Why did you start Clean Consults?
I was managing one of the biggest Laundry companies at the time, Apex dry cleaners and as I was there clients who brought in their clothes would always inquire if we could clean their carpets. But we always told them we only specialized in cleaning clothes since cleaning carpets was a job that required going on site where the client lived.
So I thought of a way to fill that gap and Clean Consults was the answer. I registered the company while I was still the Manager of Apex Dry Cleaners where I later resigned to go and manage Clean Consults.
In the early days like most entrepreneurs I was lured into doing what I was used to doing so I ignored carpet cleaning and went into clothes but we had a lot of short comings like purchasing hangers and Laundry products which at time were very expensive since they were imported.
We ventured in making our own laundry products later on which reduced our level of expenditure but still the business of clothes never brought in enough money for me to feed myself and my family.
One of the biggest sins in Christianity is failure to feed your own family. In fact 1Timothy 5:8 says a man who cannot take care of his own people is worse than someone who does not even believe in God
I didn’t want to be the type that goes to hell and asks God why I was there so I quickly reviewed my goals for starting and realized I had ignored the number one reason to why we had started in the first place which was to fill a gap.
So we pivoted the company into a carpet cleaning company and fetched loads of money. From there we started approaching hotels and requesting them to do their laundry. The best part about these contracts was hidden in our model.
We did everything off site, which meant we used their equipment, their water, electricity and a bunch of other things which we got charged for before payment but still managed to walk away with enough money and zero stress attained from trying to pay bills and balancing books. The only thing we balanced was our own operational costs.
We also ventured further into corporate contract cleaning but at the time our biggest profits came from industrial laundry.
But as with most businesses in 2008 there was an economic down turn which affected our business and the cleaning contracts moved from large to medium and down the road I realized it could not pay my salary or even the little I got from it couldn’t cover the lifestyle I had created for myself and my Family.
So I tried to expand the company drastically and it grew so big it almost burst, all in the name of meeting my needs. Most people think that you can never reach the point of outgrowing your own business but I did and when I did I decided to pivot it in a different direction.
Living Business Education
I created Living Business Education, a training ground for business people and those that want to startup. Our mission is to get people in business and help them stay in business. This Idea came about on realization that I had several years of self taught business knowledge which I could use to help train and teach other business people.
This business has so far trained around 100,000 business people in Uganda and around the world. It has created for me the income I always wanted and business wise it works better than Clean Consult.
Now enough about myself, Sarah Namulondo asked me why startup businesses fail in Uganda. I will give advice from my own personal experience.
#Startup Mistake One: The Customers Psychology
A friend of mine who imports solar lights failed to sale them and asked me to help him store them in my house. I agreed to it but as time went on I told myself since I have experience in sales, I could do a good job selling them than he did.
I got super excited about the idea and packed these boxes in a truck and went to places where people were off the grid. I started doing what I do best, studying the business, beating them at their own psychology, they got excited but nobody was buying—NOBODY BOUGHT ANYTHING.
Disappointed! I headed home to analyze why that had happened and I realized;
Entrepreneurs make an assumption that poor people make rational decisions. That if you told them to make a decision between buying waragi and purchasing malaria tablets; they will buy malaria tablets and leave the waragi.
But that is not what happens all buyers whether poor or reach tend to buy what they want and not what they need.
So I quickly realized that entrepreneurs make a mistake of thinking that the buyer thinks like they think which is always wrong.
Let me give you another scenario;
An entrepreneur will come up with an idea and put his shop on a good building on a main road which is also on the slope of a hill. You’ll find that, that entrepreneur will have the great product, great location but still fail.
Why is that? It’s because that entrepreneur did not study the law of acceleration. When a motorist (who is your potential customer or carries with him your potential customers) is driving down hill, his psychology doesn’t tell him to stop. His/her mind is on accelerating and he feels a lot of pressure to land safely.
So this entrepreneurs business would be best suited in the valley irrespective of how bad the building looks like because the motorist will have less pressure and enough time to let his eyes wander.
