Nataliey BITATURE is a gifted woman. Daughter of the Ugandan Tycoon Patrick BITATURE, she is now working hard to make a first name in her country through social entrepreneurship. She founded Energrow, an asset financing company focusing on securing loans for entrepreneurs in rural areas. In addition, she also co-founded Musana Carts, an efficient storage solution for street vendors in Kampala. Musana Carts has partners such as Coca-Cola and The Rockefeller Foundation. Nataliey, who encourage entrepreneurs to make decisions with their communities in mind, tells us more about her different initiatives.
Inspire Afrika Magazine: Project 500K has been absorbed by Energrow. What is the impact of this company on young people from Uganda?
Nataliey BITATURE: Project 500k trained 5000 rural youths in Ibanda District in financial literacy. The project was a great success but we realized access to capital and business assets would make a greater impact on the lives of young entrepreneurs. So over the last 2 years we have been working on research and development to better serve this population. We now have credit scoring model, micro loan management software, a training program and asset catalogue designed specifically for rural entrepreneurs in need of assets. EnerGrow is currently rolling out 60 asset loans in 3 rural districts in Uganda. We have now also secured funding to expand our reach to 200 more business by the end of 2020.
I.A.M: You said once that “Business is not always about profit” However, adding value to your community does not always pay bills in Africa. Would you encourage a fellow Ugandan to launch a Social Business?
My father argues with me on this, he says African businesses are social businesses! There is no business without profit, so it is an integral aspect of business. My point is social business is going beyond profit. It’s about businesses making decisions with all stakeholders in mind. I encourage business owners to go further and do more with their businesses by positively impacting their communities as well as their bottom line.
I.A.M: For people who are willing to get into “social business”, what is your revenue stream? Do you provide paid trainings ?
Energrow provides financial literacy training and equipment specific operations training. The profit margin comes from the training fee and a percentage of the asset loan. Musana carts trains vendors on hygiene and sanitation, marketing and customer service and bookkeeping and financial literacy. Musana carts is a franchise so vendors pay a franchise fee weekly that is built into their cart loan repayment.
Totally. The population boom Africa is facing is going to result in millions of able and eager young people and the governments cannot employ them all. We need to foster entrepreneurship and build supportive local ecosystems so that businesses can grow and thrive. This requires training, capital, favorable regulation, mentorship and access to larger markets. The result will be stronger local economies, increased employment, increased innovation, greater cross border cooperation and therefore greater autonomy as a continent.
I.A.M: You’ve recently launched “HER”. Tell us more about that online program?
HER is an online community to support young women in their business and career aspirations. We share lessons, stories, connections and opportunities as well as encourage, motivate and support each other in our endeavors. It has been an incredibly enlightening and uplifting experience so far. I look forward to interacting with more and more women in the future.
I.A.M: Is it easy for a woman to be professionally successful in Uganda? What are the challenges?
I would not call it easy. We still live in a very patriarchal society. We have made progress and I am grateful to the brave women who have broken barriers for us. However, we still have a long way to go. The cultural stigma and negative connotation working women get needs to evolve. Women are still made to feel they are wrong for working or being ambitious with their careers. There is also still traditional pressure for women to hold all the responsibility in the home and with child rearing. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic for women to be everything, everywhere, all the time. The culture needs to adapt. Charity begins at home. Though examples, champions, mentors and interpersonal communications we can continue to improve the access, opportunity and support for women to be professionally successful in our society.
Musana Carts has had great success since it began as a school competition project. We now have 17 carts on the streets of Kampala and each cart creates employment for 3 vendors. The carts are also very popular at local festivals and events and have now evolved to serve creative types of our local street food, ‘the rolex’. Since Musana carts began, we worked closely with the local city council and we’re given 2 years to prove our vendors could be regulated in a safe and legal way. The city council recently announced plans to legalize Street vending in Kampala and is working on a process to register and monitor the 100,000+ vendors currently working in Kampala. Musana Carts is now expanding across the country with an order for 300 carts this year supported by Mastercard Foundation.
I.A.M: You are now Managing Director of Hotels at Simba Group. Why did you choose this specific sector in the conglomerate?
Working with people and processes has always been my interest and professional background. As Chief of staff I worked closely with the teams that built and operate Protea Hotel by Marriott Kampala Skyz. Over the last 2 years I’ve learnt a lot about the management of hotels and the key factors and stakeholders in the hospitality industry. As Simba Group now owns 2 hotels, manages 1 in Entebbe and is set to grow the hospitality portfolio, it was the right move for me to focus on the people and processes in the hospitality sector moving forward. My work with the hotels also ties in nicely with my social businesses as Musana Carts works in food and beverage and with customer service, and my understanding of corporate finance has helped as we planned the strategy for Energrow.
I.A.M: What is your answer to people who says that you are privileged and did not work that hard to earn what you have?
I can see how someone could assume that but I know a lot of people that are not using their privilege to improve the lives of others and it pains me. We have to take our God given blessings and leverage them, do what we can to make a positive change in the lives of others. Also I’m a big believer in old fashioned hard work. My father knows what it is like to live in a home with cardboard walls. So he works hard everyday to make sure that never happens again. Growing up with him as an example showed me the massive benefit of putting in the hours. You have to read more, ask questions, walk around and interact with the people on the ground. There is no way I would be capable at my job if I hadn’t put in the time and effort. It comes at a steep price personally and socially, but I believe it’s totally worth it.