KAMPALA – Starting a business is one thing and keeping it is completely another. Many Ugandans keep starting businesses but by the end of the first year, most enterprises have crumbled down.
Kembabazi Catering Centre Ltd has stood for over 30 years in business and is still counting. PML Daily’s Abraham MUTALYEBWA had an interview with Ms. Emily Kwezi, the managing director and had an interactive session about their journey.
Tell us about the journey of Kembabazi Catering Centre Limited.
Kembabazi Catering Centre Limited has transformed from a one-room restaurant to a medium enterprise. It started as a sole proprietorship in 1983 is and now managed by five directors of which all of having different strength and their contribution to the business.
In the beginning, it was a small eating house but as it grew bigger, it moved from a small house in Wandegeya, then to opposite Blacklines House (Kidukulu) to City Square Hotel and back to Wandegeya due to tenants and landlord disagreements. And now to its own place in Naguru suburb.
You have been in this business for a long time – slightly over 30 years and you are still grounded. What has kept you this going?
Above all it is patience, resilience, being accommodative. There are failures and up and down but we have managed to overcome them. But one thing we must understand is putting God first in whatever we do. This was emulated by my late mother who always showed that the almighty God is the master planner of everything we do.
There are very many fast foods shops that are cropping up almost everywhere. Does this mean the business is profitable or not? And what has kept your clients still yearning for your services?
When something is cropping up at a fast rate it means there’s something good there and that’s the reason there are very many boda-bodas in the city.
When the business grows it will have a certain type of clientele. They grow with you and it is a continuous process in life. You start with people at campus and move with them as they advance in life. Their needs start to change so you adjust accordingly. We have worked on their baptism, confirmation, wedding and the cycle is continuous.
Normally most businesses in Uganda start to choke due to managerial issues after their proprietors pass on. How have you made this possible at this tender age of yours?
Before she passed on, she had really involved and put me at the core position of this business. Most of the times people came for bookings she could always push them and conclude with me. She empowered me and other proprietors as well so a transition is smooth. I am happy and glorify God for this because we have been at the core of the business.
What is that factor that keeps your clients – both existing and new ones – keep looking for your services?
It is normally referrals from our clients since they share their experiences and are goodwill ambassadors.
Kembabazi is a top-notch business run by a young lady which is a good thing. What message do you give to fellow women and men who are in this industry so that they stay relevant?
They should be patient. This business is very dynamic and if clients ask for this you adjust. It has become a one-stop area for catering services, salon, massage, coffee shop, and kids playing area, among others.
I am aware that you have also diversified in making recipes such as Red chilli Pilli, among others. What is your plan?
For Red Chilli Pilli, I would like to supply on the international market and I am trying as much as I can to make sure my product is there. I have also taken steps and measures to take it to the top because right now I am still in the initial stages working on the brand, product and packaging.
Where do you see Kembabazi in the next 10 years?
It will be a resort hotel by God’s grace and that’s happening soon.
Catering and tourism are inseparable. Are there initiatives you are doing to boost this ‘cash cow’ for both sectors?
Yes of course. We usually have a norm and referred to as the hub “taste of Uganda”. Everybody who comes to Uganda must come by if they want to really enjoy the beauty. We have a wide range of great services to appreciate and we work closely with other partners such as Biyota Tours and the rest. When they have visitors they drive them from Entebbe to here. We are also on social media and doing a lot on this.
Besides your usual business, what activities are you involved in to give back to the community or make them better?
Once every year, we always give back to Naguru Remand Home. We have been doing this for the last five years. We are also part of Lions International and always give back in areas of sanitation and hygiene, given out limbs to Mulago Hospital and we are also dedicated to serving our clients diligently. This is our core baseline.
What information/message do you have for the public?
For every entrepreneur, if anyone has an idea of any sort they should start because there is great power in starting. And it helps to learn different issues that you wouldn’t have got – this should be regardless of how small it is.