Building the Ideal Mentoring Relationship in Crisis
High Flyers is a three-year program and was launched in northern Uganda to support existing agripreneurs through the establishment of strong structures that facilitate sustainable business growth. The program is implemented in Nebbi and Lira districts by ICCO Cooperation in partnership with Youth Business International (YBI) and Enterprise Uganda.
Uganda has a mixed picture of entrepreneurship, with the country regularly ranked among the top three most enterprising nations in the world.
There are increasing number of programmes to support start-ups in East Africa, but the businesses created are often:
For all these reasons, ICCO will support the young entrepreneurs with an existing agri-business with a comprehensive package of Business Development Services, including training, coaching, long-term mentorship and financial linkage support.
The High Flyers program supports 1,000 young entrepreneurs between 18-35 years with an existing agribusiness in Nebbi district and Lango sub-region in Uganda to scale up sustainable businesses and drive waged job creation in local communities.
The program builds on scaling and further enhancing validated approaches in the provision of growth-oriented business development support to young entrepreneurs in Uganda. It also leverages partnerships with financial entities and mentorships with established agripreneurs to increase entrepreneurs’ knowledge and skills in commercial agriculture and boost their potential to access longer-term youth entrepreneurship loan products and expand to new markets.
Young entrepreneurs (18 – 35 years) with an agri-business in Lira district are invited to apply!
Application 31 July 2020 is closed
Do you have the desire, resources and ambition to grow your business? We look forward to supporting you.
Covid-19 Stopped My Education, Not My Passion for Business
I started farming in 2016 with the aim of financing my education. In 2019, I made 7 million UGX from 5 acres of cassava so I was optimistic that if I planted the entire 10 acres in 2020. I could use the profits to invest in value addition. However, when the COVID-19 crisis set in, my mentor advised me to use the time away from school to focus on my farm, and stay within 5 acres to avoid over-producing without an adequate market.
Since the start of the crisis I have sold one acre of cassava for 1.2 million and now am preparing to sell the second acre. Although this was a reduction of 300,000 from the price before, I still was able to make money. I discussed with my mentor and the only way to resolve this loss is to add value to the product, so in my business plan, I am trying to seek capital for machines that I can use to add value to my cassava and make flour, which I can package and sell by December 2022.
I also plan to train farmers on proper farming practices so that they can produce good quality and sell to me so that I can have enough to grind from my farm and build a strong cassava brand.
My #NewNormal Business Marketing Strategy
Before I started my input dealership in 2018, input dealers were cheating farmers and selling affordable products to them at exorbitant prices. I knew that this was an opportunity for me and so I set up a shop in the middle of town to sell seeds and other agro inputs to them at a lower price and snatch their market space. Through the High Flyers project, I learnt key business principles like record keeping and financial management, which I easily translated into my business plan. I started getting involved in negotiations with suppliers and demanding for receipts after purchase, and since then I was able to see profits.
By the time COVID-19 struck and we were forced into a lockdown, I could see opportunities despite the challenges. Agriculture was declared an essential service by the government, so more people in Nebbi started engaging in it and the need for inputs increased. My High Flyers mentor advised me on better marketing techniques, which made my shop popular, not only for inputs, but for training in the best ways of using them, especially for those starting agriculture for the first time. This strategy increased my monthly sales from UGX 500,000 before COVID-19 to about UGX 900,000.
My mentor also advised me to apportion time in the week for consultations and alert my clients accordingly, so now I am able to balance my busy work schedule with my family time.
Diversification Saved My Business During Crisis
I joined coffee tree planting because I was inspired by my father before me. He had paid all our school fees from it, and I was hoping to do the same for my two children. I joined a government program and in 2019 I supplied the local government with 15,000 seedlings, which I was paid for handsomely. In 2020 when the COVID-19 challenges arose, my clients were unable to collect the seedlings and they over grew to the extent that they couldn’t be marketed. It was a great loss. However, I had joined the High Flyers program in 2019 and had been linked with a mentor in my community. Although we couldn’t meet frequently, he was able to come to my garden twice during the lockdown and stay in touch via phone calls every week. Through our interactions, I learned that one of his coping strategies was to diversify his business, so I took one acre at my home and planted cabbage on it. I also planted beans on 3 acres separately, and decided to make sure that the sales from these two offset the losses I made from the seedling business.
Moving forward, I plan to promote my seedlings locally by word of mouth, but also I plan to arrange some local adverts. This will help me to be ready for any crisis.
Maturing in Business Amid Global Crisis
I am an agriculturalist by profession and I have always been passionate about this field. I just didn’t know how to turn my dreams into a viable business. I wanted to start a poultry farm while I was still studying my diploma in 2018 and so my older sister gave me UGX 180,000 as capital, which I used to buy 12 hens. When they increased to 32 within three months, their upkeep became too expensive for me and the last straw was when thieves stole 17 of them. I was almost giving up on them when I was invited to attend a training by the High Flyers project in 2019.
