Empowering women-led businesses using IT: Q&A with Stella Nassali, Co-founder Zimba Women

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Let us behind the curtain, tell us about yourself. The real you, not the Instagram filtered you!

Okay, no filters; I am Stella Nassali Mudoola, a Project Manager by profession. I am a Co-founder Zimba Group Ltd and Owner of a branding company called X-ERA Limited… A Facebook and WhatsApp admin in countless groups, first born child, mother, wife…wait, why is this all on me? I suddenly feel overwhelmed!

One personal thing that I probably can’t find on the internet.

It is indeed personal but if you must know, I still believe I will make it to ‘The Voice’ stage some day and John Legend will be a judge. He will turn around with everyone else…at the end of my audition though.

How would you describe your career journey so far? Where did you start and how did you get here?

My career has been a wavering one. From working in a secretarial bureau during school holidays to my first formal employment as a Personal Assistant to Customer Service, Projects Assistant, Business Development Manager and here we are…an Entrepreneur!

How I got here was inevitable seeing as I always took charge of every situation and every environment in which I went. My attitude towards work was as good as that of the business owner. I like to move things and see them to completion while managing the limitations. After a while I realized that I could only have full control if I was at the top. I have since not hesitated to start up anything I put my mind to or join in on something that I believe has potential to work.

Stella Nassali
Stella Nassali Mudoola, Co-founder Zimba Women

Along the way, what are the highlights? Challenges?

I have learnt a lot through my career, met and interacted with people who have continued to shape my character. The diversity of the industries in which I have worked has taught me that I can do pretty much anything.

The challenges are quite frankly forgettable since they were dealt with almost instantly. The one that stands out though is the work-life balance.

What drives you? What’s your passion? What gets you out of bed every morning and keeps you awake late at night?

Strangely, it is ‘The Unknown’…way back when I led a routine life; it was obvious how the day was going to play out. Now while I have a plan for the following day/week/month, the possibility of new exciting things cropping up is quite high. I wake up looking forward to what the day has in store and then reflect on how it all worked out later in the night.

However now with the Zimba Women IT for Business Summit coming up in a few days, I am simply not sleeping. When I try, I dream of a monkey taking off with one of our LED screens #anxietyatzimba #zimbaTNS.

Tell us about the journey that led to the birth of Zimba Women.

Sherifah Tumusiime having left formal employment decided to start a business selling baby clothes. She was very optimistic and started big with a strategically located shop in the center of Kampala city. After a few months, she closed the shop because it was going to be a while before she could break even, if at all. In a bid to dispose of the stock, Sherifah advertised the items on a Facebook group ran by Peace Kuteesa and Stella Nassali and within 3 weeks, she had nothing left and her customers demanded for more.  The Baby Store, as it is called, blossomed online!

The Trio having seen how The Baby Store thrived among other businesses on the group decided to start a company that would promote online sales through not only Facebook but other online platforms as well. It was however realized that there was a lack of basic IT skills, poor business management and many informal businesses risking stagnation or possible closure. Elizabeth who runs a successful health based company online was brought on board and Zimba Women was born to address these issues.

Zimba Women now aims at providing access to entrepreneurship training, business development, mentorship, networking opportunities but most important of all, INFLUENCING MARKET ACCESS using Information Technology (IT). The power of IT cannot be avoided in business as it is today. The fact that it improves efficiency while helping one achieve more results than they would have without it. Zimba has established the socio-economic conscious business environment that includes full support of women entrepreneurs that will potentially bring millions out of poverty and help reduce the gender income gap.

How did you end up with the women you work with?

It was a matter of identifying diverse but relevant skills and characteristics. The core team thus comprises of:

Sherifah Tumusiime is a certificated IT professional and a YALI Fellow with a Degree in Computer Science. She is a fiery entrepreneur and independent thinker with proven abilities in web development, communications, and IT services. Sherifah is also CEO and founder of The Baby Store, the first specialty retail e-commerce website for baby products and apparel in Uganda.

