20 Young Women Shaping Uganda’s Entrepreneurial Landscape
Shespell.com celebrates excellence, integrity and innovation. In this feature we bring you Ugandan women who prove that having a stellar education these days is no longer a guarantee for a successful, meaningful life. You need talent, passion, integrity and that special brand-building skill that turns an individual into a one-person corporate empire that no school can equip you with.
The trailblazing individuals on this list have all that and even more. Their establishments are fuelled by personal drive, inspired by global influences and are socially conscious; the essential requirements for any successful business in this generation.
Let’s take a look.
Elizabeth Atukunda and Bunda Katende
Liz and Bunda are the dynamic duo behind BIIKA Bags. Elizabeth is a lawyer and a banker and Bunda is an IT specialist, Childcare specialist, wife and mother of three beautiful children. Even though they are passionate about BIIKA, their professions and families represent who they inherently are.
The creation of these bags represents the opportunity to be a part of a movement that seeks to understand and appreciate contemporary African artisanship and in specific Ugandan artistry. BIIKA is the brainchild of two Ugandan girls with a dream of using available resources to create leather bags and goods that tell a story of what Africa is and inadvertently how we perceive ourselves. At the time of its formation, the media was awash with the image of the Acacia tree and the quote “Africa is rising”. From this euphoria BIIKA was born. BIIKA seeks to be a representation of “this time”, OUR TIME, we seek to become a landmark for a time of the rebirth of African art and in specific “Ugandan Art”.
A concept on the type of bag we intend to create is developed right down to the details of the fabric and leather particulars. The materials are sourced from markets in Uganda and the leather from tanneries also in Uganda. We then proceed to make prototypes of the bags until the final bag is created. All BIIKA designs are original designs, the materials are all sourced in Uganda and the bags sewn using Ugandan labor.
As far as philosophies go, we at BIIKA have several but we would like to narrow them down to one and this would be “NOTHING LASTS FOREVER” when you have something, value it. When you long for something, wait for it for as sure as day follows night, it will come to you.
I have always been a creator, a hands-on person and a DIY fanatic. I come alive when I am involved in some DIY from baking to cooking and decorating. My creativity was piqued by my struggle to keep my hair natural in a country where such hair products are almost non-existent. I also realised that I was not the only one in need of these products. Together with a group of friends, we came up the idea to make our own natural hair and skin products. What started out as a typically ‘home’ project, became a journey of friends learning, growing and developing a business together.
Our products are an expression of our inner ‘foodies’. Apart from the fact that they smell delectably, our products have quirky dessert-inspired names. Product formulation involves numerous tests to find the right proportions for each oil, butter and scrub blend, and thereafter further tests of the finished product itself.
I believe in the power of working as a team – the organic participation of different minds and talents to find useful and lasting creations to redefine the standards of beauty, as we know them. I draw inspiration from nature, from which the ingredients of the homemade products are extracted (nuts, fruits, herbs, flowers, spices, etc.) To think that nature itself provides exactly what we need for health and beauty is incredible.
Cooking to me is more than just altering the state of food for our nourishment; it is a science, an art, a divine expression of who I am. When I cook I am peaceful, I am in touch with my truest self; I feel invincible, I feel like I know why I am here on earth. I am creative with the way I cook which is why I love doing specials. Specials give you a licence to depart from the restrictions of the menu and cook what you feel like that day. I am also very visual, I care more about presentation because I know that people eat with their eyes first. My favourite and my most popular dish are the barbecued pork ribs which we make either salty and sweet or salty and spicy.
My love for cooking started when I was really young but it came alive while working at a café in Wales. There was nothing special about this café; just your typical university eatery specialising in sandwiches and snacks but I managed to learn very important lessons that are crucial in the culinary world. This is where I learnt about the importance of health and safety for the one preparing food and the one eating it.
When I completed my law degree and came back home, I started cooking for a certain company that needed catering services as I waited to join LDC. I ended up staying for five years and postponing the enrolment at LDC.
