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Challenging the status quo: dfcu Bank’s Rising Woman Winner, Sandra Nakayenze Tips Colleagues

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dfcu Bank in partnership with Monitor Publication Limited’s Daily Monitor and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has been running a program dubbed ‘Rising Woman’ aimed at recognizing, celebrating, and promoting a culture of mentorship among women in business. Nakayenze Sandra emerged as the 2nd runner up in the Inaugural Rising Woman proposal writing competition and won UGX: 5,000,000 and a study tour trip to Nairobi.

Seven years ago, Sandra Nakayenze set out to change the lives of female coffee farmers in the hills of Sironko District.

The social, economic, religious, and cultural hardships encountered by both young rural women and the girl children in her village compelled Sandra to form ‘Kalaa Mugoosi Women Empowerment Limited’. At 22 years of age, Sandra ventured into a trade predominantly occupied by men and faced multiple challenges account of her age. She says people really never took her seriously because she was young. But today, she runs one of the most successful coffee businesses in Sironko District.

This is her story.

Qn 1. Introduce yourself and your business.

My name is Nakayenze Sandra Kibooli born in the footsteps of Mount Elgon in Busiita Model Parish. Growing up as a girl, I witnessed the effects of child marriages, early pregnancy, domestic violence, gender discrimination, poverty, and lack of economic opportunities inflicted on women.

Even then, I was worried about what my future would look like.  After attaining my Bachelor’s Degree in Education at Kyambogo University, I looked for formal employment to no avail. I returned to my community, and it was there that I realized the potential Arabica Coffee contained; as a weapon for women’s empowerment in reversing the trend of gender inequalities and poverty.

At the age of 22, I and the other four ladies formed a group called Kalaamugosi Women Empowerment as a response to the economic social, and cultural challenges women were facing.

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Kalaamugosi is a Lugisu word meaning cutting the ropes/ hardships that had tied women down. In 2018 Kalaamugosi registered as a company working with 2000 coffee farmers, 32 lead farmers, and 2 agronomists.

We offer free training in good Agricultural practices, coffee processing, and quality control. We also prioritize women-empowerment training. We work with Great Lakes Company and buy coffee from our farmers at a very good price and extend bonuses to them. We also extend agriculture inputs and coffee processing equipment to our farmers and support Rural Women Savings Groups.

We buy coffee, process, roast, and package it as Zesui Dream Coffee which is certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and is distributed across the country.

QN 2.  What was your experience participating in the Rising woman competition?

It gave me a platform to share my story and the inspiration behind my work. In addition, I met and continue to connect with several women who like me, are entrepreneurs doing their best to bring their dreams to life.

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QN 3. Looking back to when you started, how did the Rising Woman Program/competition change you/ impact you?

With the various publication in papers, online and independent magazines, I became one of the recognized and respected young businesswomen in the coffee sector – I am well known and respected both locally and internationally.

I won UGX 5 Million from the competition as 2nd Runner-Up which I used to procure a coffee pulping machine that has helped us in increasing the volume of coffee pulped. This machine’s capacity has reduced the time that rural women and girls spend pulping coffee.

QN 4. What lessons did you pick out of the Rising woman experience?

I learned that it was a fairly held competition – I’m from the depths of Sironko District but I managed to be among the overall 10 winners and top winners.

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I also learned that it’s important to register your business. Most women’s businesses were left out because they were not registered. On top of this, it’s crucial to have a well-documented business plan. Finally, I learned the great value of staying informed; I learned about this competition through mass communication.

QN 5. If you were given a second chance, how would you handle the competition?

I would handle the competition in what I think would be better ways, technically. For instance, I would attach photographic evidence of my business and use a better format to make my pitch. I would also encourage the sponsors of Rising Woman to make follow-up checks on those companies that might not emerge as winners. There are women entrepreneurs who might not be able to make a business presentation but are doing great work on the ground. 

QN 6. Since participating in the competition and winning, what progress have you registered as a business and at an individual level?

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In 2021 we participated in a cross-country Arabica competition organized by Uganda Coffee Development Authority in partnership with British High Commission Kampala and Uganda High Commission London. Our coffee emerged the 5th runner-up out of 52 samples submitted!

We have received funding from ENABLE THE YOUTH program which is funded by African Development Bank and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) that aim at supporting the youth along with the value addition in Agriculture. We have also expanded our business premises.

QN 7. Where do you see your business heading?

I see Kalaamugosi becoming the top women-led coffee business with the best memorable coffee experiences. We will attain this by producing high-quality coffee and services that meet international standards while promoting sustainable coffee farming best practices to the satisfaction of our customers.

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