Author: rhelmzrt

We are hiring: business development and operations officer

Terms of Reference Business Development and Operations Officer

Status: This is a full-time position.

Location: Kampala, Uganda, with up-country travel

Level: Entry-level

Reports to: Collage Team Leader

About Collage

Collage is a hybrid enterprise that supports local creators and producers to enhance their competitiveness. Competitiveness to us means improving product quality, embracing innovative processes to reduce costs and realize efficiency, continuous learning, and business professionalism. We use three core strategies namely: driving market access through online and offline platforms where we showcase products of local creators; bespoke training initiatives and one-on-one mentoring and hand holding, and collective credit resources (through clusters).

We started full operations in January 2019 and have been intentionally seeking out young makers who are often unable to raise enough capital to rent traditional shops. Another key demographic that we target is stay at home moms who are interested in earning a side income to complement their families’.

Our Big Picture

We want to see a Uganda where the full potential of local producers and creators is fully harnessed towards economic transformation.

Our Intervention:

  • Builds their capacity to produce products or services that are competitive.
  • Increases their access to market and changes the narrative around locally made products.
  • Avails shared learning opportunities. Producers and creators are able to learn from each other through clusters. Also, through their clusters, they can benefit from the advantages that come with collective purchase of raw materials, collective bargaining and they are more attractive to creditors.
  • Influences policy reform by ensuring that the voices of local producers and creators is heard.
  • Provides a pathway to formalization of businesses.
  • Plugs the small people into the global economy through online marketing platforms.

Role Summary

The Business Development Associate will work closely with the Team Leader to consolidate gains made in:

  • Producer recruitment and engagement
  • Reseller recruitment
  • Building Collage operational systems and processes
  • Building the company’s brand and market base

Key Responsibilities

1. Business Development

  • Expanding existing revenue streams including through:
  • The implementation of the reseller strategy
  • Building a customer base for our marketing, branding and training programme
  • Streamlining our micro-loans programme
  • Supporting direct sales through offline and online promotion
  • Conduct periodic market research to identify demand gaps for business products and services and keep up to date with business development practices and industry trends.
  • Sourcing new local and international revenue streams, including through subscribing to popular offline and online selling platforms and through cultivating of corporate partnerships and partnerships with small-scale sellers.
  • Developing grant proposals and participating in relevant entrepreneurship competitions. The Associate will develop a calendar of grants, training programmes, accelerators, and competitions and will work with the rest of the team to develop winning concepts.

2. Operations

  • Support the Team Leader to finalize and implement the Collage 2021/23 strategy. The strategy is the overarching framework and will determine business direction until 2023.
  • Work closely with the sales and operations coordinator to streamline operations including coordination of producers.
  • Develop monthly plans and subsequent financial and narrative reports on company progress in as far as working towards set monthly targets.
  • Work with the Team Leader to develop and institutionalize business processes aimed at ensuring effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Be a Collage Ambassador by ensuring effective representation at relevant platforms and through sharing Collage work online and offline.
  • Support the capacity development of team members in new business development and operations.
  • Perform any other relevant duties assigned by the Team Leader.

Skills and Competencies

  • A bachelors degree in business administration and management, marketing, economics or related field.
  • A diploma in the afore mentioned fields with up to three years’ relevant experience is also acceptable.
  • At least a year of professional experience in areas relating to marketing, SME business development or experience working in a StartUp.
  • Excellent computer skills including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and use of social media platforms.
  • Ability to write and communicate clearly and analytically with excellent spoken and written English.
  • Excellent organizational skills with the ability to work under pressure, with minimum supervision.
  • A great team player that is open to working in a multi-cultural setting.

To Apply

Applications should be sent via e-mail to rhelmzrt@gmail.com with Business Development and Operations Officer as the subject.

Deadline: 18th June 2020

IT Professional Turned Carpenter on Why We Should Never Give Up on Our Dreams

For many young people, a career in Information Technology (IT) would be a dream come true. Not for Herbert Lwanga. From a young age, he loved to draw and curve things. But he did not get a chance to explore his artistic talents until much later in life. One of the reasons: family expectations.

