Writing about the corona virus on her blog, Racheal Kizza talked about seasons and why we need to embrace them as and when they come. She said; “Don’t be on pressure to run away from the season, the pain. Find out what God is saying to you. There are lessons in all seasons, find them.”
In my conversation with Maureen Nankya, I was reminded of those words. Her story is nothing short of living through seasons. There is no guarantee that the times will remain the same. The times change like they always have. The only constant in the change process is change itself. Even the person experiencing the seasons is bound to change as a result of the circumstances of the season.
Maureen has changed overtime. In her line of work, her skin has been thickened by the change of seasons. One thing remains true though, she has emerged a victor.
Thrice, her business has caved in from the rooftop down to the foundation by circumstances beyond the reach of her hand and yet she always found reason to stand again.
First was the war in South Sudan. Maureen had built a reputable clientele in Juba where she supplied meat products from chicken to beef and pork. At the peak of peace in the new country between 2007 and 2009, Maureen was based in Kampala but supplying the many Ugandans and other foreigners that had gone over to do business in the country. This was her first time of boldly stepping out to build a brand of her own. Over the past years, she had acquired a mastery of her craft.
You see Maureen is a trained chef. She rolled out her experience as a hotelier. Don’t all chefs have an address of a hotel? However this was short lived as she ventured out to offer distinct services to mainly the diplomatic core. It was along these streets that she met a colleague who wanted to partner with her in establishing “The Sausage King” a training she lovingly undertook. In the early 2000s, Kampala was not yet big on sausages. The duo thought they would take a chance on the market and indeed they were not wrong. In the process of making sausages, one needs to have the rusk or call it the meat binder. But being a professional with the knowledge of all the twists and turns, Maureen decided to leave Sausage King to concentrate on making the rusk. This way, she would save all the other sausage makers in the country from going to Nairobi just for that one item.
This then exposed her to another opportunity. There were not many chicken sausages on the market as yet. Most of the dealers were mainly concentrating on beef and pork sausages (which still remains the case to date). This was not well received. Ugandans have a way they love their beef and pork with a lot of dedication that they will rarely seek alternatives.
To crack this code, Maureen decided to think bigger. She ventured into supplying dressed chicken to supermarkets. Not many were doing that. The style had always been to go to the roadside cage and buy a flying bird which you would have to slaughter yourself. She came on board to lessen the burden by supplying the dressed chicken. However she was not ready for the many open arms that were desperately in need of her services. The demand was overwhelming but she was not about to bow out. She stepped up to the occasion and made herself a name. She came to be known as the reliable one.
Around late 2006, South Sudan began picking up. Many Ugandans were relocating the for work and the demand for the Ugandan food was on a high. She expanded her market to cover Juba as well. Beyond the chicken, that particular market equally demanded beef and pork products which she went ahead to avail. Good times have a way of flying past so fast. Such was the case for the good heydays of the South Sudan market. One day when they woke up South Sudan was at war. Everyone was running for safety first. By the time they returned to fix the nuts and bolts of the businesses, it had all gone to spoil.
All her ten year effort of building a supply chain for the chicken business had been erased. Compensation was a conversation only heard about in whispers. No one knew what was to happen again.
The second nose dive
When the market in South Sudan collapsed, all the traders came back home to find a way of fitting into the already small and congested Kampala market. Of course it did not have much to offer.
While supplying the bigger market of South Sudan, Maureen had kept a grip on the local market supplying a number of supermarkets among which was Uchumi. Like the case in South Sudan, one day all the suppliers to the gigantic supermarket woke up to the news that Uchumi was closing shop. “What about our money?” No one was answering that question.
Another long nose dive
Supa Supa was another supermarket chain in Kampala that Maureen supplied with chicken. Just like the script of Uchumi, one day they too closed. To make matters worse, they even never announced. Within an eye’s blink, it was all gone.
All these losses happened in a space of about two years. The business was solely relying on her capital and once it was all done, Maureen packed her bags and went back home. She was done with all this. The mistrust was too much. The losses were so many. Her heart was so heavy and broken. She let go of most of the company equipment that had been acquired overtime. She was done with all this.
The thing with passion
Three years while at home around 2016, it occurred to her that she had never fully given up on chicken. “I love chicken” she confesses. Even in the time she was at home, once in a while, she got calls from people who wanted her services. They needed chicken and she knew how to go about it.
The demand for rusk was still high up there and many were calling. She was using her garage to respond to these orders but without an ounce of hope that she would bounce back to business. Client after another, she realised the orders were growing. The clients wanted more.
She too felt, she was ready to serve them. One thing though, once beaten, twice shy. For her case, she had been beaten more than once. If she was going to go back to the business that burnt her fingers, she was not going to do it the same way. She had lost for trusting people and doing gentleman’s agreements. If she was to bounce back, everything had to go the right way. Proper documentation and paperwork.
She was also determined to leave some clientele avenues out and explore new ones. More than before, she was very prepared to do things the right way. She was more confident to do the business once again. She was ready to take on new challenges. She was ready to win again.
In 2017, she began walking the journey again with a renewed hope that her company Majuline (U) Ltd was going to be a success. And so far, the road has been kind.