In 2011, I opened up my first eatery Chanda’s at Metroplex Naalya. Our menu consisted of sandwiches, salads and hot chocolate and we did okay regardless of the prohibitive rent (had to be paid in dollars) and the very low traffic. I finally made the decision to close the café and instead start preparing and delivering food from home which became a very successful venture. I established a wide client base that pushed me into opening yet another restaurant last year in Naguru at the Surgery. Currently I do deliveries of our mouth-watering barbecues. For more info on this visit my Facebook page Chanda’s.
My mother often likens my decision to opt out of the law career in pursuit of my dream to someone pouring a bucket of cold water on her. I know that we won’t always make the perfect decisions for everyone but I believe that the decisions we make should ultimately be justified. I often toy with the idea of doing that diploma just to appease my mother but then I ask myself “and then what?” Would I have made a good lawyer? I believe so, but I am happy being the best barbecue chef that I can. Cooking is my only way expression, it is my first love and I am reassured every time I serve someone something great. Instead of limiting myself, my love for food inspires me to dream bigger, explore new territories and to always cook a better dish than I did yesterday.
When I was a child I always wanted to be a cartoon character; fortunately, my dream didn’t come true. I fell in love with concept art as I was pursing my degree in animation. Digital painting allows me to express my visions. I create pieces that anyone without an artistic background can like and even want to buy. Lately my concepts have featured portraits of African women. There is so much beauty there.
My Ideas usually come to me at the oddest times, right before I sleep or in my dreams. To improve on those ideas I do a lot of research usually looking at photos online. Even if my style is cartoony, I still enjoy working with the structure of what is real. I use a popular digital art programme called Adobe Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. With digital art it’s easy to make changes until I get it right. I usually finish my art pieces the day I start them, I don’t like to sit with it too long because I get bored easily. I also try not to bind myself to one style. Nothing ever really turns out the way I planned it and am always surprised by the finished work. Most of the time I don’t believe that I created it.
My philosophy has changed a lot over the years. I do my best to stay true to my ideas. I always envision myself as the art piece or the character that I am drawing. I think to myself if I was this piece, would I be ok with being stuck in this frame forever? Am I content with this lighting? It is really important for me to enjoy what I do. If art becomes a burden then I wouldn’t be true to my ideas.
You probably know her from her very hilarious social media posts, or from her involvement in social awareness campaigns. What is apparent is that she has layers and a depth that belies her age. In actual life Martha is a passionate, ambitious young woman on a journey to master herself while giving her best to the world.
My work is my passion, my redemption and my daily offer to God. It is a constant reminder that He loves me and He will never forsake me. This therefore motivates me to give it my best and treat it as a holy endeavour. It excites me, it motivates me but most importantly it gives me a chance to share my faith, values and support causes that are close to my heart.
I cannot emphasise more how photography saved my life. For as long as I can remember I was the problem child, the one who could never get anything done right. My academics were a disaster to put it delicately; I had no friends and had a deliberating shyness. Things became worse when I went to Haiti where I did my A-levels. I was forced to be part of this exclusive elite club that could never accept me because I was fat, unfashionable and generally clueless in all things that make people sophisticated and likable.
I was bullied, I was teased and ostracised. I fell into a depression because there was no one I could talk to who could understand the hell I was living through. Our African society has not fully accepted depression as a proper medical condition so my misery was passed off as teenage hormones or just plain moodiness. At my wits end, I started searching for help. My search led me to the bible and as I delved deeper into the word my life turned around.
The bible says that behold I create something new, the old is gone. I was given a new life. My academics dramatically improved, and I discovered that I was passionate about photography and that I could do it amazingly well. I started using my phone to take pictures and then my sister bought me my first camera.
I know that saying that a bad workman blames his tools but in photography it is really true. Your pictures are as good as your equipment. The right gadgets give you a competitive advantage and that is why my dream was to own this camera which cost about Shs 5M. I started saving for it but a few months later, a much better version was released that cost about Shs 10M. I wanted that camera like I needed oxygen. I prayed over it, fasted for it and devised ways of earning more money from my several jobs. One day, in the middle of a shoot my dad invited me for lunch; a very rare thing given our family structure.
