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Ten Business Start-up Tips for the new year


Every end of year heralds the start of a new year. Failures and achievements of the past year give rise to optimism for the new year. One characteristic of agile human beings is having hope in the future.

Some of you have full time jobs and are considering setting up a side business while others are unemployed but are looking at setting up a business in order to earn a living. Whatever the reasons for aspiring to start a business this year, below are ten tips to get you going;

  1. Identify the right business for you. There are numerous business opportunities ready for exploitation. However, it is always crucial to settle for those that gel well with your abilities and lifestyle. As a teetotaler, the last business I can invest in is a bar however much it promises high returns. If you are an employee with an 8 am to 5 pm job, a business that operates in the evening hours would be ideal for you. An individual with roots from Gulu or Lira districts is most likely well positioned to trade in SimSim, Sunflower or honey.

  2. Draft a business plan. Talk of a business plan sends shudders down the spines of many. This fear has been brought up by the amorphous business plan documents that we have chanced across. Consider this plan as a guide for your business idea. You can make it as simple as possible afterall it has to be in a manner that you easily understand. You can write a business plan of two pages and it works for you, for starters at least.

  3. Drop the procrastination. Defined as the act of continuously delaying something that must be done, procrastination is one of the biggest vision killers. Each time you have desired to get the ball rolling, somehow you get a convenient excuse not to proceed. If you are to realise your dream this year, steer clear of procrastination.

  4. Start now. You know the kind of business you want to do, you have a plan in place and have abandoned procrastination, the next step is to START!!! Yes. Kick off your activity to realise your business dream. Do not wait till you have furnished an elegant office and hired high end professionals. Just get started, today.

  5. Start small. Most businesses that are self funded hardly have the luxury of so much money at their disposal. With your limited budget, focus on starting small and grow organically. You dont have to try and emulate other players in the business that are already runaway successes. The other beauty about this approach is that even when you make a mistake, the kind of resources lost are limited to a manageable tune.

  6. Optimism is important, but …. Doing business requires a good dose of faith. This is what we regularly refer to as optimism. However, as we raise our faith, we shouldnt forget to prepare ourselves too for the worst. There are times when circumstances conspire and lead an otherwise promising business to the gutters. Think about that too as you walk your journey.

  7. Brand appropriately. Branding is the activity of connecting a product or service with a particular name, symbol etc or with particular features or ideas in order to make people recognise and want to pay for it. You might have started small but that shouldn’t stop you from branding yourself the way you want the market to perceive you. Remember, when you eventually hit the big time, its this very brand that you will have relied upon. So, it had better be a brand you want to portray.

  8. Take on manageable opportunities. By now, you’ve started operating your business and some deals are coming through. Bite what you can chew. Try as much as possible to manage the kind of business you undertake. Like a child, you’re probably still at that stage in life where you’re just learning how to walk and its too early to try out running. A young man who had just started a company dealing in produce was tempted to pursue an opportunity supplying the Uganda Police with grains. After borrowing money, he was able to supply as required only for him to wait another two years before being paid. Do not ask me what he went through with the money lenders.

  9. Let mistakes encourage you. You’ll make mistakes as you run the business. The most important thing though is to avoid being discouraged and looking at your self as a failure. Seek encouragement from the mistakes. Remember, failure usually gives us our biggest lessons. How often do you sit back to learn from an experience where you were wildly successful?

  10. The big break takes time. The glamour that comes with being a successful icon in business is loved by many. Unfortunately, we usually never get to hear about the trials and temptations those being recognised go through on their journey to the top. For you to achieve your vision, be ready to slug it out through thick and thin. There will be many lows interrupted by a few highs, but all you need to do is maintain the zeal. Your break into the big time could take a year or even ten years. It all depends upon numerous factors.

By now you should be in a better position to get yourself in order for the task ahead. These are just a few tips that can hopefully help you set the ball rolling.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant

Blog: wirejames.com

Twitter: @wirejames

Email: lunghabo (at) gmail (dot) com

HOW TO – Start a Snacks Business


A Snack is defined as a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, especially one eaten between regular meals (Dictionary.com). Snacks are one of the top selling items in any shop or supermarket in Uganda. Everyone everywhere somehow eats a snack or two daily.

In Uganda, the common snacks are ground nuts (pea nuts), Soya, Mandazi, Chapati, Simsim, Crisps, Chips (french fries), Sumbusa, pan cakes, doughnut, popcorn, gweke (fried maize), cookies among others.