“My guardians wanted a degree in something straightforward. I went on and acquired a diploma in information systems and a degree in development economics,” Herbert said.

With prior experience in data clerking, Herbert went on to work for several information technology firms both in Uganda and Rwanda for several years. But, he knew that his passion was elsewhere— in art.

He said, “I missed curving and sculpturing. Whenever I got a chance, I would visit my cousin who ran a furniture mart and do a bit of woodwork. I would curve a few things.”

It is this love for art that pushed him to get a degree in industrial later and to co-found Latimate Furniture with his cousin.

Since 2015 when it was founded, Latimate Furniture has taken on residential projects, restaurants, and hotels.

Latimate Furniture at work.

On doing carpentry differently

Like most trades, carpentry is viewed by some in society as a last resort. Herbert explained, “People think this is something you get into when you have failed at all else, which is wrong. Carpentry is a profession but carpenters must work hard in order to command the respect that other professions command.”

Herbert noted that one way or commanding respect is by bringing quality products to the market. Quality products require that carpenters do not take shortcuts that can compromise the quality of the product. They should also endeavor to use good raw materials. This will also help carpenters to compete favorably with imported products.

Herbert’s commitment to quality has opened many doors.

“I have made many connections which I will soon use to take my products beyond Uganda. Also, I make a comfortable living. Most importantly, I am able to work on something I really love.”

Lessons that he has learnt

Herbert’s most important lesson is that “if you decide to go into business do it with your whole heart and if you are not ready to do that, do not start.”

“Also you must dedicate time to your business. This will help you to research and to study market trends and what others in the same business are doing differently.” Herbert advised.

“Importantly, you must leverage internet to grow your sales. Your survival will depend on it.”

Herbert Lwanga is one of over 35 Ugandan makers supported by Collage to bring their products to the market. One of his beautiful pieces can be bought here and here. Learn more about what Collage and send us a message on 0782960558 for more information.

2021 Prospects: How We Are Forging Ahead Amidst the COVID-19 Turbulence

If there is anything that 2020 has taught us, it is that businesses must always be willing to reinvent themselves. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 have been enormous, more so on micro and small business that typically run on small budgets. We have seen the market for non-essential items shrink as many potential consumers lost jobs, took pay-cuts, and generally became more cautious about what they spent their money on. For most, basic needs took precedence.

But there is a silver lining. For starters, we have been challenged to rethink our businesses models in ways that we had never imagined possible. At Collage, we have had to migrate our training programme to Zoom-based classes. Zoom-classes, whereas they have their own shortfalls, they are capable of making training more affordable and content can be leveraged across digital platforms.

Despite all the 2020 gloom, we continued mentoring and handholding makers—driving process and product innovations. Targeted marketing strategies helped us to double our sales and to strengthen our brand visibility. We sold more than 1600 products, had more than 50 entrepreneurs benefit from our training and mentoring activities and kickstarted our reseller program which will see us expand the market reach of our products whilst boosting livelihoods for re-sellers and their families.

We recognize that there is more that we need to do to be able to realize the impact that we seek. For example, we must expand the reach of our credit facilities, especially now when micro and small businesses are fighting hard to bounce back. We need to bring on board more makers, and for the existing ones, we must continue to support them to improve their production processes and offerings. We are hopeful that through our 2021-2023 strategy, we will be able to lay a firm foundation that will enable us to address some of these gaps.

Our Ambitious Goals for 2021

The focus of our 2021-2023 strategy is to increase the company’s value through sustainable strategies that drive social impact as well as profitability. Through this period including 2021, we will work to realize three goals:

1. Strengthen internal systems/structures and the capacity of our team to deliver efficient service. This will include hiring one additional full-time staff, outsourcing book keeping functions and ensuring that our licenses and other legal paperwork are in order.

2. Expand sales through our innovative reseller program and further diversification of our product and service offerings. To realize this we will recruit, train and empower resellers with a range of tools to help them activate and drive demand for our products. We will also look into bringing new products to market through collaboration with our makers. We will leverage our training and mentorship program to design innovative and high-impact learning experiences. We recently started offering branding services to our makers, we hope to reach more makers with this service soon.

