When most people think about entrepreneurs, they always think about the money aspect to it. The reality is, a true entrepreneur focuses on change, innovation and creativity, which is much more than just doing business and making money.
And that assertion exactly describes Dr Innocent Nahabwe.
The Veterinary Doctor by profession is an all-round entrepreneur, marketing guru and a writer.
Treating Small Businesses:
On July 12, 2019, Dr Nahabwe launched his maiden book ‘Treating Small businesses: Lessons from my operations’- an ultra-realistic guide for entrepreneurs on how to leverage partnerships, raise capital and how to manage individuals.
“Essentially it’s a book about entrepreneurship but I did not want to do with preaching, instructing;-that do this or do that because the way things happen, the way business run is different for all of us so you will find that what you get as a lesson from a story for everyone is different.
“But what we learn from the way something was handled is often universal so people are able to get different opinions from the story. For example, someone may learn from a story on how to treat friendship, and from the same story they learn how to manage partnerships, others may learn how to manage money so it’s in that form that I share my experiences, lessons, my mistakes so that the person out there planning to start a business fully understand this and then finds a way of making his/her own interpretation.”
So far, Nahabwe has sold 900 copies. He printed 1,000 copies which are about to get done.
“When the printed copies are out of stock I will print more. I urge people to continue buying my book, I’m sure they will learn a lot of life lessons when it comes to business.”
The book is also available on Jumia. More than 200 copies have been sold through this online platform.
Relationship with Sudhir
Dr Nahabwe reveals that Uganda’s richest man Dr Sudhir Ruparelia who presided over his book launch at Kingdom Kampala mall, is his longtime friend who can relate and share a story of a similar nature like that in his book.
“I invited him on my book launch because I was looking for somebody that is of an inspiration; somebody who people want to talk to, engage with. You know it’s easy to learn from people who present themselves as successful with no mistakes but experience and mistakes are the best lessons we can actually learn and I think Sudhir happens to be one of those guys who have weathered the storm and managed to run a successful business over a long period of time and I thought he would be able to share something which he did. I never wanted my launch to be a typical one where you sit and sign, I believe in sharing experience.”
Born 38 years ago in Ntungamo District, Nahabwe grew up in a humble extended family of 25.
“Life was really a struggle; it was survival for the fittest. My father was a very tough man and we had to work to get pocket money for school,” he told Watchdog Uganda during an interview at his Kansanga based Galaxy FM home.
The businessman completed his Primary Seven at St Mukasa Preparatory Seminary in 1993. Then attended Muntuyera High School and St. Joseph’s Vocational School, where he completed his O and A-Levels respectively. In 2006, he attained his Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine.
Nahabwe has a Master’s degree in Business Administration majoring in Marketing from Makerere University and he is looking at summing it up with Doctorate.
“I’m looking forward to study for my PHD still in marketing. I’m just waiting for clearance from Makerere University.” He told us.
Nahabwe started doing business way back in High School. He used to sell commodities such as waragi (it was illegal in school), and sugar canes to fellow students. He was also a photographer.
“I was earning from it and living a very comfortable life despite coming from a very humble background. I lived a better life than most of my friends from well off families. Honestly, they could only afford the money their dads had given them, me I could multiply the little I got from home.”
While at campus, Nahabwe joined Red Pepper publications and he was among the pioneer employees of the tabloid. He had also worked with New Vision newspaper for some time.
During that time, through his employer, he managed to secure a loan to set up a pharmacy.
“I was still at campus in my fourth year, when I got a loan of Shs5 million from Nile Bank [defunct] that I used to start a pharmacy which never even lasted for one year.
“The girlfriend I had at that time, was , a pharmacist, and put her in charge, but like in the third month we were busy quarreling over money issues and by the eighth month she was like you know what, I’m done with you and we parted ways. But by parting ways the business was gone.”
Following the dreadful experience, Nahabwe had to pay the loan for five years.
“When Barclays bought Nile Bank, I was one of the loans they sold to former.”
However, he learnt from that experience never to borrow money to start a business and mixing work with relationships.
“If it’s business, you cannot borrow to start it, I think that is a mistake and you must do business that you like, love, care about and to me a pharmacy was not exactly what I liked. Another thing it’s very dangerous to mix relationships with business and when you do, at least make it formal.”
Hard work pays:
While at Red Pepper, Nahabwe was doing more than three tasks and by doing so many people used to think that he owns some shares in the company which he served for nine years.
“At the beginning I was not even paid for most part but I was able to go through and deliver. Those who saw me can testify. Majority used to think I owned shares in the publication, but I did not. I did everything I could as if it belonged to me. What I know if you cannot do something for somebody else you probably will not be able to do it for yourself.”
“Work ethics is actually a habit you must learn, and practice.”
The sales guru says he was able to do production, sales, photography and write stories and here he was actually being paid three-four times more than most of his colleagues simply because he was doing more.
“Some people would say me, I’m a photographer and they are still there taking pictures 18 years down the road because Red Pepper was started in 2001. Me I was like everything you give me I do to my best as if the business is mine. That’s how I thrived.”
Nahabwe also disclosed that being in employment taught and prepared him to be able to run business.
Nahabwe, an enterprising businessman:
He owns a number of businesses such as Kagwirawo, an online sports betting company, Bluecube – a leading mobile solutions company, Howwe.biz – a music streaming and showbiz platform, Galaxy FM and Club Amnesia – a popular city nightspot.
