My Story of Luck!
Luck is real, it is powerful, and I am committed to spreading it as far as I can. I am a beneficiary of luck, and I am passionate about sharing it across the continent, to all 54 countries.Tony O. Elumelu, CON
If anyone knows the role that luck plays in personal and business growth, it would be me. I am a product of sheer luck.
I grew up in an orphanage in rural Uganda, poor and constantly sick with Malaria. I was fortunate to find supporters who gave me a stepping stone: the orphanage supported me through primary school education, after which a German NGO sponsored my secondary education. I, however, could not go on to university as the fees were too high but I got a scholarship into an innovation academy.
How it Started
I was lucky to get the opportunity to join the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) through a scholarship program during which the idea of starting my own business slowly formed. I had found meaning in my own suffering and I desired to create a Malaria free world. I decided to create Uganics; a soap manufacturing company where we create organic hygiene bars that help prevent malaria.
The TEF Intervention
Uganics was an idea until I received the support of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme led to the real birth of Uganics Soap. I was fortunate to be mentored by Miss Jewel Okwechime who till date remains a strong support system and advisor for my business and my team. The start-up toolkit was a great tool for understanding our customers and during the programme, I wrote a business plan for the first time in my life. These learnings and support have led to the success of Uganics. My team and I have continuously used the resources and templates TEF Entrepreneurship Program provided every time we have a challenge. With the seed capital I received, I purchased the raw materials and machinery needed to go into production.
We leveraged Relationships
As a start-up, we needed to build consumer trust and credibility and to scale up production, so we had to get certifications with the relevant bodies. To do this, we partnered with laboratories and experienced soap producers to know and meet the requirements.
When we started, we also did not have enough resources to fund our own research and lab tests, so we partnered with institutions that were already working on malaria research. We currently have one of such partners here in Uganda, one in Mannheim University Germany and another one in Denmark.
We also partner with larger malaria intervention initiatives to bridge the root-cause, prevention and treatment knowledge gap within Ugandan rural dwellers. This has helped increase our overall impact on the fight against malaria.
We are also spreading luck
During our initial customer validation process, we realised that those who needed our product the most were also the least able to afford it even if we sold at zero profit. So, we developed a strategy- we started our sales drive with a focus on high-class hotels and their ecologically and socially conscious guests. We sold at a reasonable profit and the profit made allowed us to subsidise the cost to the low-income rural dwellers.
Uganics currently has a full-time team of 12people including a marketer and a nurse and works with 5 distributors outside Uganda.
We produce and sell over 1500kgs of soap monthly. Our business has scaled up to 3 districts in Uganda working with hospitals, Pharmacies, local stores and 8 resorts. We are impacting more than 5000 families and 12000 people monthly through our soap sales and malaria awareness campaigns.
We keep making progress
- Uganics became the Anzisha Prize second runner up and got an additional funding of $12500.
- Uganics got international exposure and coverage on Aljazeera, France 24, Reuters, a54, MasterCard Foundation and other local media platforms.
- We developed new products to add to our product line which are to be launched soon.
In all, I would say it has been an interesting journey; full of ups and downs. I have learned that every business is capable of success, but it depends on its driver’s passion and purpose. If it’s about making a difference, then it will make money.