UCU student grits her teeth to start confectionery business

By Michael Kisekka and Catherine Asimwe
Racheal Nantume has never been comfortable with a life of dependency, especially where she feels she can do something about the situation. Thus, she started her own bakery so she is able to provide basic necessities for herself. However, like any business startup, she needed capital.

While not comfortable asking for financial help, the need for the money pushed her to her mother. The response from her mother, Fatuma Muteesi Namulondo, was expected.

“I will not give you any money,” Namulondo told her daughter. “Use the little you have to make more.”

Nantume displays confectionery products in her shop in Mukono
Nantume displays confectionery products in her shop in Mukono

Nantume, a student of Bachelor of Project Planning and Entrepreneurship at Uganda Christian University (UCU), started selling sweets to raise capital to start her own sweet business. From the sh25,000 (about $7) that she raised from selling sweets, Nantume was able to eventually start her confectionery business. This was in 2020.

The 24-year-old says her business now boasts sh7.5m (over $2,100) in both asset and liquid cash.

Nantume’s Snack Series Bakery produces and sells items like cookies, cakes, pastries and pies, among others.

“I was overwhelmed by the positive comments I got from customers who tasted my first ever made half cakes,” she reminisces, two years later, on her first output.

“This motivated me to continue with the business and, since that day, I have never looked back,” adds Nantume, the last born of two girls of Namulondo and the late Christopher Kasadha.

Before joining UCU in 2018, Nantume attended St Patrick Kigulu Primary School and, later, joined Iganga Secondary School for O’level. Both schools are in eastern Uganda. She attended St Peter’s Nsambya in Kampala, for her A’level.

Just like any other business, Nantume’s was not devoid of challenges. There were times clients placed orders beyond her skillset, she says. Rather than choke on the workload, she devised ways of delivering within deadline. Nantume would hire more skilled bakers to execute the order, at a commission.

With such an arrangement, she says on some days, she incurred losses, because she ended up paying more than she earned. However, she says that helped her adjust the pricing for her products so that she could still walk home with a profit. Over time, she has also minimised the number of times she invites such skilled bakers because, she says, with time, her skills have improved.

Muyinda Regan, a regular customer who has been following the growth of Nantume’s confectionery business, says the cakes are tastier than many that he has tasted in Mukono.

With increased returns on investment, Nantume has used the opportunity to set up more branches, as well as train some apprentices who she eventually employed. She has six employees. The primary bakery is in Jinja, a district in eastern Uganda. She chose Jinja to set up her main bakery because it is where she was born and raised. The other two business points are located in Mukono district. By the end of next year, she hopes to open up a business branch in Kampala city.

In February 2022, Nantume’s biggest business challenge was delivery.  With no van, she relies on drivers of bodabodas. She says whereas she gets happy to serve clients who order big cakes, transportation via boda runs the risk of the cake falling off the motorcycle.

She says her other challenge is the fluctuation in prices, which eats into her profits. “Market prices of ingredients that I use while making my baked food items keep changing and this affects my profits and capital as well.”

As a student-entrepreneur, Nantume has the arduous task of balancing her work and studies.

“When I had just started the business, I found it hard to juggle the two,” she says, adding, “There are days I attended online classes while on a bodaboda, on my way to deliver an order.”

However, when the business grew, she was able to employ other people, giving her breathing space to be able to attend classes.

She thinks the experience she has garnered in making, marketing and delivery of her confectionery products are invaluable and she would, one day, want to share that knowledge by teaching those who are interested in such a business. She hopes to set up a culinary arts institute to help her realize this dream.