Background to the ‘Setting-up your own small business’ training materials

We came together because we felt a need to do something practical in the poorest areas of the world, and because the idea of using business to do this appealed to us.  We discussed our options, and because one of us had some connections in Uganda, and they were engaged with the poor, we decided to go there – the start of our journey was as simple as that. 

KatweNone of us are wealthy, but we felt that, given the sheer disparity of incomes, what money we did have could do a lot of good – so all we needed to do was to find some people with business ideas which we could help them set up, both with money and advice, and in this way create sources of employment for a few people.  We felt, that although this would only be a small amount of help, it was realistic, it was sustainable, and it was a start.  It was also, sadly, naïve (see notes on The Finance Issue).

Our host, a deeply sincere and humble man of God, Pastor Paul Kinataama of Nsambya Full Gospel Church, which is situated in the heart of the slum in Katwe, took us to a number of small businesses, both in Kampala, and via other contacts in Jinja and Massaka.  Each one seemed to want a large sum of money, practically all we had to give, and they wanted it for a range of things that either  made no sense to us as business people (e.g. investments with no return; or the next batch of supplies), or made no sense to us in helping the poor (e.g. investments in automation or highly skilled labour). 

In talking to people, a number of things became clear to us:

  • any money we provided in this way would ultimately be wasted;
  • people (at least those we met) did not really understand the principles of business investment;
  • better understanding of the principles of business would probably enable them to be more successful without further investments;
  • further investments would not enable them to be successful without understanding the principles of business. 

We concluded two things: One – we should leave the financial side to the experts in making loans to create employment; two – we should focus on training people to make best use of those loans. 

We began by trying to find existing materials that we could use – we were convinced that they must exist somewhere, but we soon discovered that this area is not well signposted, and the things that we did discover tended to be: too involved for our audience; too technologically demanding for local delivery; too simplistic; too ‘vague’; or too expensive.  (Please note: if you are reading this and happen to have exactly what we were looking for, we are sorry, but we couldn’t find you at the time – however, we would be pleased to link to your site to improve the signposting for the future.)  In the end we decided that we would have to write our own. 

Book 1 PictureWe developed the first guide in June 2006, and tested it first of all with people in the UK, and then with people in Uganda, and finally in a test training session in Kampala in October 2006 – each time refining the materials through feedback.  We also developed training plans, and a training trainers course which we piloted in February 2007.  (All of these are available without charge from the materials section of the website). Pictures which illustrate this background may be found in the Picture Gallery

Since the training trainers course, the new trainers have been running courses continuously, moving on from one poor community to another on a month by month basis, and providing the training in weekly sessions (one day per week).  We are deeply indebted to them for the difference they are making.  But what is vitally important about this, is that it is now Ugandans doing it for Ugandans, owning the solution, and making it work. 

In February 2008 we returned to Kampala to train another group of trainers, and in so doing trained the people there to train new trainers, and now our work in Kampala is finished. The are self-sufficient, they have achieved amazing success, and it is time for us to move on to start again in another corner of the world.

Any ideas? Or do you want to think about how you can get started yourselves?