As we were having lunch, I tell him about my dream camera just as a general way of sharing information because I knew he did not have that kind of money especially to spend on things that don’t make sense to him as a farmer. As our lunch wound down, he asked me how much money I had so far and I told him I had about Shs 2M which I would use to buy lenses in case I failed to get the rest. I walked him to his car and he handed me an envelope without telling me how much was in it. I moved with that envelop burning a hole in my bag until I got home and found Shs 10M. That is how Martha Kay photography came to be.
Seek him first and the rest shall be added unto you. When I was at my lowest, I went on my knees and asked God to help me and He answered my prayers. He continues to provide everything I need whenever I need it.
A lawyer by professional, Brenda Ekomoloit oozes intelligence and positivity from every pore of her vibrant body. She is happiest when she is knee deep in the multiple projects she runs simultaneously. When she is not in the studio churning out addictive sounds, Ekky runs a successful construction company, a restaurant (Cassava Republic) and a farm. She has the tenacity that makes legends; Ekky started three restaurants that closed within a few months. When her last landlord scammed her of six months’ rent, she decided she had had enough and bought plot where she built her own restaurant.
My mission is to heal Africa through music. My music is an eclectic blend of Deep house and Afro-pop music and I am excited to have six singles currently being played on the airwaves. I am currently working on my debut album The African Love Story. I strive to portray the timeless beauty and ancient power of an African woman in my videos. Because my message tends to be universal, my music has transcended the East African boarders and it is played on continental platforms like MTV and channel O.
My breakthrough single Breaking Free was so popular that it reached the number one spot in South African chats and number five on the Ghanaian chats.
My music is created with love for love. I sing so I can build love, restore hope, fill in the gaps, and rebuild relationships. I work with people capable of facilitating my greatness, people who truly believe in my dream. Working with the best audio and visual producers and being selective in my collaborative projects. The music I make highlights the different shades of love on bright sunny days and the dark grey storms. It is bittersweet; a hint of whom I am and what lies in the depth of my soul.
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your heart on fire” I am driven by the desire to excel and impart the natural gifts that God has bestowed upon me. I use my passion as a vessel to create social awareness and amplify it to the next generations. I also believe in the beauty of possibility, the power of love and I will do my bit to share these beliefs with others.
You know that tingling feeling you get when you’re listening to someone who inspires you to your core? That is the feeling Roshan evoked in me. She is fierce, she is soft. She has clarity that gives hope to the lost. She is passionate about God and she taught me that there is one more use of the bible albeit unconventional.
Roshan Karmali was born in Nsambya Hospital, Kampala to parents of Indian, Ugandan and European ethnicity. Spending her life between Kampala and the United Kingdom, Roshan returned back to Uganda to begin her adult life as a mother and artist. Graduating with a BA (Hons) Degree in Photography and Media Arts from the University for the Creative Arts (Maidstone, UK) and with a passion for writing and sharing stories, Roshan has built her career on innovation combining writing, poetry, spirituality, events and art under her company Masaani. Organizing Poetry and Art orientated events in Uganda and East Africa whilst maintaining Uganda’s longest running open mic poetry event Poetry In Session. Roshan is a mother of three, feminist poet/artist and free speech activist.
For the past couple of years I have been working on a book. In reality I have been working on it my whole life, but this year it has naturally begun to manifest itself with purpose. It’s a book that acknowledges the deepest forms of our emotions and hopefully turns them into something beautiful, and tangible and puts into words some of the feelings we “just can’t quite put our fingers on” sometimes.
I want to create a book that functions as a multimedia piece of Art but also as a shout out to my ‘Tribe’. Those are the people who don’t fit in, who struggle with identity and who feel too much and get called things like ‘depressed’ and ‘broken’, we can make our own muddled paths in life. I just want to show people that we are shining lights too, and just because life get hard, it doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around for ourselves.
What’s my process? Continuing to be awkwardly and unapologetically flawed and me.
Fearless Knowledge Of Self. The willingness to look beneath the surface of situations and people and look within to find the answers to life’s questions. I believe that the more we look within ourselves to explore and accept our emotions, and how we cope with our emotions we in turn begin to see the world and people around us differently. I think we begin to see our faith, convictions and self-worth more as well the more we are brave enough to keep asking ourselves what we really want and what footprint we desire to leave in the world. It also really allows us to accept our ‘flaws’ as simply parts of our design and balance and gives us the control to have power over who we are and who and what positive or negative energies we allow ourselves to be surrounded by.
