Janet – a successful portfolio entrepreneur from Uganda
Janet was typical of many students in Uganda. Before the training, she had not been involved in any entrepreneurial ventures, and she had not attended any prior entrepreneurship courses. Janet knew that the job market conditions were poor for her even with a university degree, but she did not consider becoming an entrepreneur as an attractive and feasible career option for her. She was afraid of the challenges entrepreneurs face. According to her report, starting and running a business in the training was a „totally new experience“. The experience that it is possible to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship and to successfully operate a business „opened her eyes“, as she said. Janet elaborated that the training was a turning point in her life, which changed her belief that entrepreneurship is an insurmountable series of tasks. She also explained that she learned to reflect after failures, learned from errors, and that she learned to start anew despite of unfavorable circumstances. She developed a „never-give-up“ attitude and learned to use errors and failures as a valuable source of feedback. After the training, Janet started a poultry farm and managed to supply retail shops and hotels in Uganda’s capital city Kampala with eggs and chickens. One year after the training, she employed five full-time employees. The poultry farm was located in a village some hours away from Kampala, where she lived with her husband. Commuting between the village and Kampala was demanding. She decided to sell the farm and start an event management business, which she successfully set up 18 months after the training.
Janet closed the event management business 24 months after the training and, instead, launched an information technology consultancy that developed computer software, designed webpages for companies and private persons, and installed networks for offices and homes. Janet had started the information technology consultancy because of her university education in computer science. It is interesting to observe that she had started with a business of low complexity, and over the years, she created a business in her field of study. When we met Jane again around four years after the training, she informed us that she still owned the information technology consultancy. Furthermore, she had started an additional business – one of the few ice cream parlors that you can find in the city center of Kampala. Through STEP, Janet has formed and pursued different entrepreneurial goals; she has changed from a non-entrepreneurial student to a successful portfolio entrepreneur starting and managing several businesses at the same time.
Martin – developing a never-give-up attitude
Martin had been thinking about becoming an entrepreneur for his whole life because he could not imagine being satisfied with becoming „the employee of the month“. However, he had never tried to become self-employed because he feared that he lacked the practical skills. He explained that he had some knowledge in entrepreneurship but did not know how to put it into practice and, hence, never started a business. Asked about the most important learning experiences, Martin said that the training taught him how to plan and execute the start-up of a business, how to develop financial plans, and how to manage finances. After the training, Martin started a restaurant in a town near the capital of Uganda, recognizing a lack of restaurants in the local market. Martin identified the business idea of a restaurant during the STEP training, in which he sold fresh juice together with the other members of the start-up team. He opened the restaurant about eight months after the training. When we met him 18 months after the training, he managed his restaurant successfully and made about 380 USD sales per month. He employed five persons, two full-time employees, and three part-time employees. In addition to the restaurant, Martin started a boutique that sold clothes and shoes for women and children 15 months after the training. The business was located in his parents’ home village some hours away from Kampala. Martin also identified the opportunity to start a company supplying construction materials but because of the high capital requirements, he was not yet able to start operations. Martin mentioned that despite the high amount of starting capital, he would not give up on that business opportunity.
After some time Martin faced sudden setbacks and difficult challenges. Four years after the training, he mentioned that he had also opened up a small hotel. His workload from managing several businesses at the same time had been very high. Furthermore, the hotel incurred losses and Martin lost a high amount of money. Despite the fact that he had diligently planned the different steps to start and run the businesses, he had to close the hotel. He explained that the training was a crucial factor in deciding to continue with entrepreneurship because STEP gave him the determination and courage to do so. After the training, his most important principle became „never give up“. This determination and persistence resulted in new businesses and in employment opportunities that he created for himself and other people. Martin had to close one business but was able to continue running his other businesses. He wanted to use the profits to create new businesses that start small and grow over time. Martin persisted in his entrepreneurial ventures and became a successful serial entrepreneur.