Peace Kuteesa is a computer engineer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Also a certified IT systems and security professional, currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration specializing in IT business management. Peace has 10 years of experience in security, encryption, internet safety.

Elizabeth Kasujja has an honors degree in the BSc. Industrial Chemistry from Makerere University and is currently pursuing an MBA-International Business which is helping Zimba position the company for the global market. She is certified as an entrepreneurship trainer by the International Labour Organization and also has a certificate in project management from APMG UK. She has worked with Alibeth Consults which deals with programs that promote youth empowerment and capacity building.

The brains behind Zimba Women. Photo Credit: Zimba Women
The brains behind Zimba Women. Photo Credit: Zimba Women

You have a Summit coming up next week. What should we expect?

The Zimba Women IT for Business Summit will be on the 28th and 29th of September 2016 at the Sheraton Hotel Kampala. Over 200 Business Women have been selected through an application process and the proceedings of the event will be broadcast live on the various social media platforms.

The theme this year is BREAKING BUSINESS BARRIERS and this is what the summit is aimed at. To address all issues that may arise at conception or during the business life. The Summit has an eventful program that will front a Business Women’s Executive Program, an Executive event on gender, a Business roadshow (by Facebook – “Boost your Business”), a mentorship program launch as well as highly interactive Question and Answer sessions.  Discussion panels will address issues to do with trade, finances, case studies and government’s involvement in the growth and development of small and medium enterprises in Uganda.

Who are you working with to prepare this Summit? What role do they play? How are they a good fit for such an undertaking? 

Zimba Women is working with The US Embassy, Facebook, Seedstars World, UN International Trade Center, Smart Girls Uganda, Smart Telecom, PC Tech, Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Communications Commission, Ministry of ICT, NITA Uganda, ICTAU, Smart Telecom, Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Trademark East, Uganda Export Promotions Board, National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mango Fund, to mention but a few.

The above have helped Zimba put the logistics for the event together as well as pledging to share a wealth of knowledge with the women and girls that will be present.

Where do you want to take this in the next say 10 years?

The plan is to have the Zimba Women IT for business Summit as an annual event, bringing together various women in business who should leave more empowered and ready to take their businesses to another level with the information they gather during these sessions. Zimba intends to follow up on attendees so as to ensure that the training information is used as expected.

The mentorship program for the students is meant to link students to Business Women who will mentor them. A follow up will be done to see that this is done effectively. That way the new generation will be aware and ready to take on IT for business.

Do you think the Government is doing enough to support women entrepreneurs?

Going by the responses Zimba Women has gotten from the government bodies approached, I would say that the government is more than willing to help. A lot of initiatives that support women entrepreneurs have come up through the government and more opportunities are in store.

What Zimba has realized is that the Women entrepreneurs need to come out and seek these opportunities through the right channels. Zimba having found these channels, will continue to bring the information forth to the potential beneficiaries so that the government support is realized.

How can successful individuals, at their individual levels contribute towards supporting a young women entrepreneur?

Successful individuals should be a source of information for young women entrepreneurs. They should offer this information willingly and readily. The Summit will feature some successful women who will share their own stories so that others may pick a leaf. Zimba welcomes anyone who would like to share information even after the summit; these will be incorporated in our mentorship program that sees women entrepreneurs continuously develop.

Last words: What do you have to say to encourage a woman that’s starting out in business, especially tech business?

For starters, they need to attend a Zimba entrepreneurship training ?

On a serious note though, I would encourage them to go into something they love doing. That way they will hold on to it through the highs and lows and eventually see it to the success it is headed for…not forgetting that ‘Your business is even better with Information Technology!’

On a lighter note: If you were to be stuck on Mijingo Island waiting to be rescued, what 3 things must you have with you?

A solar smartphone, a good Internet connection and Ffene

Oh, the rescuers had better get here before 28th September 2016 #ZimbaSummit16.

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