#UgBlogWeek – Day 4: Supporting Ugandan Businesses
I am the type that does laundry for an entire day. It usually entails washing 5 tops then taking a 2 episode watching break, then washing a pair of jeans and taking a nap and the cycle continues. Until I have washed enough to get by. Never the entire heap of laundry. I haven’t figured out my life to that point. Of course, every time I have a load of laundry, I try to find a solution that doesn’t involve me. I once tried to use a Ugandan laundry service, contacted them on Saturday and they replied on Monday. Face Palm. The other time they said that they didn’t have anyone to send. I gave up on supporting that business.
I find that breakfast is the hardest meal to figure out, so when I found a Ugandan business supplying pastries, I thought I had hit the jackpot. I followed the ‘order 48 hours ahead’ policy, and when the day arrived, I couldn’t wait to enjoy a fun breakfast. The pastries were delivered at around midday. Face palm again.
While most people love shopping, I don’t really like it especially when it entails going downtown. The stress is simply not worth it, and I usually end up buying things I don’t need and not buying what I went out to buy in the first place. And so businesses with a delivery service are my happy place. I get online, fill my cart, confirm purchase and in some cases even make a down payment. I sit back and wait for my delivery, because life’s good. More than once (from different Ugandan businesses), the delivery was wrong, more than once the product was damaged and more than once the delivery was late with no communication. Another face palm.
And these are not all the terrible experiences I have from using Ugandan products or services.
It’s easy to go around chanting ‘Support local’, ‘Support Ug business’, ‘Support your own’, (insert hashtags), but I think that conversation has had its time. The conversation needs to shift to the quality of these Ugandan businesses. That you find mostly foreign goods and services in establishments in Uganda, even when they are made locally like tea leaves/bags, sugar, honey you name it is a serious red flag. The perception (which might not so much be a perception) that Ugandan products and services are not up to standard, and therefore the preference of foreign products and services needs to change.
And only the Ugandan business owners can make this happen. Many Ugandans are willing and able to support their own, but would appreciate it (and use Ugandan products and services more permanently) if Ugandan business owners worked on some areas:
- Quality: This should be the one area that is NEVER compromised. The only change in quality should be an improvement. Do not begin your business with a poor quality product and hope to get better with time. You’re only playing yourself.
- Quantity: There’s a habit of Ugandan products starting out with acceptable quantities, and with the increase in customers, there is a decrease in quantity. Try and be as consistent as possible. If you can’t increase the quantity, that is understandable but try to keep it constant.
- Top of mind awareness: This is basically positioning your business as an option. If someone is hungry, is your restaurant on their list of options of where they can get food from? This can come from a number of things like memorable experience, service and good food when they visited your restaurant, recommendations from people that have been there, good marketing of the restaurant et al. You don’t want to have a business that is only remembered when someone sees a sign post or flier or tweet.
- Reliability: If your business says that it’s open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, let it be open during that time. If I come to your business at 5:30pm and find it closed, that means I can’t rely on it to be open at 3pm and so I will find a business that keeps their set business hours. If your business says delivery is within 30 minutes around Kampala, and I receive my order after one and a half hours, I will certainly not be using your business again.
- Communication: It is impossible to plan and predict everything but should there be a change in your product or service, please communicate it to the customer. If a delivery is delayed, inform the customer, they are after all paying for your service and deserve that much.
- Convenience: Try to provide options that make it easier to use your product or service such as delivery options and walk ins. Sometimes the customer might not know they need your product until they do so if they need to give prior notice to get it, that’s business you have just missed out on. That’s a potential return customer you have just lost.
- Put your business out there: Hawk your product or service to anyone that will listen. If I find your sugar at Serena hotel, I just might pick it the next time I am in a supermarket, because I trust those guys. Is your sugar in supermarket shelves? Partner with other businesses as this increases your visibility. People won’t find your business to use it if they haven’t heard about it.
- Don’t bite more than you can chew: If you receive an order for an amount of goods that you can’t handle, don’t take on that job. Politely explain that you are not equipped to handle it and explain your packages to them. Taking on jobs and not delivering as per the agreed terms creates bad press for you, and you end up losing customers since the word about your bad business will continue to spread around.
There are many more areas that will help your business, but this is a good place to start.
Help us help you. Basically, let’s help each other.