Coming soon: roshankarmali/tumblr.com
Nunu Umuringa Butale
My work is different. It is art. It is inspired by passion. I believe that every woman should have beautiful accessories especially jewellery and that is what I try to create. Jewellery is an expression of an individual’s character and I design for the bold and quirky and trendy yet fiercely independent. I started designing jewellery about ten years ago as an outlet for my emotions. I was out of a job; I had a baby on the way and needed an income. I started making a few pieces for my friends and family and what started out as a side gig has now blossomed into Umuringa jewellery.
I am an emotional being so I highly rely on my feelings to create. I can have a spurt of creativity that lasts weeks or I can fail to create anything for six months. The same goes for my materials; I don’t stick to any particular ones. I know most jewellers specialise in a particular metal or material but I use whatever takes my fancy. Therefore I collect stuff that most people would have no use for and turn them into beautiful wearable pieces.
Life is meant to be lived surrounded by beauty. I try every day to find that beauty and capture it so I can share it with the world after all whatever you put out there comes back to you. I aim to put as much beauty in the world in the hopes that it returns to me.
I have just graduated with my Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School in San Francisco and I’m currently in the process of launching my first truly social business. Together with my amazing co-founder, Manon Lavaud we are now in Uganda providing Musana Carts- mobile street vending units that are clean, legal and have solar power. I have attached for you a brief on the business.
Our Musana Cart s model is revolutionizing the street food vending activity. Our mission is to empower the micro entrepreneur with clean energy and transformative energy business tool. Street vendors integrate into a formal system and have access to finance and business training. With Musana Carts we turn the l lights on and much more. We provide clean energy, business features and access to the formal economy at a rate cheaper than the vendor’s current expenses. Each cart costs us $600; this enables us to manufacture a Cart matching the city requirement s as well as to provide insurance. We sell our cart at $750, each vendor pays just $3 a day through mobile money and will own the cart within 9 months.
Our team of field agents allow us to provide efficient, personalized service for each customer from our very first interactions. Real-time data from customers and staff enables us to iterate and adapt quickly to market changing conditions. All Musana Cart transactions go through mobile money , to better enable the vendor s to pay their loans and to track their earnings .
We’ve created a street vending cart to provide electricity to each and every street vendor in the off-grid world. We built a comprehensive solution that overcomes the typical barriers found in informal markets. We manufacture, sell and maintain our solar Carts to ensure consistent quality standards. While each aspect of our business is unique, the cross-collaborative holistic eco system is what enables us to provide the best experience for our customers.
Beatrice is the bubbly, outspoken and fearfully intelligent leader at Worship Harvest one of the fastest growing urban churches in Uganda. As leader of a 6000+ congregation B3 as she is known to her congregation is a living testimony that she does serve an awesome God. Launched in 2003, Worship Harvest Ministries is dedicated to the English speaking, urban and youthful population. The church is popular for its cool music and strong bible based gospel delivered in the simplest and most enlightening way. With her clean-cut, minimal aesthetics and fierce passion for preaching the bible truths, Beatrice aka B3 is taking the youth to back to church.
As cliché as it sounds, I do it because it’s what I love to do. Natural skincare products are almost non‐existent in the region. Unfortunately, our only affordable ranges of skincare products are packed with synthetic ingredients, cheap fillers and animal by-products. And the new natural products available are all imported. So it poses the question, why are we being forced to import these products when we have 90% of the ingredients here in our backyard at merely a fraction of the price and have the capability to turn them into what we need?
There’s a common misconception, that in order for something to be of quality, it has to be foreign. I can literally say, I wake up every day knowing that I’m breaking that stereotype. I’m helping the smallholder farmer in Mukono, I’m empowering a diverse workforce; including a number of Makerere university’s finest scientists, and I’m putting on shelves a quality product of international standards, that is proudly Ugandan! To me, that is fulfillment.
Amagara means life. We believe our natural skin care range “breathes new life into your skin”. In order for a product to be most effective, it must contain active ingredients. Using 100% pure natural extracts sourced from smallholder farmers, we capture the true essence of the plants and fruits whilst empowering these farmers to become self-sustainable.
