-litre jerry can of liquid soap costs Shs25,000.

Asked about the profits from candles, Byansi says, “On average I make a profit of Shs200,000 a month from candles alone and together with other products I make about Shs500,000 a month.

BYANSI’S ADVICE TO THOSE WHO ARE AFRAID TO START BUSINESS

Start now: There is no better time to start than now. I think if one can see a missing link or gap in society then that is where to start from.

Most young people fear to start because of lack of money but I think the best time to seize an opportunity is when it comes.

See the opportunity in your challenge: I always tell the young people especially those that I train that life’s opportunities will manifest as challenges, which they tend to call problems.

But still many young people are very pessimistic, choosing to see the bad in the good.

Be patient: Young people don’t want to wait yet they marvel at those who have achieved in life, but when you ask the achievers, one among their secrets is patiently working by putting one foot ahead of the other at a slow but sure pace.

For instance, I have a dream of establishing a vocational institution mainly to train disadvantaged children and young people in slum areas in Uganda.

Aspire big: I want the company to grow and reach the level of Mukwano industries because I believe that as long as the population continues increasing, house hold products will have a market.

Do not let your past stand in your way: Innovation is not for the genius but the generous to self, for those who know where they come from and where they want to go.

For me, I mind less about where I have come from because it is a poor background which has little to be proud of than where I am now and where I want to be.

I know that the future starts today and now. You cannot progress by looking at the past.

Draw inspiration from successful businesses: I am inspired by companies like Mukwano industries. They have continued manufacturing basic products needed in the homes of all people rich and poor.

You can never go wrong if you produce such products because the rich and the poor need soap alike.

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