With support from Vibrant Village Foundation, Eco-Agric is training 30 young Ugandan women in catering and hairdressing this year. Most of the students in this vocational program had dropped out of school and are now bolstering their marketable skills thanks to this initiative.
Karen Kijaru, a 23-year-old from Kitukutwe village in southern Uganda, started the program in October and had the idea to start a cake business.
Karen rented an oven and starting baking Christmas cakes to sell during the holiday season. Word about her business spread quickly and much to her surprise, the cakes were wildly popular. When Karen received the first 120,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX), or $40, from her cake business, her initial reaction was, “Oh my, I didn’t know I could do something productive.” With the profit from her first batch of cakes, Karen bought milk and clothes for her three-year-old child and paid her bills.
In the New Year, Karen’s customers continued to request cakes, which she sells for UGX 80,000 each ($26). The cakes are large, with decorated icing sugar and can serve over 60 people for birthdays and big parties. Since December, she has earned UGX 320,000 ($107).
Karen has ambitions to grow her business, but her biggest challenge is saving enough to purchase her own oven. Currently Karen rents an oven, which is costly. Having her own oven would not only save her money but give her more flexibility and control with her business, which is important for a young entrepreneur.
Eco-Agric is looking for ways to help purchase a communal oven and identify a space that would benefit Karen and others in needs of kitchen facilities for their catering businesses. Several other participants of the vocational program are interested in making bread, mandazi (fried donuts) and other items that can be sold in the local market.
Despite her short-term success, Karen recognizes the need to be patient as she stewards her new business but she is enthusiastic about the road ahead.