The snack business is characterised by the following;

  • Low entry barriers (can easily be started with few resources)

  • Easily run as a home business

  • Low margins

  • Requires high volume sales

  • Price sensitivity

If you have any remote interest in cooking, then this is one of the most obvious businesses to pursue. Before you start worrying about how to sell the product made, let us scan through the various issues that need to be addressed.

Key Considerations

To set up a snacks business it is crucial that one addresses the listed issues:

  1. Business Plan: Have one, however basic. This plan should be able to guide you on what you plan to produce, how you plan to sell it, anticipated trading volumes, an overview of your operating expenses, targeted sales price among others.

  2. Recipe: Come up with a recipe for the snacks you want to produce. This is very important since you are entering a market that is likely already flooded with similar snacks. It helps if you find a key differentiator. An example, if you chose to go into the Fried Mukene Snacks business today, the edge would be in adding some spices to your recipe that will attract customers to your product.

  3. Raw Materials: You definitely need to acquire raw material which will be processed to form the snacks. This raw material is key in your value chain. Ensure that you set up a steady supply of the raw material to avoid breakdowns in your production cycle. Nothing hurts customers like getting accustomed to your product and then they all of a sudden have to bear with its absence from the market for a week or so. No amount of excuses will win all of them back. You will essentially have gifted them to the competition. If you can stock the raw material to avert such instances, do so.

  4. Production Equipment: You’re going to have to acquire equipment necessary for the production of these snacks. Depending on the snacks in question, the equipment can be as basic as they get. Look around in your local market, talk to people already in similar business to find out where they source their equipment from or at worst, visit the upscale supermarkets and shops that deal in the high end equipment. Your pocket and planned target market is key in determining what kind of equipment you settle for.

    IMG_9700

    Plastic packaging can be sealed with either the electric sealer, flat iron or candle.

  5. Production Location: Where do you plan to make the snacks from? This is dependent on multiple factors among which is your target market, resource availability, production expectations, type of snacks etc. There are snacks that need to be consumed within a short timeframe after production for the best customer experience like chips, rolex (chapati & egg), sumbusa or fried fish. You also have snacks that can be kept for a while and even packed like mandazi, cookies, roasted groundnuts and gweke. The longer lasting snacks can always be processed from any location, packed well and sold in entirely different locations while for the quick to eat snacks, you need to position your production facility near the customer.

  6. Packaging: This has to do with the way you present your product to the customer. You could choose to go it anyway you want but first assess and see how others are doing it. If you’re going to use supermarkets and shops to retail your products, you need to have decent attractive packaging in place.

    IMG_9697

    Compare the two packagings. Which one gives better appeal?

    If you plan to sell by the roadside, then all you need might be old newspapers in which to wrap the snacks. Align your packaging with the target market so that you avoid over or under investing in it. This has a direct impact on your sales performance.

  7. Branding: This is the practice of creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer’s mind. As you set out to sell your snacks, you need to create an identity for them or else they will get lost in the multitudes of products out there. A customer should be able to know that they are buying your product and not any other. Near my home, there is a Chapati seller who branded his stall as Budaka Boys. As a result, it is very convenient for me to send my 8 year old to buy his chapati. Do not undermine your days of small beginnings. Most big name product brands started small. Work on the branding as you go along with the business since it is likely to significantly complement your other efforts. I have developed three household product brands from first principles today and hence know what it means.

  8. Sales Strategy: By now you should be having an idea about how you plan to sell your product. There are numerous ways snacks are sold and some of them include; roadside sales, door to door hawking, office to office hawking, supplying shops or supermarkets, online (whatsapp, facebook etc) among others. Your choice should be determined by the target market you have in mind, cost of product, packaging and capital investment at your disposal.

  9. Human Resources: Do you need to hire workers? Can you do this work on your own (at least for starters)? Are you able to pay the workers? Do you need workers in the production or sales and marketing areas? Ask yourself leading questions before you make a decision. Alternatively, even when you need workers, maybe starting with family labour could be a better strategy. It’s worth learning from the Indians here.

  10. Money: The snack business in its most basic form does not require lots of money to start. With UGShs 100,000/= (Approx US$ 30) one can kickstart this business. However, as stated earlier, being a low margin business, you will need to target volume sales before making sensible returns. This implies re-investing your proceeds religiously at least for the first six months in order to grow the business operations.

This may not be an exhaustive guide but should give you a good idea of the landscape you should expect to find going into the snacks business. Feel free to contact me for more detailed input.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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