Mariam Jane Achan, aged 38, commonly referred to as Mama Junior, is the proprietor of Tick Lunch Hours, a restaurant located in Biina, a suburb in Kampala. She spoke to The African Executive on her business.
A.E: When did you start this business?
Achan: I began selling food more than 25 years ago as I would help my mother, who was a food vendor. I then started selling food to travelers at Buganda Road Bus Park before opening Tick Lunch Hours restaurant in 2002.
A.E: What prompted you to venture into the food business?
Achan: I spent most of my early years helping my mother in her eating place and that is part of the reason why I didn’t complete school like the rest of my brothers and sisters. My mother had a lot of passion while doing her business, and people loved her food. I admired her and for that reason developed a lot of interest and love for the business. That is why I didn’t have any problem deciding to venture into my own business.
A.E: What was your initial starting capital?
Achan: I started out with Ugsh1,000,000, which I borrowed from my brother and used for rent, hiring staff, purchasing chairs and tables and foodstuff. The business took off so well as I already had experience and I managed to pay the money back after 6 months. Currently, I have 9 employees. I only come around to check how business is doing, to get requests, suggestions and to restock.
A.E: What dishes do you prepare?
Achan: We prepare breakfast lunch and supper. Breakfast is mostly black and white tea and juice accompanied by katoogo (matooke in groundnuts), eggs, cassava, fried meat and liver. As for lunch and dinner, we prepare a variety of dishes given that I grew up in Kampala but my parents are originally from the north. We prepare Luwombo (boiled food wrapped in banana leaves) of all categories be it chicken, cow or goat’s meat or with groundnuts. We cook beans, peas, vegetables, meat, chicken, matooke, rice, sweet and irish potatoes. We also prepare millet bread, greens with groundnuts for our clients from northern, eastern and western Uganda.
A.E: Where do you get your products?
Achan: At first, I used to buy them from markets like Kalerwe, Nakasero and Nakawa but realized it was expensive and limiting my profits and would probably drive me out of business. I decided to purchase a single cabin hilux pick up. I use it to purchase them cheaply from other parts of the country. I buy matooke from Masaka at Ugsh.2,000 a bunch, compared to Kampala where I would buy at more than Ugsh.7,000 each. I buy most of the food items from Mbale and Lira. That is why the business is more profitable these days.
A.E: How much do you get daily?
Achan: Initially, when I started the business, I used to earn Ugsh.50,000 per day but today, I get an average of Ugsh.250,000 per day.
A.E: What changes have you realized in your life since you started this business?
Achan: I have 6 children and I do not experience any problems sending them to school. I am taking care of my aging mother and some of my siblings. I am also able to meet all my household demands. Other than that, I have also completed paying a housing loan that I acquired from a bank and started constructing an 8 roomed house.
A.E: What challenges do you face?
Achan: The major challenges I face are mainly as a result of government’s poor policies. Sometimes, fuel prices rise to a level and it gets expensive to drive upcountry and purchase food items. It’s equally difficult and expensive to acquire loans from government institutions or financial institutions, let alone high electricity tariffs and sudden blackouts these days.
A.E: What do you think can be done to improve small scale business like yours?
Achan: The government should pay attention to the business community, and cut down on taxes that are completely destroying businesses. There should also be in place a mechanism to ensure that the “prosperity for all” project that has been initiated by government is not “lip service” and not restricted to those in government but should trickle down even to a road side seller in the rural parts of the country. Banks should also cut down on their interest rates that is discouraging many Ugandans from taking risks and venturing into business.
A.E: What recommendations do you have for anyone who wants to venture into business?
Achan: Business is a liberating source of money. It’s risky but pays off easily if one plans well. In Uganda, some people think that those who do business have never been to school, but that is not the case. Countries that have developed have done so because of business. I encourage Ugandans to engage in business.
A.E: Any Future plans?
Achan: I am saving money to put up the biggest guest house in the zone.