WHAT A BUSINESS MIND CAN DO
Meet the winner of Nyamuka Zambia’s K250,000 business plan competition
Lusaka, Zambia – Sometimes, the biggest achievement comes by doing something one has never done before in life. Judy Mutumba Siyambango’s achievement is no exception. Her story is that of determination, frustration and success. Today, she lives knowing that no matter how blunt an axe can be, it can still cut a tree if the one using it is determined.
Born in a family of three with two half-brothers, and looking for a full-time job to support herself and family, Judy might seem to have barely enough time to think of entering the world of business or any form of competition. Yet, she seemed determine to follow in the footsteps of those that have made it in life through business. This desire to succeed kept Judy going as a child with a strong conviction within herself that one day she would make it big.
The 25-year-old was born in Mongu, Western Province. Her mother together with her father, an agricultural engineer in the Ministry of Agriculture, supported her education. She did her primary school at Kaoma Primary School, then moved to Mulambatila Secondary School and passed to complete her grade 12 at Hillcrest Technical School in Livingstone. In 2013, she graduated from the University of Zambia (UNZA) in Education and Environmental studies.
While growing up in Western Province Judy wanted to give up early in life. She was often taunted by people concerning her middle name – Mutumba – which means ‘fragile – requiring protection’ in the Lozi dialect. “People always laughed at me saying I was a lazy girl because of my middle name. They said I could never archive anything by myself because my middle name meant depending on my parents for everything, even little things,” said Judy.
Amidst the hard and cruel taunts of reality, her inner drive for achievement kept he going. “I have always wanted to be a great woman and do something big for myself. What people said about me gave me impetus instead to unleash the potential hidden within me,” Judy said, whilst chuckling to herself during an interview.
While Judy was trying to make ends meet in life, an opportunity came through. It was a call for entrepreneurs to participate in the Nyamuka Zambia business plan competition, an initiative aimed at transforming entrepreneurs by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that create jobs, fostering entrepreneurship to drive the economy forward.
Launched in March 2015, the ZANACO-sponsored Nyamuka Zambia competition is one of four components under under the DFID-funded Private Enterprise Programme – Zambia (PEPZ), and sets out to identify deserving entrepreneurs with projects that create jobs, foster entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote innovation in the private sector.
Nearly 600 budding businessmen and women from all walks of life submitted their ideas, which ranged from renewable energy and waste management to fashion and design, food processing and supplying a range of exciting and innovative products and consumer services.
The competition excited Judy. “When I learnt about it, I was thrilled because I knew this was a great opportunity for me ever, “she recalled. ’ “I knew my business idea was a good one for this competition.”
Her desire to enter the competition grew, but after going through requirements of the competition, she was gripped with fear at the stiff competition and almost gave up. But her thoughts changed after realising how unique her business idea and proposal were.
Still feeling the hardship of being unemployed, the competition seemed to have been an opportunity that would change her life. “I was still unemployed and worse of it, I didn’t have a business-related background, so it was a challenge. But after attending the free business clinics that Nyamuka Zambia provided, and also from the professional advice of their great business advisers I learnt a lot and gained enough confidence to apply for the competition,” she said.
Having done environmental studies it was her greatest asset. “The environment is the source of every business, and nature to me is a mother to life, so it gave life to everything and that was the beginning of my idea,” Judy explained.
As an environmentalist, Judy’s motivation was based on an idea of conservation. She believes the mangoes are part of the environment and if mangoes were conserved, they would be made available for the rest of the year and this would also make them available in supermarkets as they are often out of stock until the next mango season. ’’Here is Nyamuka Zambia which wants people to think outside the box and my idea was unique, so I went for the competition,” she said.
Judy’s hope to succeed in the competition did not fade after applying. ’’Often time I was called by Nyamuka Zambia panellists after my application and I wondered why, but something was telling me that my application was successful,” Judy recalled.
After a vigorous scrutiny of applications by Nyamuka Zambia, Judy’s application was selected as the best and it was successful. Judy won the business plan competition and become Zambia’s most promising entrepreneur, receiving the K250, 000 first prize of the competition announced at a glittering grand finale attended by Vice President Hon. Inonge Wina and other dignitaries.
In a cruel twist of fate Judy, who was unaware that she had won, was unable to make it to the ceremony to collect her prize in person, however.
Nyamuka Zambia Manager Shalin Jethi described Judy as a hard-working lady and her business proposal as the best of all: “It was a unique business proposal and it stood out among all proposals we received in the applications. She deserves it,” said Jethi.
Winning the business plan competition is not all for Judy: “This money is a seed from which fruits will grow. I will invest all of it in setting up a dried mango factory to create an agro-processing business. The business will be in a strategic location in Mongu because that’s where you find a lot of mangoes,” Judy said.
Judy believes there is more to running a business than just having capital:’ “This business will create more jobs for local people in communities and increase income, thereby improving their lives,” said Judy, smiling.
Just like the other Zambian entrepreneurs that have inspired Judy, she knows that her business will require more of her time, commitment and hard work to ensure it lives up to expectations and grow exponentially. ”
“Nyamuka Zambia champions told me that it’s going to be rough but with time it will get better,” Judy recalled. “I will direct all my energies to this business,” she said.
“My business will inspire many people,” She said. “It will change lives and that’s what I love about the whole idea.”
Judy fought off competition from over 500 applicants, who were whittled down to 60 semi-finalists and then 20 finalists.
In second place, receiving a prize of K200,000 was Alan Chanda who is making sweets and lozenges from honey; the K175,000 third prize went to fashion designer Towani Clarke; K150,000 fourth place was Cassandra Mtine for her online grocery delivery service; K125,000 fifth prize went to Mattias Ohlson for his cooking solutions business, and the remaining 14 finalists received K75,000 each: Nelson Mphande, who is working on a millet meal business, received the K85,000 Nyamuka Zambia Good Nutrition Prize supported by the World Food Programme (WFP)-sponsored SUN Business Network.
Acting President Hon. Inonge Wina, who was the Guest of Honour at the Nyamuka Grand Finale, expressed enthusiasm for Nyamuka Zambia’s contributions to developing a network of local start-ups investors and said: “I want to thank Nyamuka Zambia again, for bringing together a remarkable programme that will foster a community of entrepreneurs, and a programme that underscores the vital importance of entrepreneurship and innovation to our national economy, job creation and the generation of equitable wealth to help our citizens move out of poverty. I genuinely thank Nyamuka Zambia and its sponsors for this gallant effort.”