Elias runs a small furniture manufacturing enterprise called Immaculate Zax Furniture and Joinery, making sofas and armchairs, which he started in 2003 with very little capital investment. He learnt his trade by working in the industry, which is competitive with over 30 shops competing for trade in the area. From small beginnings, Grow has enabled Elias to plan ahead, create a vision for his company and even diversify into other markets.
Paula is an economist by trade and currently works in corporate finance. She found out about Grow when she met its CEO, Claire Jenkins, at a conference. The opportunity to donate time and experience rather than money appealed to Paula and she has now worked on several projects and also been involved in some of Grow’s own major growth projects, such as Uganda600.
Initial challenges were around communication. The logistics of getting in touch and building a relationship based on trust are complex: phone lines are often poor and internet quality can affect Skype and make the process frustrating for both parties. Paula and Elias decided that he would visit the local Grow offices for all their appointments, where internet quality was good, allowing them to speak face-to-face via Skype. This allowed a stronger, more personal relationship to be built, which Paula felt was critical to success.
Elias explained that his aim was to grow his business and bring in more customers and their first couple of meetings consisted of Paula asking lots of questions to establish the core challenges: financial record-keeping and marketing.
When Paula started working with Elias, he wasn’t keeping any financial records. She helped him to understand the importance of keeping track of his income and expenditure and of separating his personal and business finances to ensure he had a clear view of business performance. However, rather than producing financial statements, they focused on the more fundamental week-by-week need to track finances.
Marketing was a little more complicated. Due to the significant cultural differences, Paula found that she needed to brainstorm lots of ideas with Elias in order to work out the best approach for his business.
Elias designed business cards and flyers and has seen his profits increase by 35%. In addition, he has employed an additional three people and diversified into tailoring.
“Working with Paula has helped me to see where my business is heading. I am now working towards getting a delivery vehicle and possibly even exporting my product in the future. I will definitely tell people about what Grow has done for me.”
“Volunteering in this way is so different from the day job and really gives you a taste of the issues faced by entrepreneurs operating in such a different culture. As a mentor you can help boost the client’s growth ambition and help them move forward in that direction. But I firmly believe the true success ultimately comes from them.”