Business

How 23-year-old Atukwatse won $20,000 Seed Funding Capital in NSSF’s Hi-Innovator Program

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Sometime back in 2021, Ms Tracy Atukwatse, a Computer Science graduate accompanied her pregnant aunt to a hospital in Mbarara district, and little did she know it would be a turning point in her life.

The 23-year-old said, “While in the labor room, I saw how some women were being turned away because they did not have mama kits. I decided to come up with something for the mothers, and that’s how we decided as a business to use the things we are selling to set up mama kits and cater for the mothers of low-income status.”

She was recounting her story after receiving a check for $20,000 in seed funding as a winner in the recently concluded Women Accelerator Hi-Innovator Pitch sessions that were held at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.

Organized by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the Hi-Innovator Program has created close to 60,000 employment opportunities for youth and women entrepreneurs over the past three years.

According to the Fund’s acting Managing Director, Patrick Ayota, the program has to date supported 173 women and youth-owned businesses across all sectors of the economy with UGX9.9 billion in seed funding.

Atukwatse graduated in May this year with a Bachelor of Computer Science from Mbarara University of Science and Technology. She is currently working as a Tech Lead at Passion Success Enterprises Limited, which is based in Mbarara town.

Prior to winning the $20,000, she underwent a business-pitching training session at the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL), a subsidiary of Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited. SBIL was set up in 2018 to support small and medium enterprise development across Uganda. Atukwatse acknowledges that SBIL played an important role in their company successfully presenting a winning pitch.

“During training with the Incubator, I learned public speaking skills and business management, especially in the documentation of business plans,” she said.

Tony Otoa, the SBIL Chief Executive, said this is an opportunity for winning entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses and contribute to the growth of the economy.

“We are happy for them, and we hope that they will use the seed funding to uplift themselves and their communities. Many enterprises in Uganda lack financing. Such an opportunity like this encourages more people to come up and exhibit their potential in business development and management. These are very vital skills to ensure the sustainability and scalability of different ventures,” Otoa said.

Registered initially as a business dealing in mainly baby items, Ms Atukwatse and her two co-owners decided in 2021 to venture into retailing motherhood and postpartum requirements.

They marketed their new product range as ‘Sure Mama Safe Delivery Package and invested UGX10 million as start-up capital to set things into motion.

Atukwatse said, “A full delivery kit is sold at UGX 272,000.” A mother can either choose to make a weekly payment of UGX8,500 or UGX34,000 monthly. This pack contains both maternity and postpartum requirements, which can be used until the baby is about four months old.”

However, she admitted that keeping in regular touch with clients can be challenging at times.

“We are not looking at the business as doing only traditional sales. We want to develop a mobile app that the mothers will always use for payments, making follow-ups, getting reminders on how to keep up with the maternity visits, and tips on how to take care of the new-born babies,” Atukwatse said.

Another barrier is that their targeted customers are scattered in remote villages, and almost all are not online.

“To counter this challenge, we are going to start working with at least 10 members of Village Health Teams (VHTs) who have smart phones. They will be using the app and passing on the information to mothers,” Atukwatse added.

Currently serving the districts of Mbarara, Ntungamo, and Rwampara, Atukwatse said plans are to work towards selling 1500 units of Sure Mama delivery packages annually by 2025 as well as spread their services to other districts in Western Uganda.

“We would also like to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Health so that we can be certified. This will enable more mothers to trust us,” she said.

Apart from Passion Success, 10 other enterprises trained by SBIL also won the $20,000 seed funding, namely Jesus the Rock, Millionstars Health Products, Isitoshe Tours and Travels, Tukwatampola Enterprises, and MindEdge Engineering.

Others were Muhsan Farms, Musoli Eden Farm, Westlink Delicacy, ZunieAgri, and Muchison Backpackers.

The selection of winners in the Women Accelerator Hi-Innovator Pitch sessions follows a strict criterion that includes the potential for scalability, sustainability, governance framework, and impact on the community.

It is a women-only cohort aimed at giving women entrepreneurs across all sectors an even chance to improve their business skills and grow their businesses into resilient enterprises that are more competitive and better placed to receive financial services.

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