By Rebecca Rwakabukoza
At a recent Women in Business summit in Kampala, Uganda, most of the professionals agreed: For female entrepreneurs in Uganda, one of the most significant gaps is in information.
In fact, that’s what pushed Zimba Women, a flagship project of tech company Zimba Group, to host the summit in the first place. With the intention of providing information and valuable networking opportunities, Zimba Women invited professionals from different technology and business fields, both in the private and public sector.
The Zimba Group is led by a core of four women: Sherry Tumusiime, Stella Nassali, Peace Kuteesa, and Elizabeth Kasujja. With an all-female founding team, it was natural that they were more attuned to the needs of women in the technology space they were occupying.
The group started with 20 women-owned businesses, but now works with around 250.
“But we found that we had to do more than tech tools for businesses,” Sherry says. She gives an example of a soap making business’ transition to take advantage of the digital space. “You can’t just put online that now you have handmade soap. You need to think of sizes and packaging. That’s not technology; it’s business development.”
Stella, a brand manager with a background in business computing and project management, adds that they ended up offering basic packages. “We started with simple packages in Microsoft Office and use of a smartphone.”
The transition to technology is not always an easy one. Sherry says delivery can be a logistical nightmare, but is quick to add that while technology forces you to rethink your entire strategy, it makes the process flows in business quicker and more efficient.
Stella adds that online operations give an edge to businesses in a time when, due to higher rent and taxation, many are folding and closing shop.
And for some of the women they have worked with, business has been good: For example, Vanessa Ntezi learned to use Facebook and Instagram to boost sales for her apparel store, Neza Fashion Hub. When clients appear indecisive on an item, Vanessa is quick to whip out her phone and show them different images of models wearing the clothes. “But I don’t think I have fully utilised the opportunity,” she says. “In 2017 though, I am projecting about 10 percent of my sales coming from online.”
Zimba Women is anxious to get more women to maximise tech tools in business. “Men are already using technology, while some women fear whatever seems to be too technical,” Stella says of the gender gap.
“There is a lot of opportunity out there, but there is a lack of awareness,” says Sherry.
“Do you know how many men were contacting us to attend our summit? They even offered to pay to attend; yet it was a free event.”