“All my businesses have a thread, a lot of my business ideas started when I was at SMS Media, and by that time I was also working at Redpepper as Sales and Marketing Manager.During that time we used to have these annual retreats. Here all the top management would go to think of ideas that would drive the company in the year. And one day I made a presentation about the need for multimedia as a way of making more money and that was around 2006-2007, but in one way or the other they did not buy my idea.”
It was that that dissatisfaction, that Nahabwe was prompted to start thinking of putting his ideas into reality, if need be through partnerships.
“So when I was at SMS Media, Mr Arinaitwe Rugyendo, one of the directors at Redpepper and I started a small company to do with SMS but mostly dating. We developed a solution that allow people share profiles and when we found people whose profiles match, we would allow them exchange numbers and start dating. But the business could not last for long because they were very few women yet men were very many.”
He also reveals that the business could not survive because they were running it through a third party-True African and True African was sharing the money with MTN so by the time it got to them, the percentage would be very small.
Starting Blue Cube:
Later, Nahabwe met a one Robert Busingye and Pius Kamugisha who had thought of starting up an SMS company. They had registered the company but nothing was happening.
“The next thing I told them is that ‘I was in; they all thought that I was joking’. We scheduled for a meeting but I never attended. The next day I called them for updates. We met again and distributed shares amongst ourselves equally and that is how Blue Cube started.
Starting Club Amnesia
In 2009, Nahabwe also partnered with journalists Henry Ssali and Darius Mugisha to set up a hang out place.
“In 2009, two gentlemen; Ssali and Mugisha were running a company that was promoting musician Rabadaba. I met them at Oasis Mall Parking where I told them that with the money they get from Rabadaba shows, we can use it to do business [I thought they had a lot of money] so I told them that they need a bar where their artist can hang since that time the singer was very popular. They took in the idea. We identified a place in Bugolobi and that is how Virgin Island started.”
Along the way, the hangout received a lot of pressure from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and neigbours over noise pollution. The place was doing so well but they decided to get another with less sound.
On the 10th anniversary of Redpepper, Nahabwe met Dr Sudhir Ruparelia- the largest property mogul in Uganda whom he asked whether he had a place for let in one of his buildings to set up a night club.
“We got the place, but unfortunately, when we did the math, the club needed over Shs500 million which we never had. My colleagues opted to borrow but I told them, I don’t borrow to start a business; we disagreed. Eventually I got other colleagues who agreed to invest in money. We started Club Amnesia- which is still in operation to date.”
Birth of Kagwirawo sports betting:
After registering success at Blue Cube, In 2014, Nahabwe and his partners [Busingye and Kamugisha] also started Kagwirawo sports betting.
“In 2010, Warid [now Airtel] wanted us to do a promotion for them but that promotion required us to get a betting license which was easy to get by that time. But them we spent over two years without using it so eventually we said we want to do betting but we could do open shop, we wanted to do online. Around 2014, we figured out how to bet using USSD and we taught telecoms how to do it, they later embedded us. That’s how Kagwirawo came to be.”
Starting Galaxy FM:
As the business was prospering, the business partners thought about advertising. They visited a number of radio stations such as Sanyu, capital but the monthly invoices of Shs30-40 million could not let them enjoy their sweat in peace.
“I did the math and clearly in a year or two you could buy a radio station. I asked my friend how much it would cost and before we knew it, we had already shipped in the equipment. Later we got a license.
“However, when we started in 2013, all the consultants were saying that a radio station was very hard to do. But one time I was talking to some guy at Amnesia Club, who told me ‘you know what the music you play here could create a very different radio station. While brainstorming with him, we found out that there was a gap in terms of language spoken, mode of communication, and level of Education.”
As soon as he was done with the interaction, Nahabwe briefed his friends on what to do if their station was to succeed.
“My colleagues and I decided not to do what others do; we said to ourselves that we are going to be a dance station; we do not speak any language but street language which we termed as ‘Lu-English’ and now we are among the top 5 radio stations in the country.”
I’m not a successful businessman:
Dr Nahabwe does not consider himself a successful businessman rather somebody who is still hustling.
“I cannot say that this is the magic trick that makes me who I am. But there are a few traits good for someone which may help him/her succeed such as-always looking out for opportunities, you cannot afford to be tired; never give up and always be able to put a team together because I believe in team efforts.”
Being employed or self-employed?
The truth is from my experience, there’s nothing like ‘working for myself’.
There’s this perception that someone is employed, I don’t believe that. The difference is that all people who are employed are actually delivering a service and that is their trade so are they employed or are they actually delivering a service? They are consultants in some way, if you’re a writer, you write stories you get paid for them.
If you don’t write good stories you don’t get paid.
So ultimately, I believe there’s a thin line between employment and being self-employed. Even if you say that you’re self-employed I always thought that you sit back, relax, enjoy yourself as they work for you; that is not true, actually the most hardworking person is the self-employed person because the hours demanded of you to work are way much higher.
Sometimes I find myself working for 16-18 hours because this is something that is yours, which you care about and in terms of payment you realize that you pay everybody first then you pay yourself last.
Is there a difference between self employment and being employed? of course there’s because here probably most people put in more when they are self employed but ultimately I would believe that its best to put in a lot of effort as if you own the business and demand for full payment for all your full services.
Nahabwe the Family man:
Dr Nahabwe is married and proud father of three.
“My kids always call me a king of ‘Yes’ and their mum a king of ‘No’ but sometimes I try to be hard on them though my wife and I promised not to make our kids go through what we went through.”
“As family we do a lot of things together, we play and pray together, I try as much as possible to compensate the time I’m away.”
He further discloses that they still live in a humble house he built when he finished school.
“We live normally and I’m comfortable there because I always see the same walls and I don’t have to knock them during darkness since I’m used to them.”