By Ian Asabo
An evening chat among four friends at Uganda Christian University (UCU) rolled into rolex, a Ugandan delicacy of unleavened flatbread with egg, onion, tomato, green pepper and more. The topic wasn’t about just eating it, but selling and making money. They started a business called Rolex Republic.
It didn’t happen all at once. It evolved from a shared challenge. All depended on their benefactors for their financial needs at the university. They trusted the benefactors. The students took advantage of the bond that held them together – trust – and grew it into a joint business venture that launched in October 2021.
“We wanted to get out of our comfort zones and establish something relevant for ourselves and the community,” said Emmanuel Ilungole, a second-year student of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication and one of the directors of the Rolex Republic.
The other three colleagues of Ilungole are Brian Kabogozza and Arnold Borodi, both second-year students of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication; and Anthony Opolot, a student of Bachelor of Laws, in his second year. All the four are directors in the business.
At many of the universities in Uganda, there are similar businesses. However, Kabogozza says at UCU, such a business had not been established. Students and the university community who wanted to partake of the rolex would access it from the roadside sellers outside the university premises. The four students found the hygiene of the people operating such businesses wanting.
Kaboggoza says they have also added a unique provision to their services.
“We also deliver the orders, which has already distinguished us as unique players on the market,” he said.
At the Rolex Republic, the rolex comes in different sizes, with full size selling at sh5,000 (about $1.5) and half size at half the price.
Usually, one of the challenges that student entrepreneurs face is balancing the study-work life. How do the four students handle this challenge? Opolot says they have divided roles among themselves.
“We are currently employing one person, who is the chef,” Opolot says, adding that the rest of the responsibilities are handled by them, in turns.
Rolex Republic markets its products on social media platforms, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, since the majority of its customers are university students found on such platforms.
Just like any other business, Rolex Republic is not insulated from challenges.
“Initially, we found it hard to raise capital since some of the equipment we use does not come cheap,” Kabogozza said.
The lack of experience in running a business was a major factor in the losses they incurred in the initial stages. However, Kaboggoza says they learned from their mistakes by talking to more people, and that it was the reason they started working in turns, to support the chef.
They urge students to consider following their path by setting up businesses which can help to support their financial needs while at the university.