In this episode of Five Minutes, we speak with Joan from Uganics and a graduate of the Social Innovation Academy, Uganda. In this interview, Joan opens up about her upbringing and shares her advice for those wanting to start a social enterprise.
This is Five Minutes with Uganics, on the Fight Malaria Blog.
Q: Briefly tell us what Uganics is.
Malaria is one of the world’s biggest health problems with more than 200 million malaria related cases every year worldwide. For example, in Uganda, children below the age of five are the most affected by malaria in that the 90% of the 100,000 malaria recorded deaths occur in children within the age of five. Uganics is fighting for a malaria free world. The big idea is to utilise existing habit to introduce a solution that can truly create impact. At Uganics, we make an effective organic solution to eliminate mosquitoes through an everyday product so to reach those most vulnerable to the malaria in the rural affected areas in Africa. We target two groups and make primary impact relevant to the people in rural area affected communities with lacking access to the suitable protection. Secondly to the eco-conscious tourists who are looking for a natural way to prevent mosquito bites.
By selling our product to resorts and hotels at a high margin, the provision of soap to the people in rural communities can be cross financed and those people who are very poor in rural communities of Uganda can get an affordable, effective solution against the spread of malaria. We also provide sanitisation campaigns to communities to make awareness about the spread of malarial sings and the possible ways of preventing it we do this sensitisation through hospitals, especially the government hospitals who organised the sanitisation with us.
Q: What advice would you others who are wanting to start a social enterprise or nonprofit organisation?
I’ve learned a lot being an entrepreneur and there is some advice that I wish someone would have told me and one of them is to never be scared of being embarrassed as an entrepreneur. If you want to succeed, if you want to reach the level you want to see, If you want to create the impact you want to create, never be scared of being embarrassed, anywhere. Another thing very important thing is focus on your passion and make it work because when you do something you want to do, you don’t need someone to drive you you achieve your goals with your self drive, with the drive inside you and with that passion inside you so they focus on your passion. Another thing is never let money drive you money will always come let you focus stay on creating the change you desire the change you want to see. So, as an entrepreneur focus on those three things they will make you be successful and you will reach where you want to be and you’ll be a good changemaker.
What are the biggest challenges up until now?
As Uganics, we have a challenge of creating trust among our customers. Since mosquito repellants of is somehow new on the market especially in our target group, it’s a bit hard to prove to our customers that it truly works before they use it to confirm. Though we are really working on it by contacting different tests and studies about the product using trusted professionals and by referencing them, we hope by the end of the middle of this year we will have different studies made about our product and who have things to prove our product. That’s one of our biggest challenges at the moment
What are your happiest moments with Uganics?
My happiest moments with Uganics: one is when I had just started pitching the idea and I used you know when you’re pitching the idea I wasn’t sure that people would like it wasn’t so I pitched to around five organisations but was surprised by how I was getting positive feedback and people believed in me and, by getting that positive feedback and people telling you that this is good and this is great, that’s one of my happiest moments.
My other happiest moment is that they are sent an email that I’m among the one thousand chosen entrepreneurs among ninety three thousand people who had applied for the entrepreneurship program where I received mentorship, entrepreneur training and $5,000 seed capital to start up with the project.
My other happiest moment is when we did our first production with so producing company in Uganda and they made the products for us for free, to empower and to show that they’re people who are willing to to support us and after a production, it was like a dream come true to me and to the rest of the team.
Another matter happiest moment is when I pitched to more than two thousand people in Nigeria, it was a surprise because I didn’t go prepare to pitch but I pitched and I got a lot of people interested in supporting, for example we have a doctor who is willing to support us for free to make studies who is referencing us to different biochemists, so those moments really made me happy and up to now, when I remember them they encouraged me, they make me move forward and believe that this is working.
What future do you hope to create through your work with Uganics?
The most important thing is to achieve our vision of creating a malaria free world through this product and to make this product accessible to everyone, especially the people who are very vulnerable and can’t afford any other product on the market. I want to make it affordable as the products they are using right now. I want to make our soap cheap, I want to make it be affordable and at the same price that these guys are buying there soap.
Another thing is I hope to make awareness, I hope to malaria to be known, to make awareness about everything every fact about malaria so that people know that can identify that this is malaria and this is how I can prevent him I want by the end of that day to see no one suffering from malaria. I don’t I want to stop eliminate malaria in the world and I want everyone to know about it.
Another thing is I would like to make a lot of employment opportunities to build through that prefer our production through our sensitisation through every activity that we do in the company and also right now we have some small project of empowering rural women who are already doing agriculture to grow their herbs that we used in producing the oils essential oils we use in our product. I want to make this agriculture to such remain resourceful and official to them. We train them on how to grow those things and how to extract the oils from it so that at the end of the day we buy the oils from them and as well they are also getting some income to sustain themselves and their families and also they are getting even the income to buy our product to protect their families.
How can viewers participate in helping you achieve this future?
Right now we are supposed to conduct installations every month like every month like like twister installations but we aren’t able to do that because of financial problems so I would like if anyone is there and you’re really interested you would like to support us we would like you to support us in terms of financial support for sanitisation so that we can make awareness to these women, to these mothers, to these fathers with children so that they can know how to take care of their children, they can know how to prevent that you doing from malaria.
Another support that would like is to make as many tests as we can. There’s this new formula that we’ve got and we’re looking for biochemists to help us make tests and making this formula that we can add to our product so it can be more effective. If you are a biochemist and you know more about malaria and you know more about malaria prevention, you can support us in that way, you can mentor us in such things, you can make some tests for us, we just send you up for that you help us make tests for it and we make studies for it so that people can trust these solutions so that we can work together and eliminate malaria in the world.
Another hope is you can, if you’re interested in supporting us, you can just sponsor soap for a number of women in Uganda so that they can protect their children. You can even buy boxes of soap for them all of them so we can distribute it to their mothers. They pay, maybe even they don’t pay, or they pay below a dollar for each bar of soap so you can just come by boxes of soaps to distribute their products for free for their mothers so that every child can be protected.