working with youth: 27-year-old Renah Ibra Ssebatta runs Kadanke, an organisation that entertains and inspires youth. .
You are behind the Kadanke, what is it about?
Kadanke is a youth brand inspiring youth for change through career fares, entertainment, cultural galas, business and entrepreneurship mentorship. We hold events in schools and during holidays.
Where and when did you get the idea?
I got the idea just like anybody else would do. I get inspired every day by people that do something. I got this idea in 2011.
Why did you decide to target youths, especially teenagers?
I targeted young people because we are the future. That is what we have always used our hashtag as #KadankeTheFutureIsNow. The old guns are going out and we needed to start preparing for the new challenges ahead.
What is it like working with young souls?
It is very challenging. Oh God, I could say it is one of the hardest jobs. Young people are too picky and very informed, so you do not bring mediocrity to them.
What was the start like for you?
It was hard. No one was willing to believe in me. Ugandans want things that are established and are already up there.
What hardships and hustles did you go through?
I still go through hardships. One, you need to be dynamic with the youth segment, so you have to think of new ideas every single minute, but then lack of support from the people concerned like sponsors creates a challenge.
So how did you get Kadanke off the ground?
A lot of research and networking with the right partners, but above all positive energy, coupled with God’s love for me and a very selfless team. And the critics, of course.
Didn’t you require money to kick start you project?
A lot of it because there were so many well established players in the youth segment and if I needed to make a name and be felt, I had to use lots of money in putting up quality competition.
Where did you get the money to make this happen?
I was working at the time I started Kadanke. I had some money I had saved, but it was not enough. I was stuck and I didn’t know if I could pull off my first event, which was held at St Mary’s Kitende. I had not fully cleared service providers like Silk Events when my mother called me and asked if that is what I really wanted to do and I said yes. She told me she wanted to see me and when I went home. She gave me Shs5m, which she said was her contribution to making the event happen the next day. You do not know how I felt.
Tell me about your feeling at that point…
I saw my whole family behind me, supporting my ambitions and of course given the huge bills I had to settle, it was very nice getting that financial boost. Surprisingly it was during my first event that the brand manager of Coca Cola, then, Maggie Kigozi, passed by, at my event, on her way from the airport and was impressed by what she saw. I had the numbers because there were thousands of students at the event. The following week I was offered a good deal with Coke and other schools wanted us to hold Kadanke events. When I told my mother about it, she was excited too. At that point, I felt I could make it.
On your journey of organising Kadanke events, what lessons have you picked along the way?
A lot of them, like never giving up, team work, selflessness and consistency.
What is the biggest achievement you have attained out of Kadanke?
Creating a strong solid name in a period of just two years.
Have you made any solid and tangible achievements out of these events?
Yes, of course, though I prefer to keep that to myself.
For the sake of inspiring fellow young people, please let us in on some of these achievements?
Well, I have bought land, built my house and fully furnished it. I have seven youths I pay tuition and school fees for. I have bought myself some rides too.
You must have good financial discipline and planning.
Yes, throughout the years, I have learnt what it means working and using money to do what it is meant to do. I am the kind who can refuse to buy myself an iPhone and instead pay someone’s school fees, because with time, I have come to appreciate that responsibility is not an option. We just choose to run away or ignore it.
Paying school fees for others makes you a kind-hearted fellow, what made you turn out this way?
I have always been. My upbringing has something to do with it. I have grown up in a family where my mum shares and looks after everyone. At home we do not have superiors. I brought the same spirit into Kadanke. We work, fall and rise as a team.
What kind of family do you come from?
A very small friendly family, headed by a single mum. We are three siblings and I am the first born.
How much was your dad in your life?
Not much really. He was killed when I was in P.3.
Do you have any fond memories of him?
I do not have any because I was young.
What was life like being raised by a single mum?
I must say it was very cool. She is very liberal. She provided me with all I wanted and took me to the best schools.
Which school did you attend?
I attended Kampala Parents School then went to Kiira College Butiki, Seroma High School and St Mark’s College.
Did you go to university?
Yes I did, I have a degree in Economics.
Is it true economists are misers?
Depends on who has said it … ha ha ha.
So, do you have some lady you call special?
Yes of course. If I said no I would be lying.
Tell us about her…
Ha ha ha…she is a fine, very loving and happy lady.
Who is she?
I prefer she stays anonymous.
Okay, how did you two meet?
Like the usual meet ups. We met at an event I was invited to and we both started looking at each other and the next thing I knew, we were on a dinner date.
How long ago was this?
About a year ago.
For a long time you and singer Leila Kayondo were romantically involved, what became of that relationship?
Ha ha ha…I knew this was coming. Leila and I have been great friends for a long time. We have worked on a lot of stuff together and we are still good friends. We support each other and yes, she was one of those people that saw the birth of Kadanke. Actually we are like sister and brother.
But you know we know you were not simply great friends. You were lovebirds whose attraction to one another was visible…
Uhm…what can I say? Leila and I are very good friends like I said and for the record, I did not know our affection was that visible.
Okay now that you have a new found love, shall we be hearing wedding bells?
Of course, yes.
How soon is this?
Who are you away from work?
I am a very jolly creature who loves music, dancing and road trips. I love children too. So, many a time you will bump into me chasing my girl Montana.
Is Montana your child?
No, I am her god father, but I will have my children of course. She is the best thing that has happened to us as a family.
What is your average day like?
It starts with prayers, then organising my day, which is full of meetings. In the evening, I meet with friends over coffee.
What is your relationship with God?
A very good one. I pray even when I am driving.
How do you choose your friends?
That is a hard one for me to explain, but I can tell that I have many friends but very few true friends.
Who is a true friend?
Someone who tells me in my face that I have done something good or bad, not someone who praises me because they want me to buy them beer.
What personal principles do you uphold?
I follow my instincts and my heart. I do not bring people’s thoughts before mine.
T he word Kadanke is a high school slang to mean happiness or party. Kadanke was concocted from the word “dance.” Ssebatta chose to go with a name youths already identify with. His company handles youth events, experiential marketing, advertising and a magazine that explores the world of youth life, fashion and lifestyle.
Kadanke high school apprentice: A business challenge in which a group of aspiring students will compete for the chance to win a cash prize of $5,000 investment in a business of the candidate’s creation.
Music dance and drama: A cultural festival where secondary schools from different districts converge in one venue to compete in different musical genres.
National Youth Day Festival and awards: Joining the rest of the world in celebrating international Youth Day come August, Kadanke will recognise efforts of youth helping create a better society.
East Africa’s sunset beach carnival. It happens at Lido beach Entebbe. This carnival attracts a lot of youths.