By Tracy Gwambe
Behind us is March, a month dominated by the celebration of women and the success they continuously bring on board.
Outbox hosted a shedload of women through events, whose entirety rotated around the theme: “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.”
The tail end of the #WomenHistoryMonth saw an event organised by the Outbox EDU program tagged, “Digitalization of women-owned businesses.”
Attended by entrepreneurs, mentors, founders and aspiring entrepreneurs, the event tackled several issues, with attendees prudent of the outcomes from the discussion.
While delivering a keynote address, Connie Kekihembo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association, guided entrepreneurs to rethink, refocus and repackage their businesses to fit the COVID-19 error.
She also challenged women to utilise tech opportunities, and invest in necessary change which she said is a critical thing in doing business.
Kekihembo reiterated the need for communication, which is critical in ensuring the full integration of digital information to improve efficiency in data processing from within and outside the organisation.
“Your communication must be packaged for customers to believe that it is a credible product, coming from a credible source,” she said, advising entrepreneurs to invest in trust, which is a key role as we head for digitalization.
She also challenged business owners to invest in studies and learning, which is critical for any successful business, small or large.
The panel moderated by Outbox’s Business Development and Partnership, Nordreen Mbekeka, included, Julian Byamugisha, Head of Logistics Jumia Uganda, Immy Julie Musoke, Founder-Mkazipreneur, Shelby Mugoya, Founder-Sensation Uganda, and Doreen Lukandwa, Enterprise Marketing Manager Beyonic by MFS Africa.
Byamugisha acclaimed to the audience that Jumia Uganda has built their business model and redefined their digital services, making them faster and easier to use by their customers, adding that a big part of Jumia has covered women’s businesses, as well as unlock several opportunities for women.
“We appreciated that our customers' buying needs were going to change and that the lockdown caused by COVID-19 would impact our users in one way or another,” said Byamugisha.
That kind of anticipation challenged Jumia to scale up, with the customer in mind. Jumia worked with their suppliers in many innovative ways, that way keeping them in business.
COVID-19 versus innovation
Describing the COVID-19 lockdown period as a shocker to many entrepreneurs, the Mkazipreneur Founder, Immy Julie Musoke, talked about what she believes is the future for entrepreneurs. “Innovation!” she noted, re-echoing that COVID-19 should be an eye-opener to entrepreneurs.
“It is interesting to note that there are many people who made lots of money during the pandemic because they innovated and kept their minds open,” said Musoke, advising entrepreneurs to utilise social media platforms because they have a ready market for their businesses.
Speaking of innovation and being open-minded, Shelby Mugoya, Founder-Sensation Uganda wondered how her then only make up line of business was going to see the light of day after the lockdown.
“Wear make-up to go where?” she wondered. We all remember that for most of 2020, public gatherings including weddings, introduction ceremonies, parties and other celebrations were prohibited. From these, Sensation Uganda always acquired customers who needed beauty services.
Sensation Uganda has stood the test of time. Instead of crying foul, Mugoya re-invented by introducing several new products to her business platform, which saw her targeting more customers.
Sensation Uganda has been able to grow massively online. “Time and trust from customers help grow- businesses,” she said.
Mugoya stressed the importance of partnerships in business, saying; “We are not islands and cannot do business alone.”
Building and maintaining business digitally
Mugoya advised customers to have engaging content online and to always check their social media insights to understand the behaviour of their customers.
“Due to COVID-19 which brought with it a silver lining, the world moved rapidly to close the gap, pushing us to utilise digital platforms,” she said.
“Much as change is difficult and quite scary, we need to think about the opportunity that change brings along,” said Doreen Lukandwa, Enterprise Marketing Manager Beyonic by MFS Africa.
Lukandwa gave insights about Digital payments, their safety, and how they are saving entrepreneurs time moving from place to place carrying large sums of money, to make payments.
On online fraud, Lukandwa stated that digital payments save entrepreneurs and customers from paying money to fraudsters because it is easy to realise who one is paying the money to.
“The COVID-19 lockdown taught us that we don't have to run a business in a shop, but we can transact business in the comfort of your home,” emphasising that the risk of a cash run business is higher compared to digital run payments.