When at age 16 Mupuya Andrew moved to Kampala to attend high school, we wonder if he had any idea that he would be starting a transformative business venture in a few months’ time.
Following a ban on polythene and plastic bags by the Ugandan government, paper bags were in high demand by the public, who ordinarily consumed a whopping 90 tonnes of plastic bags weekly. Imported paper bags where nowhere near enough to meet demand, and local suppliers were often unaffordable. Mupuya saw a gap in the market and devised a means to fill it – YELI (Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments) paper bags ltd.
His first task was to learn how exactly the paper bags were made. He bought some paper locally and watching YouTube videos, he taught himself how to make paper carrier bags and envelopes. He started with a small team and went into production, selling directly to local food and commodity sellers.
His first big break slipped through his fingers, when he approached a supermarket owner who ordered for 10,000 bags in 24 hours! Despite his best efforts and two sleepless nights, late delivery meant that he lost out – but learned a valuable lesson.
People expect immediate growth and profit, but what has helped me is patiencesaid Mupuya, when he discussed the difficulties for people to penetrate his market, and their inability to poach his customers, even during his down-times.
What has differentiated Mupuya from the rest is his attention to detail. He worked hard to ensure his products were of a high quality, comparable to the imported plastic bags people habitually purchased. To him, his direct competitors weren’t the local market infiltrators, his direct competitor is Mafuco, the leading east African paper bag manufacturer and exporter based in Kenya.
Although there are still some doubts about paper bags, as they are perceived more expensive than plastic bags, Mupuya continues to build client relationships and market share by pricing affordably, offering credit sales and producing high quality, also investing in manufacturing more sturdy bags which are reusable. One thing is clear for YELI paper bags – they aren’t lacking in customers. In fact, Mupuya often has to decline contracts, until he can scale up to meet high demand for his product.
He didn’t go to business school – yet, but he credits his entrepreneurial skills to some training he received while in high-school, as well as some short entrepreneurship courses offered by the International Labour Organization and African Leadership Academy.At age 23, with 22 staff and plans for expansion, Mupuya is running a successful enterprise, meeting a direct need in a sustainable and socially responsible way. TEEP had the pleasure of meeting this young entrepreneur who we know will inspire all of our #AfricanEntrepreneurs…and hopefully speak at our Boot-Camp in July!
Photo credit: Jessica Ellis CNN