A quick example here is in road construction, road engineers never put bus stops or stages on slopes and in corners or roundabouts. So follow the math when looking for business location.
#Startup Mistake 2: Emotional Connection
After running clean consults for five years, I realized we dealt more with people of the corporate class. But even more the people who picked up the clothes or who directly called us for our services were women. When I proceeded to find out what their age group was, they were ladies between the ages of 28 to 36.
So when I was on a business trip to China, I decided to buy each one of them bags and on receiving them they were so thankful and the numbers of referrals were enormous. That is when I learned a practical example of people like working with their friends.
#Startup Mistake 3: Understand the culture you’re operating in
In 2008 I went to the USA and I was planning to set up business there and never come back home. So everywhere I went people asked me questions. They would ask me about my family, my business prospects but I never knew a thing about them.
When I asked my Ghanaian friend why these people asked me things about myself but never told me a thing about themselves. She said, here if you don’t ask questions people assume you are not interested in knowing.
Thank God the business deal didn’t work out but I took great lessons from that encounter for my startup. For instance in the startup jungle, asking questions is important but what is most important is what kinds of questions you ask?
#Startup Mistake 4: Be Observant, you’ll see the gaps
I am a Christian but what I have realized is Christians wish God had a megaphone so he could scream every time opportunity showed up.
Most people think opportunity will come up to them shouting with whistles and flowers. If at all opportunity must come, it is always in that still small voice or that gap that is in your industry in that you have to be observant to see it.
#Startup Mistake 5: Uganda’s Economy
Most of the business people I know say they can’t put a lot of money in this economy some even say it’s risky to start this or the other given the economic climate at the time. But if a Chinese is willing to bet 50 million dollars in this economy, what is your big bet?
Business is gambling but not all gambling is business.
#Startup Mistake 6: Creating pioneering projects
Why create an App? Why run around creating fancy stuff? The problem here is young people don’t like investing in the obvious that is why most of their businesses fail.
Everyone loves pioneering projects, they are interesting but the chips can easily fall anytime’
There is nothing wrong with creating that App or E-commerce website the only problem is the odds are against you
In Uganda the Visa Card revolution hasn’t yet happened, internet usage and smart phone popularity has not yet reached 50%. So my dear friend you are doomed and likely to say the economy of Uganda is failing businesses yet on the other hand you can create something obvious that can make you money.
Making Charcoal will never go out of fashion, all you need to do is find a target market and you’ll start making money. What being online can do for you currently in Uganda is to create credibility for you and grow the numbers of your already existing product.
#Startup Mistake 7: Mixing Politics and Business
No matter where the political chips fall there is no where this economy will go. This Country has 50 million people who can’t be shipped anywhere. The only way politics will affect your business is if you don’t sale anything.
#Startup Mistake 8: Failing to sale
The biggest problem with most creative people is failing to sale. A creative person can depend on passion a lone to create relentlessly without money as their motivator. But as time goes on the image of hungry artist takes a toll on you. Everybody needs money and it is very important to know that if people are coming to you and requesting your services, that means you offer value so start charging for it.
The only difference between business and politics is in business the voting happens daily. If you don’t get money the customers have voted you out of business.
#Startup Mistake 10: Not everybody is an entrepreneur but everybody can be an investor
If a society has one natural born entrepreneur, then that society will do well but if that society has 100 necessity entrepreneurs that society is doomed to fail.
A necessity entrepreneur is one who starts a business after failing to get a job or meet their needs. So if you plan to start a business or have one out of necessity, avoid the pressure and instead opt to invest your money somewhere.
You can become a passive investor in someone else’s business but of course you must be able to trust this person and also get legally bound and make sure you have insurance coverage if the company goes under.
The only problem that we still face in Uganda is that so many people are willing to invest but there are limited avenues in which to invest. Hopefully with time this phenomenon will change but for now that’s all the advice I had, it was great sharing with you.
For business training you can contact me at
Living Business Education
Plot 1256 Prof.Nsibambi Rd
Kayiwa Zone, Namirembe