Category: Grow Your Business

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.”



How this Dotting Mother is Taking her Home-based Business to New Heights

When Maria Ajwang welcomed her baby in 2018, she knew that her life would never be the same. At 28, then, Maria knew that she had to work hard in order to provide the best to her baby.

A graduate of information technology, Maria’s hope had always been being able to practice her profession. The coming of the baby, however, presented certain realities she could not ignore. For one, hiring a professional helper to take care of the baby in her absence was expensive. Additionally, professional caretakers were not easy to come by.

Additionally, finding a job itself was not going to be an easy fit considering the alarming rate of youth unemployment in Uganda.

Maria quickly realized that she would have to become a job creator. She decided to stay at home and look after her newborn. To make ends meet, she started a cottage business (home-based).

She explained, “I needed to earn a living while at the same time staying close to my child. That is when I talked to a friend about my predicament and he helped me discover the art of making bags, shoes and art pieces.”

It has been two years since Maria started her cottage business and as they say, the rest is history. Her dream is to make products that can compete at an international level and create employment opportunities for other people.

Collage is supporting Maria to help realize this dream. Collage’s support is in form of visibility and market access, entrepreneurship training and access to credit.

Maria said, “I have faced so many challenges in marketing my products mainly because my quality was still low. Collage has been here for me, challenging me to do better. They have taken my products to greater heights.”

To fellow young entrepreneurs, Maria says, “there is nothing like a bad review because bad reviews push you to keep improving until you get a satisfactory review.”

By Collage, 2020

How Consolata Ombogo Turned her Passion for Crocheting into a Viable Business

Growing up, Consolata Ombogo enjoyed watching her mother crochet colorful pieces for the home. She was instantly smitten and decided to learn the skill herself.

Thanks to this skill, she has been able to start a thriving business that is helping her to supplement her income. Her dreams are not small either, she wants to go regional and global. Thanks to Collage, she has been able to showcase her work, strengthen her business skills and expand her market.

We caught up with Consolata to learn a bit about what business is like.

Collage: What is your story?

Consolata: Crocheting, Knitting and Beading are my hobbies. Growing up, I always watched my mother crochet for me and my siblings, a skill that I ultimately admired and wanted to take on. For so long I made crochet products as presents for my friends and family. I toyed with the idea of finding an alternative source of income for some time.  Around that time a colleague approached me to make bowties for his expectant wife. I delivered to expectations. He was impressed and paid me handsomely. It was then that I knew that I wanted to do a business around crocheting.

Collage: What have been some of your greatest achievements?

Consolata: My products are penetrating markets in USA, India, Pakistan and South Africa, thanks to friends who continuously support me at, at home and beyond.

I recently signed a deal for one of my biggest orders to supply chrochet products worth 700,000 Uganda Shillings which for me, is a great achievement.

Collage: What have been the lows?

Consolata: Raw material can be a challenge. They are often inaccessible which limits the quality and variety of products I can produce.

Collage: How has Collage supported your business?

Consolata: Collage has been there for me. They have helped me to market my products and they have also provided training which helps me to improve my business.

Collage: What advise do you have for young entrepreneurs?

Consolata: Young entrepreneurs should take time to learn and understand the business they want to invest in. Many startups crush because owners didn’t invest enough time to learn and study before starting a particular venture. It’s also important that young entrepreneurs engage in businesses they are passionate about and are determined to push to the next level.

Also, start small and expand later as the business grows.


Reasons Why Businesses Fail And How To Avoid Them

Business failure is a possibility

Nobody starts a business expecting to fail. In fact, most if not all entrepreneurs will tell you that before they launched their business, they had already figured out ways in which they would recover resources invested and make significant profits.

A small number of entrepreneurs probably admit to themselves and to others that they hear a small nagging voice telling them that failure is a possibility. Passion may not be the only reason that drives entrepreneurs to work crazy hours after all; the fear of failure plays a part too.

Nobody tells you that it is possible that your business might fail when you are starting out. Often people are too scared to hurt your feelings. The hard truth is that, failure is a possibility in business. Before you quit your job to start your own business, before you invest your life savings into your dream venture, before you put your tuition into that start-up, know there are a number of things that may increase your risk of failure in business.

The good news is that with the right knowledge and skills you can be able to swim against the tide of business failure.

Reasons why businesses fail

Failure to manage finances: Financial management means that you monitor and track how much you spend, what you spend it on, how much you make and how much you borrow. This information guides decision making and budgeting. Without this information, a business owner is not able to tell whether he is making profits or incurring losses and as such is unable to take the appropriate course of action.
Sometimes entrepreneurs borrow more than they need or more than they could ever pay back because they do not have accurate information to help them forecast company profitability.

