From hawking clothes to owning a beauty and cosmetic shop while giving back to her peers: An entrepreneur’s journey

04.03.2021
Amula Nabirye is a remarkable entrepreneur. At just 25, she owns a beauty shop (known locally as saloon), a cosmetic shop and, on top of this, she is mentoring unemployed youth in Mayuge town - Eastern Uganda with hair dressing skills.

A typical day for Amula involves tending to clients in between supervising hair-dressing learning sessions.

Before I leave home at 9 am, I prepare myself. When I open my shop, I wait for the hair dressing trainees to arrive for the days’ mentorship session. In between the sessions I attend to customers who come to the cosmetic shop.”

At just 19 years old, Amula had already dropped out of school and did not have any employable skill. She started hawking second clothes, earning just UGX 20,000 (CHF 5) per week. As a hawker, Amula walked long distances looking for buyers of her merchandise.

Amula enrolled in the LSDY project in the phase of 2013-2016 after hearing about the project from a friend. She was among 450 young entrepreneurs enrolled in the 2017-2020 phase to receive additional skills upgrade including business management and entrepreneurship skills, life skills, health and reproductive skills. The skills upgrade were offered through local experts and partners working with the project.

"I was curious, … I found out that they were training out-of-school youth with employable skills"

The 2017-2020 phase of the LSDY project, was implemented in 13 districts in eastern Uganda to raise 4,000 (450 entrepreneurs) young people aged 18-30 years sustainably out of poverty by increasing their competitiveness in the job market and improving their self-employment opportunities.

Entrepreneurial ventures

Amula’s shop is on the outskirts of Mayuge town in the residential area of Budhebera zone where she rents 2 adjacent rooms for her beauty and cosmetic shop.

Most of the products she stocks are delivered by distributors. 

 

I sell hair and beauty products for women such as braids, weaves, creams and hair treatment product and my customers are mainly women who live nearby

Amula started her businesses in 2016 mainly because she had the confidence and had figured out how to raise the capital required for the investment. 

She used the money on rent and purchased hair products such as sinks, hair styling posters and mirrors. 

"Through the trainings I received, I developed a saving culture that enabled me to grow my business from my savings. I also developed the leadership and social skills that have helped me in managing the people around me today"

The business endured difficulties in the beginning but Amula says she focused on growing her business brand through perseverance, and focusing on good customer service care and cleanliness to attract customers. Right now, Amula is self-reliant and has diversified her source of income and acknowledges that life has improved significantly not just for her. 

 

In a week I make UGX 150,000 (CHF 36) … life is much better because I have a job and I employed some of my fellow youth”.

 

For now, Amula is happy with her achievements. However, she wants to grow her business until she owns a wholesale shop for beauty products .

Social venture

To date Amula has graduated 58 mentees. Three of those Amula mentored have since opened up their own saloon business in nearby towns

A founding member of Youth Arise Development Initiative (YADI) -a group formed in 2015 to help unemployed young people learn employable skills from each other, Amula has revived the group by providing mentorship to those interested in learning hair dressing.

The LSDY project was designed to offer a holistic skills set including technical skills, life skills, health and reproductive skills.

Amula started mentoring after she became confident that the skills she got through the LSDY project would be relevant for others. She facilitates hands-on sessions that lasts up to 5 months. 

Those she mentors are mainly young women, most having experienced sexual harassment while looking for work. Amula always advices how they can prevent  sexual abuse and exploitation. 

To date Amula has graduated 58 mentees. Three of those Amula mentored have since opened up their own saloon business in nearby towns.

Amula (Left) with some of the youth she is currently mentoring in hair dressing skills at her saloon in Mayuge town, Eastern Uganda

A lot of the challenges young people face in finding employment stem from biases about the youth. Amula's advices young people struggling to find employment to be persistent.

My advice to fellow youth is to focus on what you love to do until you achieve it

The LSDY project is implemented by Swisscontact in Uganda in partnership with Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Green Leaves Education Foundation.

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