3. Grow our brand visibility and presence through our website and social media channels. For us to compete effectively, we must invest in brand visibility and presence. This will mean organizing and participating in activities that bring us closer to our potential customers. Importantly, it will be necessary to establish feedback loops to help us deliver better and efficient service.

We require a significant amount of resources to deliver on these goals and will need the support of our customers, makers, partners and shareholders, among others, to get to where we want to go.

Your support has already gotten us so far— it has enabled us to bounce back stronger and better. For this, we are eternally grateful.

We hope that 2021 brings you peace, joy and fulfilment.

Much love from all of us at Collage,

Happy New Year!

Collage Go Digital Training Series: Learn How To Sell Online

Presentation from the Selling Online Training held on the 21st Nov 2020.

“The Training was really useful, well thought out and put together.” One of the participants.

“Thank you so much for the training. I can’t wait for the next class.”

One of the participants.

Interested in signing up for upcoming trainings, send us an email at rhelmzrt@gmail.com or a WhatsApp message on +256782960558

Download the presentation

Business Survival In A COVID-19 Era: This Restaurant Owner Changed Her Business Model To Remain Relevant

We first interacted with Maria Assumpta in April 2020. She was inquiring about interior décor products for her restaurant that she hoped to open in May. The excitement in her voice was infectious.

Maria Assumpta

 

We took her through a series of options and after a long chat, it was clear that she was smitten with the baskets. She informed us that she would get back to us in a week’s time to deposit the order.

A week later, there were no signs that the lockdown would be lifted. It was also clear that even after the lockdown, it would take a while before things got back to normal.

This was a big blow to Assumpta who had “already identified and paid for premises for her restaurant, bought equipment and even assembled a team of employees to support her.”

She explained, “We had to deal with a lot of spoilage which resulted into losses. We were practically making losses before we even started. It was a crushing time, not just for me but for the other people that were involved in the project.”

Assumpta was aware that she needed to come up with a solution and fast. A week into the thinking, an idea occurred to her. She realized that she could do the cooking out of her home, advertise using social media networks, and deliver to customers wherever they were in the city.

“I started advertising in my WhatsApp group and to my contacts and before I knew it, orders started trickling in,” Assumpta noted.

Re-imagining Businesses

Assumpta is one of many entrepreneurs who have had to rethink their business models to match the changing times. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainties. This is compounded by the fact that there is no near end to its spread, at least not until both a cure and a vaccine are discovered. This, therefore, means that entrepreneurs are going to have to innovate around the harsh realities that are coming if not already here.

Entrepreneurs may need to reimagine the kind of services and products that they offer. With limited incomes, families and individuals may have to cut back expenses, especially the non-essentials. It is therefore important that whatever you are offering contributes some kind of value.

In Assumpta’s case, she makes it possible for her customers to get great meals within the comfort of their homes.

How are you innovating during COVID-19? Share with us your hustle and we will spotlight it on our social media pages.

A fruit stall in a local market

Tips for Re-opening Your Small Business Post Lockdown

With the lockdown being partially lifted in different sectors, it is best to say that we can see a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. This does not mean that everything is going to return to normal in a few weeks or months. It however gives us hope that things are going to get better.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to heavy disruption for businesses and small businesses have taken a hard hit. Many small business owners are uncertain of what the future holds. To be fair, everyone is.

As a young business supporting small and micro enterprises, we share some of the apprehension. To help us prepare for reopening, we have interacted with several businesses that have shared some tips. Here are some of the favorites that we think may help you to prepare for reopening. 

  1. Leverage the Internet

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we organized a training on how businesses can use the internet to grow. Back then, we knew that the internet was important but we did not realize that our very survival depended on leveraging it to increase sales, improve customer relations, and enhance our brand visibility.

How to leverage the internet: Cultivate a presence on social networking platforms. Set up business pages and join groups. You can use these platforms to keep your customers updated and to attract other potential customers. It doesn’t have to be perfect at the start and we can assure you that you can have everything figured out. All we can say is that once you start, you will learn a lot, and hopefully, you will use all those lessons to improve.