Poor customer relations: How you treat a customer today determines if he will become a customer for life. Poor customer relations will drive your customers into the hands of your competition. Communicating in a professional and friendly manner and reaching out to customers to find out whether their needs have been met are some of the steps you can take to attract and keep customers.

Failure to effectively market your products/services: If nobody knows what services or products you are offering, nobody will buy from you. Employing marketing strategies that are not cognizant of the dynamics of your target customers is not only wastage of money but time. You have to invest in effective marketing strategies including social media to make your business visible to potential customers.

Poor leadership: every business needs a strong leader who is able to effectively manage the company’s resources. Failure to manage finances, human resources and partners can be detrimental to the company. The leader has to ensure that the financial books are in order, that human resources are motivated to deliver and innovate and that partners receive timely updates on how the company is fairing.

Failure to investigate the market: not understanding the market dynamics, what products and services are needed and what is trending could lead to failure of your business before it even launches. It is important that you understand the market dynamics, what is trending and what is not. It is also critical to investigate whether the product/service you want to invest in is needed, what your competition is and what solutions they are proposing.
It is important for entrepreneurs that one failure should not mark the death of your dream. Whenever you fail, learn from it and move on. Remember that persistence always pays off

Starting Your Own Business: Here is How

Today, many people are turning to self-employment in order to achieve their career and financial dreams. Increasingly, even people employed in conventional systems are establishing side businesses to realize more financial freedom and to pursue their passions.

Have you failed to find a job? Do you want to start a side business to supplement your income? Regardless of your reasons for wanting to start a business, this guide will help you to understand the fundamentals of starting a business. Here are some of the issues to consider when starting your business.

1. Do something you are passionate about

A saying goes that if you are not passionate about it, do not do it. This holds very true for business. You should know that passion often translates into quality and commitment. It is therefore important that you identify and understand what your passion is. You could be passionate about beauty, sports, food, travel- name it.
After identifying your passion, research about it. What have others done about it? What businesses have been started on it? What gaps are existing? How can the industry be improved? Research is very important as it will help you understand how you can improve what is existing and avoid past mistakes.

Make use of the internet! You will be surprised by how much information exists on the internet. Invest time in research.
Remember, a successful business must be grounded on accurate and up to date information. Moreover, you will need information to be able to write your business plan. Be an expert at what you do, research!

2. Identify the need that you want to address

During your research, you will realise that certain gaps exist in the industry you are targeting. You could exploit some of these gaps to your advantage. For instance, it could be that there are so many fashion houses but all of them are targeting the higher-end market. In such a scenario, you could venture into quality fashion for the low-end market.
Successful businesses address valid needs. In fact, this is what will drive the demand for your product or service. You can find out whether your product or service meets a need by talking to others about it. If you can, give out free samples to a few individuals and ask for their feedback.

3. Spreading the word

Do not wait to launch your business to start scouting for customers. As soon as you have the concept together, start talking to people close to you about it. Do the networking. Encourage your family and friends to spread the word. You can give out free samples of your products.
Other avenues you can use include social media. You can write a blog about your product or service. You could also create a facebook page which you can use to let others know about what you have to offer

4. Planning and growth

At the heart of a successful business is a good business plan. A business plan is a great tool for attracting partners and investors. Note that a good business plan will help you ascertain whether your business idea can actually work. It helps you analyse all the factors at play and as a result, you are aware from the very start what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can address each of them.
A good business plan should not be static. Economies change and so do market dynamics. You should evaluate your business plan from time to time to identify what is working and what is not. This will help you to address challenges as they arise.
Importantly, a business plan can act as a basis for growth and expansion. It states what your vision is and helps you to lay down strategies to help you achieve what you want. So, whereas it can change from time to time, it provides you with a blueprint for your business thereby defining direction.

5. Partnerships

Partnerships are very important for the success of any business. Partners do not have to necessarily be investors. It could be individuals or companies interested in providing you technical expertise in areas such as branding, marketing or processing depending on what your business is about.
Strive to build strong partnerships based on mutual respect and common values. Partners can bring onboard a wealth of information and expertise besides tangible benefits such as capital. Remember, you can achieve so much by working with another person because each one has their own unique contribution.

6. Understanding the legal environment

Find out what the legal requirements are for operating a business in your country or state. In fact, we encourage you to register your business with the relevant authorities as soon as you have the paper work in place. Consult a lawyer if you are not sure of what the procedures are.

Beware of idea thieves. We advise you to register your idea in order to protect it by copyright law. Sometimes, even the people close to us can steal our ideas. Therefore, before you share with anyone your business idea, have them sign a form indicating that that is your idea and they will not take it up or share it with somebody else without your permission.