Rwene Expert Cleaners
February 8, 2012
By Kim Lemme and John Sauer
Growing up in a home where their mother insisted everything be spotless, it was challenging for both Allen and Sufficient to live in the trash-filled conditions of their neighborhoods in Kampala. Thirteen years ago after visiting a family with a very young child, who subsequently died, Sufficient hatched the idea that was to become Rwene Expert Cleaners. Allen, too, was disgusted by the abundance of trash she saw littering the neighborhoods infesting the streets with flies and rats.
The last straw for Allen was while throwing a grand graduation celebration at her home. Her visitors couldn’t understand why she was unable to open windows or doors despite the sweltering heat. She realized then, that the flies and rats were winning and something had to be done. Allen returned to her sister Sufficent and thus was born Rwene Expert Cleaners.
The sisters put in an initial capital investment of 500,000 Ugandan Shillings (~ $200 USD) to launch their business. For the early years of operation, they hired trucks to collect solid waste from the neighborhood for an average of 2,500,000 UGX (~ $1000 USD) per month. After four years of operation, they received a 5-year bank loan of 15,000,000 UGX (~ $6,000 USD) and purchased a truck of their own. The total cost of the truck was 27,000,0000 UGX (~ $10, 800 USD) so they supplemented the loan with 12,000,000 UGX (~ $4,800 USD) from profit generated over the first four years of operation.
They now have 45 employees including waste collectors, debt + bill collectors, marketers, supervisors, and drivers. Ten years into their business they have a solid base of 2,000 clients in neighborhoods around Kampala. Their income-based monthly fee structure ranges from 5,000 –100,000 UGX (~ $2-$40 USD) for households (200,000 UGX - ~ $80 USD - for institutions) based on volume of waste.
Their clientele have recently begun approaching Rwene Expert Cleaners about the possibility of them providing fumigation services, soak pits and pit latrine emptying. They attempted to contract these services externally, but have found a lack of reliability among the service providers they could source. From this market demand, they joined the local waste managers association – which is how they met Captiva, a Kampala-based business development services company.
Right now, their biggest issue in getting the sanitation services kickstarted is the transportation of sludge. They are hoping to receive another loan from their bank (Barclays) to buy a truck for sludge transportation. They have established credit with this bank, as they are in the 4th year of a 5-year loan. They will also apply with other banks for a loan to determine the best terms for this new loan.
When asked about their GOALS in the next 12 months, they listed the following answers:
- Stand on our own
- More visibility (billboards + trucks visible in community)
- Properly branded
- Strong web presence
- Re-name company, as the current name is confusing to pronounce.
When asked to talk about what services they have received from BDS thus far (Captiva), they responded:
- Business planning
- Branding Training
- The BDS has come in at a point where they are looking to grow and the support from the BDS is helping them to be more visible particularly in the areas of marketing (branding) and record keeping. They hope to achieve more from the BDS once implementation of their business plan begins. The BDS linked them to an external accountant to help them to clean up their accounts, which was vital during preparation of their business plan.
It will be exciting in the coming months to see how the dynamic duo of these sisters is able to meet the increasing demands of their client base by expanding their menu of services.
The Rwene Expert Cleaners are an example of one entrepreneur working with the Business Development Services (BDS) provider, Captiva, in Kampala, Uganda. The BDS strategy is being implemented in 6 country programs as a part of Water For People’s broader Sustainable Sanitation work.
What do you think?