Bella Wines Founder Ukkonika : How I Rose From Adversity And Found Meaningful Success
You could be experiencing some form of adversity right now. Your spouse could have walked away, your finances might be getting from bad to worse or you could have lost the person you had put all your hopes into. Regardless of what’s going on, understand that these circumstances are meant for your personal growth, they are meant to stretch your faith and if you choose the right attitude they will take your life to another level. I hope that when you read Prudence Kasibante Ukkonika’s story of loss, perseverance and restoration, you find strength and a new perspective for your life.
In the beginning
They say we are only as tall as the people on whose shoulders we stand and from these lofty heights I stand today many people have held me up and continue to do so. However, there is one person without whom Bella Wines possibly couldn’t have been; my son Godwin Onika. My husband and I have been blessed with healthy, brilliant and focused children. Godwin was specially gifted with exceptional talents and at 19 years old, he was already an established model and was running a thriving local wine business in Kampala.
In December 2000, Ukkonika’s son Godwin Onika was one of those in charge of drinks at Hon. Omara Atubo’s daughter’s graduation ceremony. Godwin realized that the guests preferred the local wine over all the other drinks. Later, he told shared with me about his discovery and I gave him his first capital to buy the wine from the village and sell in Kampala. The business took off until his tragic death.
His death was one of those things that change people’s lives forever. One minute he was excitedly chasing his visa to the UK where he had been invited to take part in a fashion show, the next minute he was dead and buried. I remember the pain, the anger and the shame as if I had done something wrong. The pain was too much. I wanted to go as far away from anything that reminded me of him as possible. I thought of fleeing abroad but Godwin’s fate (collapsing from the exhaustion of lining up) was still too fresh. My family was starting to fall apart. I felt that I needed to do something to hold the family together. That’s when I got down on my knees and prayed like I had never prayed before. I asked God to show me something I could do without leaving the country and my family and the answer was Bella Wine.
I had seen my father Ludovic Kasibante, make a fine living from brewing and later supplying Waragi back home in in Nyarushanje village, Rukungiri district so I knew I could make it too. I started where my son had stopped and started buying more wine and repackaging and selling it here in Kampala. Soon I realized that I couldn’t keep relying on the villagers for my supply, I had to start making my own wine. Lucky enough, my husband’s family had come into an Italian recipe from one of their in-laws and they passed it down to me. Despite having no experience of the drinks industry, I recognized a great business opportunity and wanted to keep my son’s legacy alive so I enrolled at Kyambogo University and did a course in Food Science. With one of my sons, I enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Makerere University Business School where I majored in management while my son majored in accounting. With that expertise, the family business was born. We started this business from our sitting room, moved to a garage and we ended up renting a floor in Wandegeya before we set up our factory in Kira.
When the business started, we were manufacturing five litres of wine in the garage which grew to 2,000 liters later in Wandegeya. Now in our own factory we are manufacturing 50,000 litres. I started with organic passion fruits which were making red wine yet people were asking me for white wine. I discovered I could make white wine from pineapples. Initially I was producing wine just enough for the local market but we have since moved to accommodate the region. Bella Wine is now so popular in the all over the region that we have set up branches in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Right now, my aim is to turn Bella Wine into an international brand and we have set our sights on growing beyond Uganda, beyond East Africa. Over the past five or so years sales have risen beyond slowly built up, but Ms Karanja says that the business was then hit by copycats, small producers setting up to make their own fortified wines sold in plastic bottles.
Success according to Ukkonika
A successful career, at the end of the day, is one in which you are doing what you love. That doesn’t mean that you love every task, or that it’s easy, or that there aren’t moments where you want to quit. But that the bigger picture is one that inspires you, keep you moving and keeps you growing as an individual. The other secret is maintaining a work life balance. I have seen many grow their businesses more quickly than I have, but I choose to focus on family more than business growth. It is also very important to really know what you are doing. Go back to school if you must and learn your trade to the best of your ability.
My number one weapon is prayer. There is nothing people can do without the grace of God. In everything I seek his guidance and when I get stuck or feel overwhelmed, I find solace in my Bible. Secondly I attribute any professional and personal success to grit. Any success in my life has not been merely or primarily because of luck or talent, but from sheer will and perseverance, especially when things were tough. From personally making the wine to going back to school at my advanced age, the ability to work towards a goal no matter how hard it was or how long it took is my key. You also have to believe in yourself and your abilities no matter what others might think. That’s why the word BELLA (Belief leads to everlasting achievement.) perfectly sums up what I believe in.
Balancing work and family
My priority has always been my role as a mother and wife. Most women tend to forget that as soon they get some financial freedom. They sacrifice their family for their business. But where is the sense in that? What good will all the money in the world do you when your family falls apart. When I am at work I am different but as soon as I enter my home, I take off the airs and pamper my husband and children as a mother and wife should.
About Bella Wine
Bella Wine is packaged by K-Roma ltd. K-Roma was certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UNBS) and registered as the first company producing organic fruit products. The fruits are supplied by the Organic farmers supported by the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU). The company was registered with a capital investment of one million shillings and is to-date estimated at a worth of five hundred million shillings. It started with only three employees but to-date employs over twenty workers. At start, there was only one supplier and wine was sold in jerricans and plastic bottles; now there are over four suppliers and wine is sold in glass bottles. The customers used to consist of mainly the relatives, family friends and colleagues at work; today the distribution chain has grown to most supermarkets in Kampala, Mukono, Entebbe, Mbale, Mbarara, Masaka and upcountry.
K-Roma’s head offices on Moil building next to Wandegeya Police station.K-Roma Ltd, founded by Ukkonika, is the company that manufactures, Bella Wine, undoubtedly their flagship brand. The company manufactures, distributes and packages wines and juices.
Prudence Kasibante Ukkonika is married to Seraph Amen Ukkoninka.