Feeling at home

My contract got extended and I will stay until April, which is amazing.

My brother has been visiting me for 3 weeks, we had a great time and my little homesickness got cured.

Furthermore I realized how amazing my life here is, that I have great friends, an everyday life that I love and a job I enjoy. A very satisfying routine started.

Professionally I enjoy all marketing activities I am doing. Step by step I am increasing our supply of marketing material while also creating events for our product demonstrations. In 2 weeks there is Energy Week in Kampala and I am excited about the feedback for the cooking competition I will launch. The idea is to make potential customers familiar with the new technology of an energy-efficient cooking stove and to switch from selling stoves to providing life quality: great tasting food. Despite that, the charcoal stove sells very successfully, I enjoy working with the manufacturer and coordinating stove supply. More and more often I am doing grant applications, which becomes more and more a routine and less and less uncomfortable. My job is diverse and the daily life at the start-up is exciting and fun, while my colleagues are amazing.

In my free time I am doing a lot of diverse sports, I learned sailing and started boxing, both is a lot of fun. Also culturally I am understanding more and more and improve step by step. 

Of course I travelled even more, hiked up  beautiful Mount Moroto, watched the stunning Murchinson Falls from above and observed  the beautiful wildlife. Uganda is really diverse and offers a lot. Soon I will do a holiday, climbing in Kenya and kitesurfing and diving in Zanzibar.

Overall I am very happy, satisfied and enjoy my life with both, an amazing job and great leisure activities.


Marketing, communication & culture

Time is running, I am very busy with working, learning and enjoying life.

Within the last month I learned a lot, most from my boss. The biggest take away was the lecture I got regarding communicational skills. I learned how to prepare for group meetings, how to communicate my standpoint the most effective, how to play with a discussion and when to step back. I realized that I have to be less direct, especially as Uganda is a very indirect culture. Another cultural insight is that one should accept help when it is offered. Also I learned how to prepare a budget proposal in a way that enhances the chances of high approval.

It is great to be part of a start-up, as the company still is growing, exploring, struggling and defining its path. Few weeks ago our CEO was here and we discussed our strategy, which was really interesting and instructive. So now we are realizing that strategy, correspondingly creating and realizing the marketing plan. Regarding marketing we are reaching the next step, meaning that my ideas will be realized soon, as they and the budget got accepted. Of course there was a process behind it, and most of my early ideas were neglected as they were too expensive, too difficult to be implemented, too risky. Moreover I started to also get involved with grants and funding, which is not my main interest but very good and necessary to learn as well.

Currently we are getting ready to sell the charcoal stove. The company building the stove also is very interesting as they are making briquets out of organic waste and charcoal dust (leftovers from producing and transporting charcoal). Our stove is branded and there are some issues as the price has to be low and so the means for branding are limited but still quality shall be good. So we are still improving the way the logo is put on our stove, while also doing research with potential customers to see what is important to them and work closely together with the stove providing company. It is a very exciting process with many interesting insights. While for us, for example, a nice logo is important, most Ugandans do not even realize a difference between a clear and an unclear logo, but are much more aware of details related to the quality of the clay or the pottholds.

We are continuing to sell the water filters, which are a success. As they are not our focus we cannot put much effort into the sales of water filters, but the great news is that even with very little effort we succeed.

Furthermore I started building my own network, with the help of my boss, organizing two events, each once per month. There is Green Drinks Kampala, where people meet, who are interested in and working in the green energy sector, or in related projects in the social enterprise sector. Each time one person is doing a presentation, followed by a Q&A session, discussion, drinks and food. It is great to see all those interesting projects going on here in Uganda and to meet all these amazing people. The other event is  marketing drinks, which follows the same concept, only that here we are people working in marketing.

Beside that I enjoy my free time with doing more trips, enjoying Kampala and its rich offer. I joined a climbing group, will do my first triathlon in 2 weeks, moved to a great living community in a house with a breathtaking view  and made first friends.

So all in all my first  month here has been exciting, very informative and great! I look very much forward to the next 5 months or more!


Kid collecting firewood, making a bundle to carry it home hard work, reduced but still there if an energy efficient stove / water filter is used

The pictures show a kid in a rural area making a bundle out of collected firewood and carrying it home. It is very hard work that is reduced if people use an energy efficient stove or a water filter as then they need less firewood. Still firewood is needed and that work has to be done…


Sales Team in Western Uganda

The last week I was travelling with the sales team through Western Uganda, we were doing door to door sales,  demonstrations of the cooking stoves and the water filter in villages and presentations of the products in schools, to the staff. During this week I could gain a lot of information about the people, how they live and what’s important to them,  how they like the product (especially the Ezy Stove), why they liked or did not like it, why they bought or did not buy it, which kind of marketing might be the most effective.

The main problem is, that the stove is not exactly what people want, and therefore it is too expensive (while it also cannot be produced cheaper). UpEnergy sold a better expensive stove very cheap as it was subsidised. So now people are not willing to pay more for a product that has less features. Another problem is that the main argument to buy is that it creates savings. So the poor people living in very rural areas will not save as they are not buying but collecting firewood, thus they will not buy the stove. People living more urban and earning a bit more are using charcoal. I also will have to market a (very cheap) charcoal stove which is very efficient, using less charcoal than the usual stoves. Here I find a big personal conflict as I do not want to market charcoal stoves, because charcoal is much more harmful to the environment, the climate and the health, as much wood is needed to create a bit of charcoal. Of course the more efficient charcoal stove still is an improvement to the present situation, and if people want to use it as it is cleaner and nicer to use than firewood, people cannot be forced to step back and use firewood.

Another observation is, that we cannot serve the poorest of the poor, the real BoP population. Of course the middle class of Ugandans (our target group) still is very poor, it is a developing country, people’s living standard is very, very low.

My job is challenging and that is great, I am excited to find solutions that meet the company’s, the people’s and the environment’s needs. The first goal is to create marketing that pushes sales of the ezy stove.

It also was amazing to get to know the people and the beautiful country. People are very nice, welcoming, curious, generous and funny, while the country has a rich nature and is incredible beautiful.

I am very grateful to be here and to experience all of this.


Product Demonstration

New job, new country, new path

On Monday, April 7, 2014 I will start my new job as brand associate at UpEnergy (www.upenergygroup.com) in Kampala, Uganda.

The first week I will be joining the sales team, selling cooking stoves in Uganda, going from door to door. Thus I will get to know the people and the culture in order to be able to develop a successful marketing strategy to increase sales of cooking stoves, that reduce emissions, time, money and wood needed.

I look very much forward to gaining professional experience in a start-up in the social enterprise sector  in a developing country.

Also I am looking forward to the personal challenges, that will become great experiences helping me growing.