These words rang in my mind throughout my entire journey as I made my way through the dusty streets of Katanga, which led me back to my hostel of residence. After sitting in for session one of the Girls for Girls (G4G) mentorship program, these powerful words stuck in my mind for three consecutive days. I took them as my mantra for those three days until they became a part of me. For the first time, I believed that I could be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do using what I had — my gifts and talents. Indeed, my newfound mantra got me thinking of techniques that I could employ to reach my long-term goal of being an entrepreneur who makes a difference in whichever community she is.
But I was in a new community! Reality check! How was I supposed to do this in Uganda? How was I supposed to be this influential entrepreneur? How was I supposed to be me? I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, fear was looking straight at me. Yes, I was afraid. And the one person I always leaned on whenever I felt like I was falling and stuck was far away, very far away from me in the Kingdom of Lesotho. My Dad. It has always been the two of us since my mom passed away when I was only two years old. Coming to Uganda felt like I was being separated from my best friend. Yes, I was afraid. And so, despite my brimming with enthusiasm, I had so many questions.
I often found myself pondering the question of where I would get the capital to start up the business of my dreams, a chain of pharmacies, or real estate. Better yet, where would I get the capital to start up ANY business? Was I to form a partnership with my village, fellow students who do not have a form of income just like me? Was I to get a loan from a bank? Oh no, I do not qualify for one. Was I to ask my father for tens and tens or even hundreds of millions of Ugandan shillings? Or was I to wait until I finished medical school then see where life would take me? I could get lucky! I wondered if it would be possible for me to start up a business here in Uganda, yet I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Lesotho? All these questions made me reluctant to start doing anything. I held my head in my hands as I watched my dreams of being an entrepreneur crashing down. I watched as doubt crept in to fill up the spaces that once housed my dreams. But my mantra wrapped itself around me and whispered, “Do it afraid.”
That’s when the scales fell off my eyes. I was trying so hard to think of ways to take huge strides, and yet I could navigate point to point. These are my gathering years. I needed to embrace them. Yes, the passion and urge to start up a business were there, but I had not realised the fact that at this point, I needed to start small. I had to set small achievable goals and allow them to lead me to my destiny. Through the G4G mentorship program, I found my courage to do it afraid. They may say it’s a man’s world, but I have heard compelling stories about women who found the courage to follow their dreams and ended up building empires in their world. After listening to one of the mentors tell of how she left her 9 am to 5 pm job to venture into business, I felt empowered and courageous. She said, “You could turn your talents, skills, hobbies, and strengths into a business idea.”
I have always been good with my hands and creative when it comes to concepts like room decor. Not only does it come naturally to me, but I also enjoy it. Come to think of it, I singlehandedly decorated the walls of my room using handmade butterfly stickers. I could tell that people liked them because that was the first remark that I always got whenever they entered my room. These decorations brighten up my room, make it more feminine, beautiful, and lively. Some people asked me to create designs for their rooms and offices. Still, I always gave the excuse that medical school was too busy and that I made the decorations as a hobby and not a business, and yet this was my market, right in front of my eyes, but I was blinded by my bigger dreams; hence I could not see this.
After attending the G4G mentorship program, my eureka moment came, the birth of my business idea. I started researching about this business venture of room decor as well as the basics of starting up a business. I went on to pitch my idea to my village, and they encouraged me. It was time to stop making excuses like “I do not have enough time,” “It is hard,” “I will fail,” etc. It was time to face the music and do it afraid.
When the first phase of the lockdown was lifted, I headed to town and bought the materials that I could use to make the decor and instantly started processing the orders for my first clients. My first clients were my friends, and I must say, whoever observed that choosing a village that supports your aspirations is one of the best things you can do for yourself was right. Now my business is off the ground, and I am going to ensure that it helps me to get to my long-term goal. You, too, can achieve any goal that you set your mind to because no goal is more significant than you. You are beautiful, intelligent, fearless, and the world has so much in store for you. Yes, you.
Being the only girl at home and having lost my mother when I was two years old, I felt that it would be a great idea to be in a learning and growing space with fellow women, and together find ways forward to addressing the common problems that we face. That is why I chose to join the Girls for Girls mentorship program as a mentee, and hopefully in the future as a mentor. I made the right choice.
“Do it afraid. It all starts with a dream.”