Written by 6:31 pm Shetales

Jacqueline Rugasira on love, divorce and entrepreneurship

Jacqueline Rivanga and Andrew Rugasira were once that couple that made everyone believe in a perfect love. They were successful, influential and inseparable.

He is known for the Good African Coffee, an enterprise that exports local coffee to Europe and America. He is also a published author, his book A Good African Story, shares the story of Good African Coffee from inception to becoming the first African company to have its products sold in supermarkets abroad. Jacqueline was that proverbial great woman behind her successful husband. She shares her journey of love, marriage and serial entrepreneurship.

Falling in love

One day, while at a Lee Harvey Oswald Band concert, I was introduced to a tall, dark and rakishly handsome guy. His name was Andrew Rugasira. I was immediately smitten.  As soon as we started dating, I began to transform myself. I shopped around for outfits that would make me look mature enough for him because he was much older than me.  I remember spending the whole day downtown looking for a handbag. I was crazy in love as Jay Z sung and it was beautiful. It was beautiful because the man I was in love with felt the same way about me; I know he tried to pretend that he wasn’t as crazy as I was; typically male behavior, but I knew that he was wild about me.

I started spending time at his bachelor pad which had just a fridge in the kitchen and a colour TV plopped on a chair in the sitting room. I brought my kettle from my hostel so I could make him tea in the morning before he went to work. Before we knew it, I was using my school savings to buy little things that would turn his house into a home. I bought most of our first household items from hawkers. I would buy plates today and then realize we need cutlery and after that realise we need a sugar bowl. Andrew was comfortable eating takeout on disposable plates. This changed however; when one time he fell sick and I needed to make for him homemade chicken soup which I knew would make him feel better. I went to Bugolobi market bought a charcoal stove, saucepans and set up my first kitchen.

The proposal

I had always dreamt of a grandiose proposal; you know the rose in the mouth and on one knee kind of proposal. I still laugh at how life wildly differs from our dreams when I remember the proposal I actually got. One time while hanging out Andrew asked me what my mum would think if he were to ask me to be his wife. I replied that she wouldn’t object so much because I was in love with him.  And that was it. That is the proposal I got!

A few months later, Andrew and a small delegation went to Kigali for the introduction and a date was set for the wedding. Honestly, I don’t remember much of my wedding day because I was high on everything that was going on around me. I know there was cake, there were flowers and guests.

 Motherhood

Motherhood is what I was born for. My life is richer because of my children. I set out to have a big family; my dream was to have ten children but Andrew wanted to keep it small. So we compromised and decided to have five.  I loved cleaning, cooking and making a comfortable home for my children and husband. I had fun decorating and hosting family and friends. My mother in-law even nicknamed me Kimaranjara (she who satisfies) because of my love for cooking and feeding whoever came to my home. I relished my time as a housewife which I did for five years until I decided it was time I started contributing financially. 

Working mother

For years I have endured the degrading rumour of being a lazy and spoilt woman sponging off her rich husband.  To set the record straight I have never sponged off Andrew; yes he did take care of me during my child bearing years; but isn’t that his duty as a husband and father?

The truth is everything I own, I worked for it. Every business I have owned, I have started with my own money. My first business was an internet café called Surfers’ World in Bugolobi. This was long before the smartphone and personal computers became commonplace. I made a killing in the first years; but then as per Ugandan practice other cafes popped up all over the place overnight. To beat the competition, I added snacks to the café and eventually I decided to go with the food because it was making more money.  I also opened up Jackie’s Healthy Option on Kanjokya Street and later relocated to Lumumba Avenue. It was great as a business too but I needed much more.

In 2004, I and the JHO head chef, a one Buyoma, came up with a menu, trained staff from JHO and within months Andrew and I pooled more resources together and opened up Rwenzori Coffee shop at Shoprite Lugogo which later became Good African Coffee.  The start was crazy; I was a chef, waitress, procurement agent when things needed to be restocked.

Shortly after, we got information that Hungry Lion was closing shop in Uganda and they agreed to sell to Andrew. This is what became Mr. Tasty at Shoprite on Ben Kiwanuka Street, the same opportunity was available at Shoprite Lugogo. I then approached my sister’s friend who worked at Bayport for a loan to finance the Lugogo branch and got it. I know most people don’t go after their dreams because they think they need money or this and that first. What I learnt from my experience is that all you need are courage, confidence, energy and resilience.

I had always had a passion for interior décor and would bring back cute décor items for friends or family from my travels. Then I started getting orders from people referred by friends and family. This is what culminated into House of J which we opened in October 2013. Of course it didn’t open as House of J. I didn’t even have a store or the money to rent one for that matter. I had managed to get a container of household goods from a manufacture with the understanding that I would pay after selling the merchandise. I requested the Forest Mall to allow me put a display in the mall and they agreed. fortunately, the gamble paid off and soon I was able to rent our first store.

In 2014, I convinced a pastry chef from one of my favorite restaurants in Sandton to relocate from Johannesburg to Kampala to help me start Drew and Jac’s and he agreed.

Jacqueline Rugasira

I managed to run successful businesses while still raising a family. I have learnt that if you want to change your life desperately enough, you will find a way of doing. I started with small changes such as waking up earlier to give myself extra time. And when it came to business, I started small until I had enough experience to make huge investments.

A Good African romance ends

Andrew and I had been together for 17 years when we realised the marriage had ran its course and decided to divorce. This was one of the most trying moments of my life. I would wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat; heart pounding in panic, wondering how I would live without the man I had loved for almost two decades?  I was terrified. But it was the best thing to do give the circumstances.

The end of our marriage caused so much speculation with many spreading the rumour that I had been unfaithful to my husband and even had a child with someone else. I want to set the record straight; infidelity was never ever a problem. We decided to divorce because we had drifted apart over the years and we did not want to stay together just for appearances’ sake. We have witnessed unfortunate instances where a couple held on for too long only for things to end tragically. Divorce is a horrible experience; even as amicable as ours was, I still felt the pain. But while it is painful, do not stay in a marriage that no longer supports you as an individual. You can heal and start again as I have managed to do. 

What I know for sure about…

Faith: You have got to believe in something. I believe in God. I believe that He knows what is best for me and He has already provided. Every day I pray that he continues to give me His favour and His wisdom.

Life: Life is a long time. Sometimes you will get a yes, sometimes you will get a no; how you process these two circumstances is what makes a difference between an okay life and a great life. You need to be passionate about life and it will return the favour.

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