It is not uncommon to find a bunch of wholesale shops at any given trading center in the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda. These kinds of shops tend to stand out from the retail shops which are the most because clients prefer to buy goods at a relatively cheaper price. For those that are really busy, with a lot of stock, one can see streams of people going in and out of the shop every few minutes. They will go in empty-handed for the men, with a handbag for the women, and come out with either a carton of laundry soap, a bag of beans, a 10 kilogram bag of maize flour (posho as we call it here), a jerry can of cooking oil, a carton of mineral water, to mention but a few.
There are also those shops that are relatively busy and have their peak selling seasons like when children are resuming school or it is a festive season. On a normal day for this kind of wholesaler, one can see people going in and buying smaller quantities of goods. It is for this reason that the shops run both as wholesale and retail to stay afloat.
On this particular day, I decided to have a chat with Ms. Lillian Nassazi, the proprietor of a wholesale shop in Namugongo, a suburb in Kampala. I have known her for a few years as a customer but this time I thought it would be nice to find out the intricacies of running a wholesale business.
I asked her a few questions:
Tell me about yourself
My name is Lillian Nassazi. I am a mother of 3 children aged between 4 and 8 years. I am married and I live in the neighborhood.
What inspired you to start a wholesale shop?
After looking for a full-time job in vain, I got in touch with my sister and discussed ways of starting a business. We then joined hands and opened up this place. My motivation was to be employed.
What is your day-to-day routine? How many days do you work in a week?
I wake up at 5.00am and prepare my kids for school. After a few chores, I leave the house and I am here by 7.00am. I work till about 9.00pm, 6 days a week.
Have you met any challenges in this business?
A lot… Customers abuse me, they are never satisfied, they complain, they default on credit facilities in other words they are bad debtors. There are always price fluctuations which cause customers to complain because they do not want to accept new prices.
What measures have you taken against bad debtors?
I do not give items on credit unless I am dealing with a trusted customer.
There are other challenges I face like making losses, insecurity because the business is not insured as it is expensive. I am also over worked.
Have you seen any benefits to the business?
Yes, I am able to get money to sustain the family and at least have a minimum wage.
What inspires you to come to work every day?
I want to make a living and look forward to the future.
Do you have any advice or tips for someone wishing to venture into this business?
Yes. People should carry out thorough market research; know the site, the population, price range of commodities, where to buy goods and the tastes and preferences of the intended clients. All this first ground work helps in determining the success of the business.
How do you balance work and family?
Sunday is strictly a family day and when I close early, I have some time for the kids.
Do you have any last words for someone out there?
The profits in this business are minimal so one should be careful when utilizing.