  1. Assess your finances

The hard truth is that the future is uncertain. Therefore, small businesses may need to re-evaluate their businesses and carefully think about how they will remain afloat. Take a good look at your finances, especially your cashflow. The ideal situation should be that you should be earning more than you are spending. For businesses that are just starting out and have not broken even, this may be near to impossible.

What to do: Cut out avoidable expenditures. This may not be the right time to buy new fancy bulbs for your salon. Make sure that you are spending only on things that the business requires to run. If you have been walking to walk during the lockdown, you may want to continue doing so as this will help you to put some money away; money that you can spend on the important stuff.

  1. Be creative

We have focused too much on the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic that we have closed our eyes and ears to new opportunities for small businesses to be innovative and reimagine their businesses. This is a time for you to think out of the box. You will need to be creative as far as marketing, delivery, sales, customer relations, even bringing new products to market.

What to do: Map the opportunities that have opened up in your sector. How can benefit from them? Think of what changes you need to make in your business model to be able to fit into the times. These are not normal times and you need to think business unusual.

  1. Promote Safety

As you reopen, you need to think of your safety, the safety of your employees and your customers. Businesses are being encouraged to for instance install handwashing facilities and signs to encourage social distancing. Ensure that all your employees have masks and where possible gloves. Investing in safety is what we all need to do if we want our recovery to be fast.

  1. Finally: Do not lose hope

It is ok to worry, we all are worried. But, do not let worry consume you. You need to keep your positivity up. You need to look out for the small rays of light in the darkness. Talk to friends or mentors and find a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to share your story.

If you would like to talk to us, simply send us a WhatsApp message on 0782960558. We got you.

 

If You Fail Today, Try Again Tomorrow And Do Not Stop Until You Break Through: One Entrepreneur’s Story Of Endurance And Perseverance

It is one thing to have a great business idea, it is another to transform it into a sustainable business. Even successful entrepreneurs admit that it is not easy translating an idea into a thriving business. This is because building a successful business requires a lot more than a good idea. Foundational requirements include having a product or service that is competitive, putting together a skilled team, capital, having a clear plan, and executing it, the list is quite long.

Like many young entrepreneurs, when Paul Mugisha started his first business, all he had was what he thought was a brilliant idea and a bit of money to buy raw materials for his first product—an initialed wrist-band made out of plastic beads. Relying on his craft-making skills, he soon expanded his customer base and product range to include sophisticated necklaces and earrings. Within just a few months, the business was booming, but it was not too long before the slump came—after all, one can only buy so many custom necklaces.

This would be the first of several business failures. But with each failure, came important lessons, lessons that Paul would later use to start and grow his current business.

Unlike many of us that quit when things do not work out, Paul knew that his only option was to keep trying until something worked out.

“I had my share of failures. I tried several business ideas that did not work out. Obviously, I was discouraged, but I also learned a lot. And at the back of my head, I knew that if I persevered, I would make it someday.” Paul Said.

Rising from the Ashes

In 2014, with a new business idea, Paul decided to start a company dealing in leather products with a focus on sandals.  His vision was a leading company producing high-quality and affordable shoes.

Paul got the idea after hearing friends express disappointment at the quality and price of leather sandals on the market. He realized that this was a gap that he could fill. He figured that if he started a business that met a need, his chances of success were much higher. He decided to utilize the shoe-making skills he had acquired in 2011 to address the need for quality footwear.

Then a student at University, Paul’s livelihood depended on the success of the company. He was well aware that catering to all his school and basic needs were tied to how much he would be able to produce and sell. The only option was to focus, work hard, and ensure that the business succeeded.

Paul’s efforts paid off. Today, he has sold thousands of products across the country, upgraded his skills by going for further training in Kenya, and trained a team that has made it possible to expand production. When asked about how he was able to pull this off, Paul explained that “it was persistence and endurance that made this possible. I had to be committed and at the same time dynamic. My field is influenced by trends and so, I have to be willing to embrace emerging trends, learn fast, and apply.”

Paul’s dream is for the company to purchase a plot and set up premises for the workshop, to increase production capacity and to be able to employ not less than 15 highly skilled artisans.

Working with Collage

Paul is one of over thirty entrepreneurs that are currently being supported by Collage to improve their business operations.

