How Ronald Kiyimba rose from being a Charcoal Seller to an aspiring Industrialist

How Ronald Kiyimba rose from being a Charcoal Seller to an aspiring Industrialist

Ronald Kiyimba honed his business acumen at the age of 12 while trading in charcoal to finance his school needs in his home district of Mukono in central Uganda.

Almost 12 years later, he’s now a fully-fledged businessman and runs Harbby Products Services- Uganda, a business specializing in the industrial formulation and processing of mosquito repellents in form of body jelly for smearing and candles for lighting. 

His products- Mos-guard candles and Mos-guard jelly provide protection from mosquitoes and ultimately, more hours of uninterrupted sleep.  

His story epitomizes resilience, determination, grit and the relentless pursuit for success.

The passionate 24-year-old Ugandan entrepreneur ditched his charcoal business because it was environmentally unsustainable and decided to join a skills hub in his home district to acquire industrial formulation skills to continue earning an income, but also make a positive impact in his community through skilling – a subject we shall return to later!

Kiyimba used his savings and support from family to start a production line in 2020, first with Harbby Jelly- a product targeting people with skin challenges such as black spots, severe pimples, skin rushes and those that needed skin protection and nourishment without bleaching agents. He later diversified into Mos-guards!

“Through ideation, I came up with another product that could provide with all the above mentioned uses but also offer protection to the users against mosquito bites. In this ideation, we formulated Mos-guard Jelly, and this was later followed by Mos-guard candles,” he explains.

Market scale

In the last three years, his business has grown to serve major markets through selling agents within the central and western regions in the districts of Mukono and Entebbe (Abaita Ababiri), and in Ntungamo and Mbarara. He also runs two production lines in the cities of Entebbe and Mbarara.

“Our market size is still small; however, we are trying to create awareness about the product’s existence through marketing. Those who have tested our products testify about their effectiveness and have joined our clients’ cue,” he says. 

Kiyimba’s typical day in production begins with preparing the production tools; the heaters, pans, melting dishes, measuring tools, and the production protective equipment for safety; formulations are gauged, and production begins.

He says a total weight of inputs estimated at about 40 kgs worth UGX 332,000 can yield output valued at a gross revenue of UGX 867,300 and this makes a gross profit of UGX 535,300. His product pricing ranges from as low as Shs 1,000 for a 60-gram Mos-guard jelly tin to 500 grams at Shs 17,000, while his candles are priced at Shs 8600 for a sachet of 12 pieces, and Shs 5,000 for a sachet of 8 pieces.

Joining the Next Wave program

Kiyimba attributes his innovation success to the Next Wave programme at the Innovation Village in Ntinda where he pursued knowledge and skills to improve his product branding and packaging.

He explains that while his product was still in the testing phase of collecting clients’ feedback. He learnt how to draft questionnaires and record responses through feedback surveys and forms, a skill he acquired under the Next Wave programme.

“It is through this that I got to improve my product in terms of quality appearance and effectiveness, packaging and label information, while putting into consideration the environmental impacts,” he says.

Kiyimba notes that other aspects of improvement came in the context of team building and formation of a high-performance team that could accelerate project growth.

“Before joining the program, I had challenges with product brand names, packaging design and general product quality consistency. However, by the end of the program, we could formulate meaningful product designs, brand names, and create a consistent product presentation on market, he explains.

Impact

Kiyimba says the Next Wave program has had impact on his business with his market potential expanding to serve more communities; his team has also mastered skills of new fundraising strategies to boost project growth and development; implement product learning and product innovation through formation of highly graded progress analysis and innovation tools, business models, business concepts and project proposals. 

“I learnt and implemented the pillars of making a high-performance team from knowing their motivations, focusing on a common goal, trust worthiness, among others. These have helped me keep my small team highly motivated as we hope for opportunities to boost our growth,” he says.

Skilling as a side hustle

Kiyimba has also been able to diversify his income sources through monetizing his skills by partnering with institutions to train students in sustainable vocational skills in product making and development.

Such institutions include; educational centers such as primary schools, secondary schools, vocations, higher institutions of study, among others as opportunities allow.

“In this sense, I train them in product making and soft skills of business management that can help these scholars kick start a home project to generate income for them,” he says.

Kiyimba specializes in training students to make laundry bar soap, all liquid (shampoo, Jik, hand wash gel, shower gels) and powdered detergents similar to Omo and Nomi brands, school chalk, reusable sanitary towels for girls, shoe creams, jelly, candles and book binding.

He reminisces about his first skillng gig at Trinity Biblical Institute situated in Eastern Uganda in Kween District where he worked with the institution for two years to skill graduating pastors in product making skills that could help them be self-sustaining as they pursued their pastoral work.

This has been consecutively followed by other empowerment outreaches in institutions such as Wagagai Flower farm and Kicunguro Angel center- a place for rehabilitation of school dropouts due to teenage pregnancies, among many other centers.

Future prospects

 As Kiyimba pursues his studies Biomedical Engineering at Mbarara University, he’s also planning to expand the company’s market share to cover all regions of Uganda, not only through small scale selling agents, but also establishing outlets, and regional product stores for clients to easily access their products.

Having realized the challenge of corrosion of equipment in his area of professional studies, as a result of rusting and harsh chemicals more so of medical equipment. Kiyimba went into the ideation and formulated another product – ‘Indros’.

He says the product is a reliable rust and scale remover that effectively removes corrosion from surfaces of metals, lime from water pipes, mechanical parts of vehicles, cement and tile floors, industrial equipment and machinery. The new product is still under a testing phase and will soon be introduced on the market.

His other plans include product legalization, product brand ownership/ patenting and copyrights as well as setting up a permanent production plant after acquisition of land.

Advise to fellow youth

“I strongly encourage all innovative and upcoming minds to seek mentorship opportunities first rather than financing opportunities in their startups, innovation creations at all stages, right from ideation.

A product without soft skills cannot stand to celebrate its first birthday on market, it’s the skills that can help innovations and projects thrive amidst stiff competition from other producers, innovators and creators.

Joining a mentorship program may seem daunting but it is also a very huge opportunity to learn, grow and create something truly amazing. Every successful person starts from somewhere and often it is the journey that shapes us, but not the destination.

A big shout-out to Innovation Village, the vision bearers, partners, stakeholders and the teams of ladies and gentlemen who tirelessly work around the clock to make the organization more impactful with its life transforming programs.

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