When you google the name Josephat Wefafa you do not get so many results. Only the government led institutions pop up. It is scarcely known. But when you google Mr Beez, you get all the related information backed up with recently taken photos of a one Mr Beez fully embellished in his brown branded “Gardener” apron with is oversized pocket swelling with pliers and the other tools of that tribe that he uses in his daily trade.
Before this gardener and ‘toolman’ came to be known as Mr Beez, he was Josephat Wefafa, a young man growing up in neighbourhoods of Mbale, in Eastern Uganda. There he went to school and later joined Mbale S.S, a school that opened up its gates to the full transformation of this confident vibrant speaker. Hearing his voice from afar, you might assume a stout man is yet to enter the room only to see a slim man. What he does not make up in body build, he makes up in boldness and bravado. To complete his public brand, Mr Beez shows up with a beret, a grey t-shirt neatly tucked into his blue jeans complete with flip flop sandals. His apron dangles around his waistline, an identity he is so proud of. The look is not complete without a brown laptop bag.
Josephat was a Senior six student at Mbale S.S when Stanbic Bank’s National Schools Championship (NSC) came calling. The year was 2019. The competition was looking for students to take part in a quiz. The top ten out of the quiz would come up with an idea that would compete in the #StanbicUGChampions. Three of those would be chosen to attend the bootcamp in Kampala.
This was enough information to excite this young man from Lwakhakha in the little known Namisindwa district in Eastern Uganda. If anything, he wanted to be among the three to come to Kampala. True to his resolve, he did. Therein in his heart lay a thirst, one he needed to quench while on this competition. To build networks.
You see, life had begun way earlier for Josephat. In 2015, he joined the Mt Elgon Honey and Coffee Cooperative as one of the instructors for the honey project. “I didn’t know much about honey, all I had was confidence.”
This journey of both confidence and boldness has opened many doors for Mr Beez. When he came to the NSC Competitions, the brand Mr Beez was cemented. He was passionate to sell the honey he had carried from Mbale and equally eager to have a network that he would come back to sell to.
Thanks to Barbara Kasekende, Meralyn Mungereza and Benjamin Rukwengye who noticed him and supported him. He was committed to staying in the circles of the National Schools Championship at all costs. “There was no turning back.” He confesses with a clenched fist of his right-hand that he pounds into this left-hand palm numerous times.
With school done and more time on him, the next and only step that Josephat wanted to make was to move to Kampala not only to stay but earn a decent living. The team at Investors Club were kind enough to offer him an internship placement which was full with a fully paid for hostel.
During the three month stay, together with friends Douglas Barugahare Mutungi, they came together and opened up Ageek Consultancy Firm where they offer gardening services. Today, they offer balcony, backyard and landscape gardens.
On this journey, they have encountered many people who have been very kind to them. To show them the way.
With a team of eight, The Gardener is focussed on helping people beautify their spaces however small. The team is currently setting up a production centre where clients will be able to buy some of their products.
“And the bees?”I ask.
“Currently, we only do the set up. We have partners that help with following through. We needed a product that would bring in daily income and honey was not making it.” Mr Beez tells me between relentless phone call breaks.
This man with a tape measure has had to invent ways of marketing his rather hard-to-sell business. He took to moving with a tape measure “to show clients the actual measurement of what the gardens,” he digs up the tool from his apron and demonstrates.
Mr Beez is as daring as he is expressive both in speech and deed yet marketing still eludes him and the entire team.
They have since hired a full time member to help with marketing with the hope that things are going to turn around.
In the beginning, he thought people would be intrigued to have tea spice gardens but contrary to the thought, the market demand is for flowers. They have had to pivot their model to the demands of the market.
This three year-old business has served close to 100 clients with many more expected in the pipeline.
“The biggest lesson is commitment; having the zeal to pursue the course, resilience, being able to stay the course, and persistence; going on when passion is no longer there.
The Gardener has been part of the Stanbic Incubator program, the NSSF High Innovator (where they won UGX 70 million in funding), Tony Elumelu Foundation, Digital Launchpad Campaign for Africa, NISSAT Program.
Later in life, Mr Beez wants to retire on a 100 acre farm somewhere maybe in Kalagi where he will have a garden and a horse. He wants to go back home to Lwakhakha in Namisindwa district, eastern Uganda to teach and grow spices for export. He wants to connect better and to give hope. “The people are poor and need to be motivated. There is fertile soil and the people have time. We should be able to uplift them from the abject poverty they are trapped in.” He speaks as he stares blankly in the horizon above my head.
In 2020 and 2021, Mr Beez was one of the competitors of #AlumGrow one of the categories in the #StanbicUGChampions where the alumni in business get to present their business for funding. About 30 Alumni have grown through this category to establish themselves on the job market.