I learned principles of financial management, how to make a business plan and save effectively. Through knowledge and experience sharing with fellow farmers, I have increased my capacity in agribusiness. I also learned so many practical business principles by watching and interacting with my mentor on the farm. For instance, I learned about the principle of diversification of business, but I never actually put it into practice until COVID-19 created a challenge in my finances and forced me to think creatively. I sold some of my hens and invested in renting 1.5 acres of land on which I planted rice, which I am now managing alongside my poultry farm. In my new business plan, I will use some of the profits from the harvest in late October to invest in 2 acres of rice next season, and increase the number of hens. So far, I expect at least UGX 5-6 million from my upcoming harvest and I am hopeful for my business to continue growing, with support from my mentor.
Learning to Bounce Back in Critical Times
I am a wildlife officer working in the Nebbi local government. I have always had green thumbs, and so it was easy for me to start growing tomatoes in my small backyard just for my own consumption when I got here. Before long, I noticed many people coming to buy from my garden, and when I asked around, I learned that the tomatoes on the market were imported from outside the district and were priced expensively. I automatically knew that this was my chance to benefit, and so I invested in a divided garden, half an acre in the municipality and another half acre on the outskirts, in Onjiku village.
The training from the High Flyers project in business planning, financial management and record keeping inspired me to create long-term goals for my business. Through the project I met a mentor, who is much more knowledgeable in the field of agriculture than I am and he has been able to walk with me through rough patches and inspire me to keep pushing forward towards my business goals. During the COVID-19 lockdown early in 2020, I remember that around that time my tomato nursery bed was ready for transplanting and I had to walk long distances to my gardens daily to check on them. It was so difficult, given the curfew, and when the rains came, I remember losing produce four times to floods because neither I nor the people whom I paid to help me could properly monitor the gardens. I had almost lost hope when my mentor advised me to dig trenches to redirect the floods away from the farm. He also advised me to buy another nursery bed nearby, which we are using to fill in the gaps in my garden created when seedlings were washed away by flood water. So we are back on track to achieve my planned profit.
I Lost My Job and Found My Business
15 years ago, as a nine year-old little boy, I inherited my fatherś herd of 10 goats. I only started to look at their business prospects in 2012 when I was in high school. Selling the goats paid my way through school, and over the years, I added 5 more goats. My greatest challenge was that the death rate was too high. I spent a lot of money on local veterinary doctors trying to treat the sick goats. I knew there was potential to earn good money from the goats, but I didn’t have enough knowledge about how to make it happen.
In 2019 when I joined the High Flyers project, I was hopeful to learn how to manage my business better. I learned how to make a business plan and how to manage my finances through saving and making targets. I also learned from my mentor about proper practices of looking after goats such as lifting them off the ground and making healthy feed for them. Since then the death rate has drastically reduced on my farm. By the time the community went on lockdown due to COVID-19, my goats had increased to 45 and, since the book shop where I was working had closed, I was able to give the business my attention. There was a spike in demand for my goats locally because people could no longer access the markets the way they used to in the past. I was able to increase the price of each goat from UGX 120,000 to 200,000, and by the time the lockdown was lifted, I had enough to replenish my herd. In order to manage my business moving forward I have a finance plan, which separates my capital from personal money. It will enable me to expand to two new areas and increase my herd to 1000 goats.
Prioritizing the Backup Plan to Manage Crisis
Six years before the high flyers project came to Nebbi I had started a business selling seedlings of local varieties of trees. It was a good business because I had a number of NGOs that were interested in the product, and so there was never a challenge in getting customers. Through High Flyers, I was introduced to the concepts of business planning and record keeping, and I was able to keep a record of the seedlings that I planted and how many were sold to the NGOs whom I supplied to. This was very beneficial because I was able to monitor the profits from my business.
However, when the COVID-19 lockdown happened, I was preparing to sell off some seedlings to NGOs, which never came because of the travel restrictions. I had to quickly sell them off cheaply to nearby NGOs that expressed interest. Through the High Flyers project, I had learned about the importance of having a back up plan, but since my passion was agro-forestry, I decided to market my tree seeds and found that they were received better during the lockdown. I was therefore able to recover some of the money that I had lost earlier, and I was able to stay afloat during the difficult months. The COVID-19 crisis taught me that it is important to cut costs as much as possible in order to manage to have enough finances during sudden challenges. My priority is therefore to build a home for my family so that the money that would have gone into rent can be invested in the business.
Work with the Best to Stay On Top of Business Challenges
I have been in the business for 5 years now. I started it when I was in high school, and the business has been key in helping to push me through school to the bachelor’s degree. I joined the High Flyers project andI gained communication skills on how to interact with my staff. I have learned how to approach banks, which sections are necessary and these things helped me to go ahead.
During COVID-19, our agro input shops were allowed to stay open and tax waivers were given to us. However the sales returns were not very good. My shop was making around UGX 300,000 in daily sales during that time as opposed to earlier when we would make on average UGX 1,500,000 in daily sales. This was because the transport costs were so high from Kampala. It was difficult to reach our mentors that we got through the High Flyers program because of the SOPs. We kept an on-phone relationship and so through this, I relayed all my issues to him and he was able to advise me. He helped me to recruit a capable staff who is knowledgeable in agriculture and so I have seen the importance of leaving my business in the hands of a knowledgeable person. These days, I am able to leave the shop and trust that my customers will receive good services.
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