Stepping away: Leaving a job, especially a well-paying one is not an easy thing to do. You will be haunted by the thoughts of a possible failure of the venture you are about to take, the fear of the unknown, and advice from other people you may confide in might have you rethinking. Joan Salmon sounded out four young people who resigned from their jobs to stand on their own.
The Sophie Muwanika Institute of Art for Change
I graduated from Islamic University in Uganda as a nutritionist in 2012 and got a job at the Nutrition unit of Mbale hospital. However, I was frustrated by the big number of patients yet there was little medicine and facilities.
So I co-founded a nutrition company with a group of friends, Nutri-Dietetic Centre.
I am passionate about nutrition. However, I am interested in growth as a person while for most jobs, growth is in position, say from being an assistant to senior, from senior to manager.
I quit my job and decided to go into the creative industry, which is quite challenging but interesting and gives you space to imagine, innovate and grow as a person.
I had been in a few short films but after winning the 2013 Beverly Nambozo Award, I decided to focus on art. I am the business myself. Most people ask artists, “Apart from art, what else do you do?” but art is not just a hobby, it is a full time job, with capital investment, trying to make a sale, profits and losses, advertisements, all the nitty gritty successful business needs.
As artists, we also employ people. My parents did not fully support my decision at first but they eventually came around, with my mum offering to be my personal assistant.
I started out as a poet who made beads.
In 2014, I presented my first poetry performance with a band during the Kaz Kasozi 7 Project. After that, there was no turning back, I was propelled to write my debut poetry performance; “#layers” performed in August 2014 at National Theatre CICP.
With an audience of 150 in a 100-seater venue, for a first time performance, I believe that the show was a success and it introduced me as a performing poet.
Owing to this performance, I was invited to the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations summer school to share my work and the role of theatre art in healing and inclusion for eight days.
However, I returned to the demise of my mother but out of the pain that followed, leading to 10 months of depression, The Sophie Muwanika Institute of Art for Change was born.
I am employed by my own start up, it follows a social enterprise model, where we produce plays for communities, corporate functions, train drama, public speaking and poetry to schools or private clients.
We also host an annual School’s theatre festival, which is also a major source of income for us.
I will not say it was easy, creative business is just like any other business, it not only needs talent but capital, human resource, a clear target of goals, understanding of your product, your market, your team, motivating and empowering your team to achieve results. But it is rewarding to be able to explore different possibilities, the constant creating and innovating and breaking new grounds is exciting.
Not all of us are created to be founders, or people who start up our own initiatives, but you can be a leader and influence growth in whatever position you are in, if you do your job well. And if you are gifted with ideas, and you think you can start your business, do your research so you take calculated risks and most importantly start, you cannot figure it out when seated in a chair, just take the first step.
De.lamba and Co ltd
I left my job at Crane Crafts and Engravers in February 2016 because I felt that I was limited on how much I could explore. While it is all not rosy out of formal employment, I am driven to change the way graphics and signage is viewed. While in formal employment, we followed trends that had been used 10 years ago yet trends change continually. While I have not yet achieved what I desire, I believe that five years down the road, I will be there.
There is also more work when you are running your own business compared to formal employment, where you only concentrate on the project you have been assigned. Here, I have to supervise everything, which means I get to do lots of work.
There is also the issue of limited employees, owing to limited creative manpower in the field.
I have to subcontract people because when you come out of formal employment, you have presumably enough money but you have to inject it into many things and it takes a while before you begin reaping.
The other rather disconcerting issue is foreigners who take up several projects that we, Ugandans, would have enjoyed.
I have managed to work with some big corporations such as UNRA and KCCA. I peg that to the fact that while still in formal employment, I worked on every project with my all so that if there ever came a time when I am removed from a project, the client would want me back.
Be careful what you think because your thoughts always run your life, so if you decide that it is time for entrepreneurship, go for it, no time is the best time.
Kabs Weight Management
It came like a rude realisation that my weight was something I was uncomfortable with. I needed to do something about it so bad because I did not want to look older than my husband neither did I want to pass up on my graduation dress, whose design could not accommodate my weight then.
From taking walks, drinking lemon, to going to the gym, I did it all but there were no results. Desperate to feel comfortable again, I opted for skipping on an hourly basis. It worked. I also improved my eating habits.
Upon seeing that it was possible to lose weight, I thought of an idea to help other women facing the same dilemma.
That is how Kabs Weight Management was born, running on Facebook and WhatsApp.
I was working as an administrator at Kampala International University, where I had been for three years but quit in October 2015 after giving birth to my daughter. I needed to give her my time and I did not see myself doing so while working a fulltime job.
Seeing women lose weight is refreshing. It is an achievement for me that women of different capabilities are under one umbrella and supporting each other. We support each other’s businesses, we have cash rounds and these are boosting people. Businesses have been born out of the group and these are actually sponsoring our events.
Fulltime mothers have also got inspired to do some businesses alongside taking care of their children.
However, the group comes with its challenges because…well, dealing with women has never been easy.
Despite there being rules and regulations, many do not follow them. For example, many do not give you feedback, they just back off. Others do not pay.
This business is not really profitable, but at least I manage to meet a few bills. I can buy data to keep online since that is where I basically run the business and I can fuel my car. I have been out of formal employment for two years and I have never looked back.
Juliet Nakimuli Kasiita
Chai and Mo
I used to do service delivery management, strategic planning and data analysis for several companies. However, during one of many sessions with Imagine Me Africa, I knew it was time to actualise the many dreams I had shelved for so long.
Joan Mugenzi, the founder of Imagine Me dared us to dream and for me, it was starting up a tea house. There were many coffee shops around town, but I had never heard of a tea house. However, it was more than just making ordinary tea, for me. So I made it a point to ask for say, Jasmine tea when I went to a restaurant or hotel and realised that not many offered it. That pushed me to go against the tide because I needed there to be a distinction when someone took the tea I made. Therefore, I ventured into herbal teas. I had also shared this dream with my niece and she gave me the first sample of doing business when she insisted that I serve tea at her kwanjula. That was when reality struck because I had to make this happen without prior planning. I bought all I needed, working on a budget, I set out but the weather was not friendly for tea. When it became chilly, people requested for tea and we served tea until past midnight. That event was my launch pad and gave me hope that my idea was conceivable.
I would later quit my job to pursue my passion, despite leaving behind a fat cheque.
It has not been an all rosy journey but I look at every challenge as a means to grow and I am glad that Chai and Mo is now functional. More to that, it can function even when I am away.
Accountability is key when starting up your business because if it were not for my accountability partner, I would never have made it this far. She ensured that I fulfilled whatever I said I would do without excuse.
There is no better time than now to invest or make your dreams a reality.