Date & Timestamp : 09/27/2016 - 11:04am
By Kaitlyn Hiltz // Featured Image Source
We had a chance to catch up with Haley Baker, entrepreneur, and co-owner of Nguvu Dairy located in the town of Adjumani, in Northern Uganda. An American, Haley is also a graduate and business competition winner of BDC Uganda’s Entrepreneurship Training Program. Through the BDC leaders, Haley was introduced to the US-based organization, The Market Project, which partners with trafficking and trauma aftercare organizations to offer work opportunities, along with on-the-job training in market-researched businesses.
In the Spring of 2016, The Market Project (TMP) partnered with the Bakers to register Nguvu Dairy as its first business, offering “trauma-informed, meaningful work for men and women deeply wounded by violence, chronic poverty and the decades-long conflict in Northern Uganda” (The Market Project).
Haley shares with us more of their story – one that is of hard work, sacrifice, and is undoubtedly, without rival.
About four years ago, Haley and her husband, Rick, took a leap of faith by saying, “Yes”, to a volunteer missions trip in Uganda to serve at a local orphanage. It was a last minute decision for a project that lasted 10 months. While there, they worked with a group of people and assisted with sustainability efforts. Throughout their experience, and as their understanding of the cultural and economic landscape deepened, the idea of a Ugandan start-up began stirring within them.
Despite being severely underdeveloped and off the grid, they saw Northern Uganda’s potential as a blank canvas with unlimited opportunities. They observed that Uganda’s natural resources were underutilized and that most new businesses were merely small-scale replications of other local businesses, without the proper foundation to truly create a lasting impact and ripple effect.
After the missions trip, Haley and Rick returned home and started working diligently on various business plans. Dairy was not the original idea. In fact, they somewhat stumbled upon it through the failure of a prior concept.
Nguvu Dairy – What it is and How it Came to Be
Upon reassessing their original wholesale milk distribution plan, Rick threw out the idea of yogurt as an off-the-cuff idea. To give the idea a go, they bought the bare minimum equipment needed to make yogurt and self-taught their way through the packaging, flavoring, and sweetening processes.
They then created a mobile distribution model, where local employees could transport the yogurt in a cooler box on the back of their bicycles and sell it to the surrounding community.
Over time, their recipe has stayed basically the same but the branding, methods, packaging, and pricing all have evolved to best suit their customers.
As these changes occurred, they started to notice the marketing advantage it had over similarly priced products such as soda. Most of their target customers are able to afford a bottle of soda, but Nguvu’s yogurt offered a much better nutritional profile. This first came as a side benefit of the cost reduction and has since been pushed to the forefront as a primary sales strategy.
Fast forward to today (3.5 years later) and they’re looking forward to launching a new production facility in the larger town of Gulu. The current goal on the horizon is to have 5 retail locations in the next 16-18 months.
The Adjumani site will still exist, but more as a retail location for their dairy products, in addition to their other entrepreneurial ventures – a chicken farm and a local café.
Training at the BDC
Haley credits part of her successes to her training at our Business Development Center in Kampala, Uganda from August-November of 2015. When she first started the program, Haley felt she was at a crossroads and really desiring more business skills.
Haley shares, “The outcome of the BDC program is starting a new business or improving the one you have, so I decided to work on the dairy business we had. Not only did I learn a lot, but I was able to immediately put it into practice. It changed the trajectory of our business. We were actually going to do away with the drinkable yogurt, and today, that is our core product.”
When asked if she’d recommend the BDC to other existing or aspiring entrepreneurs, Haley gives it her full confidence stating, “I couldn’t recommend it more.” She goes on to say:
“The BDC is essential for learning how to do business – which is far more complex than a simple ‘buy, sell, buy more, sell again’ formula. The more education and empowerment there is, the more potential there is to transform communities.”
Why The Market Project?
Haley tells us she and Rick always viewed themselves as social entrepreneurs – having a “triple bottom-line” (people, profit, planet). They originally came to Uganda to work with vulnerable people, so it’s a core part of who they are. “There is so much opportunity to provide dignifying employment to those who have experienced complex trauma and to pour into ‘the least of these’. Our employees are single moms or dads, those living with HIV+, people born into abject poverty, and more,” Haley shares.
In line with their own values, TMP wants to employ men and women out of aftercare programs (i.e: International Justice Mission, War Child, etc.) and help them enter into the workforce, sustained through the power of the market.
“So that’s our other goal,” Haley says, “that 50% of our hires are those who’ve experienced some form and measure of trauma. We want to be a ‘trauma-informed’ workplace.”
Challenges & Rewards
For Haley, the most challenging part of starting a business in Uganda is the lack of infrastructure. “Getting anything done is incredibly tedious – paperwork, admin tasks, legal, for instance, could take an entire day or even several days. To-dos just don’t get done at the same speed and things are simply unpredictable – power outages, broken generators, lack of technical support for repairs, etc.”
Regardless of the mishaps and tougher days, Haley tells us “it’s also just really fun to be creative and be doing the things that no one else has done here before. We get to be true pioneers. Our café is known for being the best place to eat in town.”
Why Kingdom Business?
When it comes to kick-starting a kingdom business, especially if it’s not your own country, Haley advises ‘staying on the dock for a while’. “Spend some time soaking things in and really researching it from top to bottom,” she says.
“It is risky and there’s a high-risk of burn-out. But in kingdom business, it all comes back to putting people first. They’re the most important thing. There’s a big difference in a business that cares for people, and one that doesn’t. If you’re not passionate about people, then don’t go through with it. Your employees are your biggest asset.”
Haley and Rick plan to remain in Uganda for the long haul. They look forward to seeing the work they’re doing become fully sustainable, and desire for their business(es) to continue blessing more and more people.
A big thank you to Haley, Rick, The Market Project & Nguvu Dairy teams for their vision to transform people and nations through business. We applaud your efforts and are grateful for your partnership.