With the Covid-19 pandemic came a huge blow to almost every business not just in Uganda but the world over.
While some are getting a hold onto the tatters left and others starting over anew, it’s undeniable that for some people, the lockdown has birthed new business ideas and small businesses have been created.
Such is the case for Mrs. Irene Kitamirike, 30, a 2013 Makerere University graduate with a degree in Information Technology. Irene is a wife, a mother and a resident of Bukasa- Masozi.
After quitting a job she had done for 7 years, Irene was eyeing self employment as her next chapter in life. While she put the finishing touches on a boutique business she wanted to co-own with a friend beginning February 2020, an uninvited guest- the Coronavirus joined in, halting everything.
This, she says, felt like the end to her efforts, however, with more weeks into the lockdown, she figured out people needed services closer to their homes than usual. Getting home groceries was a tag of war for many and thus, a fresh food stall business was viable.
Getting to hear more of Mrs. Kitamirike’s work and business adventures is a true inspiration and what better way to start than dive in on how she survived through university years!
A student-worker set up
Irene’s hard work can be tracked from way back in her early 20s while she was still at University. At her first job in her first year, she worked at a Casino mainly to cater for her university needs.
“Since my parents could not afford to buy me a laptop, I had to look for money. That’s why I ended up in a casino, although I knew it was risky for me,” she said.
“I actually worked there for six months till i finally raised the money to buy the laptop for my IT course,” she added.
In her last semester at the university, Irene was lucky enough to secure another job. She was working for a prominent businessman, handling his accounts section until she graduated.
“By the time I graduated, I already had a job. I worked in Kikuubo for a certain rich man. At first, he paid me Shs 150,000 as a monthly salary since my qualifications did not match the job,” Irene narrated.
Resilience and patience
After graduating, Irene confesses, she had second thought about the job. The money was little for a whole graduate, and working in Kikuubo while her classmates joined uptown companies “made me feel some kind of way.”
However, on further consultations with friends, she was advised to treasure the bird that she had in her hand than the many in the bush. With less experience in business management and accounting, her demand in that particular business was only fair.
“Because of my papers, that was the best job they could offer me and they employed casual workers mainly. With time, the money started increasing as I got more experience,” she said.
She noted that due to her hard work, she kept getting promotions which came with an increment in salary. Hence, it is not surprising that she stayed at her job for seven years before she resigned. She had been determined to do the job even when her former classmates had got better professions.
Achievements and taking a bold step
She managed to acquire some assets from that job such as a plot of land, a car among others. Although she knew that resigning was the best choice, just like everybody else, she didn’t see the pandemic coming.
“Time came when I felt that I was irrelevant. I needed to move and do something of my own and that was in February this year. I didn’t know that corona was coming in March,” she said with a slight grin.
“After working for that long, I had fully decided to leave and I was ready to face the world. Most people who left the company were fired because it wasn’t an easy job. Thus, I left with one of my colleagues with whom I had saved some money. We had saved Shs 6,000,000 to start up a boutique business together as something of our own,” she said.
Mrs. Kitamirike said that fortunately, they failed to get a place to put their business, as the one they had got was an expensive and thus they were on a search fora more negotiable offer.
“Imagine if we had made payments, in February and then we had to close in March,” she paused.
The pros and cons of staying home to stay safe
Irene mentioned that when the lockdown started, she realised that she did not know her son at all due to her past busy schedule.
The maid spent more time with him. But since she is also expecting another child, she used this opportunity to relax.
“My husband being a corporate worker, was also told to stay home. Luckily, he kept getting salary. However, I was new to the unemployment environment. We were depending on his salary but of course the bills kept on increasing. Staying home at the start was fun because it was a very good holiday for us who have always been busy. However, time came when I got bored since I had been used to working on a daily basis,” she said.
A month later, having moved to and from the market to fetch groceries themselves, the Kitamirikes figured they could start up a fresh food selling business since everybody in their neighbourhood was commuting long distances for the same.
“A good business is one which solves people’s problems. As a couple, we decided that when public transport is opened, we would bring food nearer to people. So, we ended up selling vegetables and fruits. Starting up such a business didn’t give me hard time because I resigned so that I start up something of my own.”
A partner in marriage and business
Irene praised her husband for being a partner not just in marriage but also in developing and executing ideas.
“As you can see, I am heavy, I don’t go to the market because of my situation and so my husband does. You can’t know how much potential your woman has unless you’ve supported her. Therefore, whatever it is, agree together and do something.”
The Kitamirikes are proud of their vegetable and fruit business because they are able to eat healthy diets without over spending. Her in-laws, she noted, have also been taken care of during the pandemic as a shared responsibility, since the husband is the first borne of his family.
Mrs. Kitamirike stressed that when this business had just been started, their neighbours were shocked because the couple rents a quite expensive house and so selling such isn’t something the locals expected.
“As time passed, they started buying foodstuffs from our stall,” Irene chipped in.
Hard work pays
Mrs. Kitamirike said that lately, she has been surprised by her husband with a new business plan.
“He recently told to me that he has seen my diligence and determination. So when I give birth, someone else will take care of this business and I will take on a mini supermarket venture,” she stated.
In a nutshell, Irene praises the support from her family and her undying quest for self employments for having pushed her through in doing what most graduates despise as blue collar jobs, the untimely Covid-19 situation and finally creating her own business.