For 12 years, American author Augustine Mandino says failure will never overtake his determination to succeed if it is strong enough.
Almost in tandem, statesman, Gen Collin Powell writes that a dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
The messages the two share, say a thing or two about 27-year-old entrepreneur, Julius Nyanzi whose hunger for success is well focused.
The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) have awarded him as innovator of the year.
Yet, his outcry is the desire to have his story put across, not for self-aggrandizement but to inspire fellow young people that starting small can bear fruits to realisation of bigger dreams.
America scouts and supports talent, and he is baffled why the same cannot be replicated back home, in Africa and catapult the shameful aid syndrome.
Nurturing the dream
From a tender age, five years to be precise, Nyanzi dreamed of doing and having people see things different.
It started with an experience in a makeshift cinema hall where, for Shs100, its manager short-changed patrons by showing a movie for only a few seconds.
Nyanzi was not amused. He wanted to find out how movies are made and show peers a full-length movie.
He fell on his face in the attempt and the failure left those he had collected money from, unhappy and they branded him names, the most hurtful that he was a ‘conman’.
He was hurt emotionally and physically as he was caned. The first entrepreneurial attempt though unsuccessful, set young Nyanzi’s heart on a path to self-discovery, which has led him on several business endeavours all in the name of responding to challenges. Some of the solutions he sought to provide were closer home. Watching his aunts suffer and lose lives to diabetes was torturous. In his mind, he questioned how one would lose life to sugar, something sweet and enjoyed.
His primary school science teacher at Happy Stars Nursery & Primary School, in Kasubi, told him that he could only understand issues of chemistry of dietetics when he joined university.
As the two parted ways, the teacher told him to be keen on science subjects. Nyanzi did not disappoint.
He scored five aggregates in Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) and fetched enough points at Advanced Level (A’ Level) to earn him an entry into university where he pursued a degree in botany and chemistry.
Nyanzi is a graduate of Makerere University with a bachelor’s of science. He is director of Prof Bioresearch, a company that deals in natural solutions to health challenges.
During his Senior Six (S.6) study vacation, he used part of his savings to travel to Kawanda Agriculture Research Institute to engage scientists to introduce him to the knowledge of tissue culture.
He also took initiative to learn using online platforms. A year later, he had joined university.
He needed a place to put into practice what he had learnt and decided to journey to Buloba, to a company called Agro Genetic Technologies Limited where he asked to see the director, Erostus Nsubuga, to whom he explained that he could be of value to the company.
“He initially feared that I was unserious but when he gave me a test and I passed, he offered to give me a chance. After a while, I became a trainer and I would train about tissue culture thrice a week, and each time I trained, he paid me Shs200, 000,” he recollects.
His bigger dream was to find a natural alternative for people who did not want to consume sugar, and later on suffer from diseases it could cause. His research had severally brought stevia as the right option.
He talked to Nsubuga about growing stevia but the company proprietor had his reservation about the proposal.
Who would buy ‘green’ sugar? Nyanzi continued making rounds as trainer and among many people he interacted with, of different nationalities, he met an America who picked interest in his work. He needed a leaf of stevia, which he could not get locally, and he sent it.
Nyanzi used Irish potato and water hyacinth extracts and leaf to multiply the stevia.
“I went to Mulago where I studied a unit in pharmacology, and showed it to doctors. They liked it and started recommending it to patients. They knew about it but did not know where to find it. 2011. I started selling seedlings, each at Shs5, 000. Many said they did not have where to plant it and wanted a final product. At the time, Nyanzi grew it in plants at her parents’ home,” he explains.
He planted stevia and when it was ready, he would pound it into a paste. He needed a wider market so he visited Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA) grounds to find out about an exhibiting platform. He was told it would cost him $1,000.
He was still a student who did not even have enough shillings. He was disappointed because that year’s theme was woven around promoting local manufacturers yet the money asked from them was prohibitive.
But like luck would have, as Nyanzi left UMA he met a friend with whom he shared his disappointment.
He called up his grandfather who lives in Masanafu, near Kampala, asking him for land on which he could grow more stevia and citronella.
He would make solar driers to dry the stevia and later pound it and sell it at the American market for Shs15,000.
There, he met Joyce Banya who had been transferred by the embassy to Switzerland. She connected Nyanzi to a trade fair there. This was in 2013.
“I went to Katwe and got a simple extract machine to make perfumes. It cost me Shs1m. Its capacity was five litres in a week. I used it to make citronella repellent spray too. I was selling repellents worth Shs2.5m in a month,” he explains.
The machine was to prepare some citronella he could carry to Sweden, as samples.
He knew that liquid stuff is not allowed on aeroplanes so he smuggled some.
Along the way, one airhostess asked him for his passport and in the process of getting it from the bag, part of the citronella poured out.
“People started making noise, asking what was smelling. The air condition circulated it in the enclosed area of the aeroplane. Fortunately, people liked it and started buying it. I made $1,000 from the travellers. It is that money I used to open up a sales outlet at Equatorial shopping mall. Rent at the time was Shs700,000. Today I occupy the biggest shop at Equatorial which is room 152,” he says.
He invested the rest of the money in the business and also saved some in preparation for exhibiting at the annual UMA show ground trade fair. At that point, he had improved his branding and had stevia packaged into tins and so for citronella.
Today, he employs 40 people directly and 50 indirectly, as out grower farmers. Many of his permanent employees are graduates with degrees and diplomas in the disciplines of nutrition, biochemistry, sales and marketing and pharmacology.
In terms of the salary scale, his lowest paid, earns Shs500,000 while the highest takes home Shs2m. As a director, Nyanzi is paid Shs3m. He explains, “I compute the work I do as a technical person.
The farmer is an Organic researcher, you can reach him on +256702061652 or +256779519652.