Through Collage, he has been able to upscale production services.

Collage has helped us to broaden our market reach and has provided extensive advisory services,” Paul said.

To the young entrepreneurs, Paul encourages “endurance and perseverance and desire for growth and improvement. If you fail today, try again tomorrow, and do not stop until you breakthrough.”

You can shop for Paul’s products here.

What Small Businesses Must Think About in Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

These are hard times and everyone is worried. For business owners, the outbreak has greatly compromised operations with some businesses, especially small ones closing shop altogether. It is important that small businesses assess the current circumstances and put in place measures to deal with the impact of the outbreak. How well small businesses plan may determine how fast they recover beyond the outbreak.

We have put together a list of things that you must think of as you plan.

1) Finances 

For most businesses, reduced income is the new reality. It is important to assess your expenses vis-à-vis your income. Plan for recurring expenses like rent and salaries. If you are not bringing in any more income, you may need to have an honest conversation with your land lord and employees.

Together, you may be able to derive short-term solutions. For some companies, staff have, for instance, agreed to take pay-cuts across board to help the business remain afloat. You may also need to face your landlord, let her/him know that you are aware of your rent obligations and that once things pick up, you will start working out a solution.

2) Have a plan 

We understand that these are uncertain times and it is hard to predict what will happen a month or two from today. However, even with this uncertainty you need a plan of you will handle things in best and worst case scenarios. What is the worst that could happen? For instance, what will you do if non-essential businesses like yours are closed for the next three months? How will you manage? How will your staff manage?

Also, think of the best-case scenarios. For instance, what if the lockdown is lifted in a month, will you be able to get things up and running? What do you need to put in place for that to happen? Spend some time drawing a plan with clear steps of how you would handle either scenario.

3) Cultivate a social support system

There has never been a better time to strengthen relationships and establish new ones. This is the time for you to build cohesion within your team. Make them feel valued by engaging them in planning processes. Your social support system also includes other business owners, your suppliers, your customers, your friends and family and people and businesses that you have collaborated with.

Check on your customers, how are they managing? Share with them vital information on how they can stay safe. Reach out to your business partners and collaborators on how they are getting on. You never know, they may share tips that will help you to keep your business afloat.

All in all, keep your stakeholders aware of your plans and of what you are doing as a business to promote safety. Let them know if your services will be interrupted in any way and when you expect to be up and running again.

4) Communicate and Be Informed

We cannot overstress the need for communication during these times. There is a lot of uncertainty and incorrect information. It is therefore important that you share accurate and timely information with your customers, staff, partners, and collaborators.

Aside from giving others information, ensure that you keep yourself up to date with what is happening in the communities that you serve and in the relevant industries. Keep abreast of the emerging trends and opportunities. There are, for instance, a number of free training opportunities for small and medium enterprises that you can benefit from. This is one of many opportunities that you can leverage if you keep yourself informed about what is happening in the relevant industries.

Rethinking Our Service Delivery Model And Building Resilience In The Face of COVID-19

By Ritah Namwiza, Team Leader, Collage

“2020 is our year!”

This was my message to my team as we ushered in the new year. 2019 had been good to us. We had realized tremendous growth: more than 400 products sold, more than 25 producers brought on board, launched our training programme, and stories featuring our entrepreneurs had reached more than 30,000 people.

Additionally, we had won funding from the University of Edinburgh MasterCard Scholars Program. The funding would help us to recruit and train 50 additional producers, more than triple our sales, and support organizational expansion including hiring more help. There was a lot to celebrate.

Our plan for 2020 was simple. Build on the gains of 2019 by recruiting more producers, kickstart our training programme, increase our marketing, avail credit resources to our entrepreneurs, and provide tailored mentorship to our producers to bring more and improved products to market.

Producers and partners attend a training in November 2019.

By mid-January, we had recruited ten producers and seven producers had signed up for our training programme—we were on fire.

Around the same time, news of a Novel Corona Virus started making rounds. We were apprehensive but we hoped that it would be contained. We continued with our work, business as usual.