At Amagara Skincare, we realize that beauty is more than just aesthetic. We view it as an absolutely vital part of your health and well being. We choose particular flavors and oils for certain benefits; Aloe Vera for its anti-ageing properties, Carrot for its ability to even skin tone, Papaya for fighting blemishes, Cucumber for Skin Hydration and so on. Regardless of gender, age or complexion, there is something for everyone.
Never be afraid to fail. I’ve always believed that in order for success to be achieved, one has to constantly have the courage to question themselves, their business, and their goals and make decisions regardless of the fear of failure. I once read that success is risk without fear, and I fully believe that. Remembering your goal and understanding why you do what you empowers you to block out the noise that might distract from your focus.
Founder: Parliament Watch Uganda Coordinator, Centre for Policy Analysis
Irene Ikomu seeks to create a more transparent, responsive and accountable democracy by managing Parliament Watch Uganda, an initiative that monitors on-going legislative, budgeting, and other parliamentary processes and disseminates this information to the Ugandan public through a variety of online platforms. Irene has been involved in governance and democracy dialogue in Uganda for the past five years. She currently sits on USAID Uganda’s Democracy, Rights and Governance Advisory Board, has been recognized as an outstanding young leader by the U.S. Embassy, and selected to serve as a Generation Change Fellow. She also represents youth perspectives in policy and political analysis dialogue on venues such as the Fourth Estate panel, a popular political analysis talk show. She has been behind diverse social change start-ups empowering young people in Uganda to become active citizens through the National Debate Council, Early Life Online Radio and the Green Light Movement. She has been the youngest face on each of these initiatives. Irene holds a bachelor’s degree in Law from Makerere University.
Parliament Watch has a reach of over 18,000 people on social media who follow daily and timely updates on the various processes, benefit from expert analyses, and contribute to online discussion forums on issues arising from Parliament processes. Through dialogues, we bring targeted stakeholders together from government, civil society, development partners and media to have analytical debates on contentious legislative and oversight issues being addressed by Parliament.
Team Leader 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation
Esther’s passion for working with young people is phenomenal. Through the use of social media, her organisation has been able to change the lives of vulnerable children and engage the youth in solving problems within their communities.
Evangelist/ youth activist/ author
Aisha Namuli has been called to evangelize through the Word of God and to, heal the spiritually, emotionally, physically broken, locally and internationally, through Jesus Christ. She has been teaching the Word of God since 2010. Aisha was ordained as an evangelist by her mentor, spiritual father Apostle John Bunjo president and founder of Christian Restoration Ministries International. Aisha is the author of Found By Grace, the story of her life and testimony. With its raw honesty and colourful wit, Found by Grace is one of the most eloquent and passionate Ugandan books I have ever read.
For two years, Aisha led a fellowship in Los Angeles teaching, the Word of God to young adults to help them examine their daily lives and focus on Christ. In 2013, she embarked on a journey as an International evangelist, conference speaker, philanthropist, and as a president and founder of the non- profit organization Anna Evangelistic Ministries in Uganda and religious organization in the United States. Anna Evangelistic Ministries has been recognized for Kingdom work in different countries through the visible manifestations of God’s supernatural power in conferences, crusades, mission work, medical missions, prison ministry, feeding programs, disaster relief mission, water relief mission and Inner city outreach programs.
Anna Evangelistic Ministries’ sister organization The Anna Foundation was formed in 2012, to advocate and support for young girls’ education, teach leadership skills, organizational skills and self-worth or value to young adults in rural areas of less developed countries.
Today, Aisha is an International evangelist who has organized conferences around the world to heal the broken- hearted through the gospel of Jesus Christ. During these conferences, many lives have been transformed, renewed and changed through manifestation of God’s presence, healing, deliverance, sanctification and cleansing. Aisha is the vision bearer for the Get Up and Walk Conference, the Africa Women of Valor Conference and the Replace Me Conference. These annual conferences bring Aisha together with other speakers as they minister the gospel of Jesus Christ let the power of the Holy Spirit work through them in different nations of the world.