After a decade of conducting Boot camps for almost 20 editions in 4 countries, Professor Bradley Googins thought it was long overdue for him to see what impacts the E4Impact program had produced. He decided to start from one of the countries he loves most: Uganda.
In June, 2022 the Professor, together with Felix Idraku, the Business Coach and Program Leader in Uganda, headed out on a two day road trip to the Eastern part of Uganda to visit three Alumni, see their enterprises and have some conversations about their experiences and the impact they created.
“I have to tell you, having an opportunity to follow up and see the fruits of the E4Impact MBA program was incredibly inspiring. To think about all the discussions we had over building out the Business Model Canvas and now seeing it living and growing made me so proud and only served to reaffirm the value of the E4Impact program.” commented Bradley about this experience.
All the entrepreneurs have had to confront one of the most challenging events of our times: the Covid pandemic. However, the trip confirmed that they were able to think about incredible innovations, pivots and transformations of their business plans to succeed in outstanding entrepreneurial fashion. This reinforced the belief in the E4Impact program and its power for using entrepreneurship to create major impacts.
First of all, the Professor and Felix met Alice Emasu, Founder and ExecutiveDirector of Terrewode. They arrived at The Terrewode Women’s Community Hospital in Soroti district, which is approximately 180 miles to the east Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Before them, stood a white gleaming campus of several buildings, all of which Alice had built through a prodigious fundraising effort that reflected the dream he had talked about in her pitch 6 years ago.
“I remember Alice so well back in 2015 in the initial boot camp, when she described her passion for something I had never even heard of: Fistula. I was soon educated to what was a horrible obstetric condition following childbirth that resulted in a highly stigmatized condition that could have been avoided if simple surgery and support had been available.” said Bradley.
After talking to the Medical Director, nurses and social workers, Bradley and Felix had conversations with a number of the women who were undergoing a long overdue surgery, along with counseling to deal with the heightened trauma they had been experiencing over the past years. They then toured the operating room, the living quarters, the integration, rehabilitation facilities and the beautiful campus that made these women, who had suffered so much, take on a new and more healthy and confident life.
The hospital conducts 200 surgeries and treats over 600 women per year. Up to now 5,000 women and girls affected by fistula have been treated and reintegrated. Alice’s hospital is the first in Uganda and the third in Africa dedicated to women suffering from obstetric fistula.
When Alice applied for the MBA program and walked in the class, she was a highly motivated and passionate person seeking to better her advocacy for fistula patients. She envisioned a dream that would have a lasting impact on the community through holistic approach to providing dignity to women who have suffered from Fistula as a consequence of child but more so community stigmatization. The lesson learnt from Alice is “If you can dream big, if you have a deep passion, anything is possible.”
The second entrepreneur Brad and Felix had the opportunity to meet was Frank Kamugysha of Ecoplastile Ltd. Driving down a dusty road in Namanve Industrial Park, located approximately 10 miles from Kampala city, they saw a bright sign next to an imposing building that housed Ecoplastile, an innovative business that collects and coverts throw away plastic containers to make tiles used on homes across Africa.
Frank’s entrepreneurial journey is a tale of a persistence with a vision to transform plastic waste into environmentally safe products. When Frank applied to join the E4Impact MBA program in 2017, he had a business idea of transforming plastic waste to make fencing poles for paddocks and ranches in western Uganda, which has cattle keeping as a predominant economic activity. His desire was to reduce the cutting down of trees for fencing, which was not only environmentally degrading, but also not sustainable since the poles have to be replaced every other year. However, the testing of business model of the plastic poles led to other business opportunities that are scalable, such as the pivot of his business to making plastic masks during the Covid pandemic, and more recently to the Ecoplastile roofing tiles and the plastic wallet app for monetizing plastic instead of discarding it as waste.
Despite Covid , Frank has been able to lean into the growing demand for sustainable products, fashioning his business on tiles that are both environmentally friendly and cost effective. This, on top of collecting and using discarded plastic through a unique community collection system. At the time of the visit they were preparing an order of 2,00 tiles for a project in Kenya.
“Equally impressive is his potential for scaling up his business over the coming years through applying his conversion plastics to other products. We love to see such innovation of our graduates in addressing our pressing need for more environmentally friendly products and processes. A mix of innovation, determination, leadership can make a real impact in turning a good idea into a very impressive business.” commented prof. Googins at the end of the visit.
The third and last entrepreneur met during this road trip was Joseph Nkandu, Founder and Executive Director of NUCAFE – National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Entrerprises.
For Bradley and Felix it was a pleasure to finally visit the headquarters of NUCAFE and spending time with one of the E4Impact’s oldest and most loyal Alumnus. Joseph has been a true pioneer in the coffee value chain and a champion in empowering and organizing smallholder farmers using the Farmer Ownership Model to assume more roles and functions within the value chain for sustainable livelihoods, consumer satisfaction and societal transformation.
The numbers of NUCAFE speak for themselves: 213 cooperatives/associations; 215,120 farming families; over a million and a half individual coffee farmers. These results are stunning and it was great to see and feel Joseph and his associates’ passion during the visit. They finished with a long discussion on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
After the conclusion of their road trip in Uganda, Bradley e Felix couldn’t help to be impressed and proud of the E4Impact fellow Alumni. The qualities these entrepreuers have are remarkable: deep passion, stubborn determination and innovation that learns from their failures. They could succeed despite incredible challenges that keep being thrown in their path from Covid to the global economic downturn.
These visits reinforced the vision and belief that the E4Impact Alliance and its networks are of primary importance to all the Alumni, as they begin to use the power of the network and building partnerships across Africa. Impact entrepreneurs are the new voice to make change and drive globally acceptable business practices, and directly visiting their businesses is an incredible opportunity to better understand what kind of support they need.
Unfortunately, the sheer number of existing and new MBA graduates prevents E4Impact members from visiting all of them. However, the Foundation is struggling to reinforce the Alumni Network: a real valuable network for the entrepreneurs that will bring an invaluable asset to the entrepreneur’s businesses. To make this Network dynamic and useful, the entrepreneurs should provide as much input into this in terms of achievements, as well as broader opportunities that they may become aware of.