By the end of January, it was clear that COVID-19 was not going away any time soon.  January 31st, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. We were terrified—for our lives and for the small businesses we were supporting. We had seen the outbreak bring Wuhan to its knees. Majority of our entrepreneurs had barely broken even, the last thing they needed was three months without business.

As I write this, Uganda is on total lockdown and 2020 is definitely not going to be our year.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses

Didus Busingye owns Komuka Skill Workshop (Komuka) that produces leather products. Although he has been in business since 2016, it wasn’t until 2018 that he started seeing business growth. Like most small business owners, Didus has had to deal with a number of challenges including a small capital base, limited access to market, challenges sourcing raw materials, and unfavorable tax regimes.

2019 saw Komuka expand production, move into a new shop, bring new products to market and launch a training programme.

Now, the COVID-19 outbreak is threatening this progress.

“We had not stocked material because we were yet to get paid by the shops we supply. By the time we realized we needed to act, it was hard to get material because most shops were closing. It is going to be tough because we are not producing, we are not selling, and yet we have bills to pay. We also think things will be hard for us once the outbreak is over because everybody will be broke and sales will be low. It will take us a while to recover,” Said Didus Busingye.

Rethinking Our Response

Didus is not alone. Many small entrepreneurs are in a similar predicament.

In our case, we had to close the shop and sales have greatly plummeted. We have had to rethink our entire plan for 2020. For instance, while we continue to deliver training and mentorship, we are increasingly doing so through online platforms. This has meant cutting down the target number of trainees.

Secondly, a key priority for us now is to ensure that our producers are reassured that we are standing with them. We have started a social media campaign called the Collage Voices of Hope to collect solidarity messages from our customers, producers and other entrepreneurs from across the country. This campaign will help us to forge stronger ties with our producers and to deepen our brand penetration.

Importantly, we are aware that our producers are anxious about how they will get back on their feet once the outbreak is contained. As such, thanks to the funding we got from the University of Edinburgh MasterCard Scholars Programme, we are redesigning our credit facility in order to extend loans to our producers to enable them to pick up the pieces and get back to work.

This is going to be a trying time for small and micro-entrepreneurs, majority of whom were already struggling to stay afloat. It is imperative that we put in place measures to help them mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, more than ever, as the formal sector shrinks and economies take a downturn, we must stand with our entrepreneurs.

Like everyone else, we do not have everything figured out but we have faith that there is light at the end of the tunnel, we just need to find it.

 

 

Not Even A House Eviction Could Stop This Young Entrepreneur: Didus Businge’s Story of Resilience and Determination

While most young people’s dream is to finish school and get a job, 28-year-old Didus Businge, a social sector planning, and management student aspires to grow Komuka Skills Hub, a business he manages into a center that equips underprivileged youth in and around Kampala with the skills they need to realize self-reliance.

How it all begun

The Komuka dream was born in 2016. Didus and a friend who was skilled in shoe making envisioned a place where unemployed vulnerable youth would come and receive skills that would enable them to forge a future for themselves and their loved ones. The two rented a room for their outfit, then called Dream Uganda. Like all startups, it was not long before the costs of running the business came calling. Unable to raise the necessary rent, they were sent packing.  They moved into an abandoned kitchen.

When the going got tougher, his partner quit. Didus realized that he needed help—partners that he could collaborate with. He brought on board a few people and sought shelter in a nearby garage.

Later in 2018, the social enterprise rebranded to Komuka Skills hub.

Hard work Pays

Despite all the challenges, Didus persevered and it paid off. Today, Komuka is housed in a decent structure and with a fully functional workshop. The social enterprise currently employs seven young women and men and has been able to attract partners including Collage, AMREF and KCCA.

As a key partner, Collage supports Komuka to market its products and creates platforms that bring£ producers together to share ideas on how to improve production and business practices.

Looking into the future

When asked what the future looks like for Komuka, Didus explained, “My dream is to create a chain of production workshops across the country. This would give more vulnerable  youth an opportunity to acquire skills that can help them to earn a living and to improve their lives.”

Advise to young people

“There is no bad job. Find something and focus on it. Use every opportunity wisely and be open to hard work. Getting to where you want to go needs hard work.”

 

 

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