Teakisi Woman: Anita Ntomiyanjojo-Muhangi
Throughout my few years in business, prior to Teakisi, I realised that one of the biggest challenges I faced was finding or accessing people who were willing to share knowledge and information on how to successfully launch a business. This wasn’t the case when I approached Anita on such matters. I now have a strong network of male and female entrepreneurs that I can turn to for advice, but if anyone can be said to embody the genuine all round beautiful, selfless, loving human being, it’s Anita. She joins us today to tell Teakisi readers what she has learnt in business, and how she finds a balance for the many hats that she wears.
Teakisi: Please describe yourself in a few words?
Anita: I am a Mother (probably one of my greatest achievement), friend, sister, wife, deeply spiritual, blessed, entrepreneur, writer, lover of peace and all things beautiful. I was born, raised, studied and lived in Kampala – Uganda for the last four decades.
Teakisi: How did you end up being an entrepreneur?
Anita: My mother is actually the reason I followed in this path. She introduced it to me over a decade ago, even as I held a position in a job following a career path that began with writing, and branched out into administration. I should mention though that, that wasn’t her desire for me to take on as a lifetime path. She continued and still mentions to this day, that I would have made for a brilliant scholar, expanding my horizons in continued adult education and sitting behind a beautiful oak desk, in a nice fitting suit within an office setting. However, she was and still has been very supportive and extremely generous with a lot information and lessons learnt over the years. I took my first business trip with her.
Teakisi: Tell us about your business, Harveys.
Anita: Harveys; again was my Moms brain child.
She birthed the idea and began it while I was in school, up till the time I left formal employment and took it on. I sproused it up a little more, took it on and kept it in the path she had set many years before.
Harveys Accessories is basically a retail (and now of recent taking on a few whole sale clients). It has two business entities running within it. The main one; an accessories store dealing in jewellery of all types and for all occasions – hair accessories, purses, oil perfumes, wallets and bags. The second is architectural supplies for both students and practicing Architects building models. These entail model scale material like grass mat, scale rulers, model cars and the likes used to build presentation models. In a nutshell, that is what we do. It has not been a smooth ride, but it has been and continues to be a worthwhile one.
I have learnt and grown from both my experiences, good and not too good. I have made friends and acquaintances, travelled to places and been exposed to so much finesse – some to which I cannot put a price. I love beautiful things and my love to bring them to Harveys brings me joy.
Teakisi: What do you think you bring to this business that is unique?
Anita: Passion, love, dedication and commitment.
To me, it isn’t just my source of income. It’s my other baby. I have watched it grow, struggle, bring forth fruit, and that makes me proud. It’s the littlest things like seeing a bride in a picture with a bracelet that I picked out personally, or a friend in her office with a purse on her desk that she got from me that stirs me on. I love what I do and I think it is reflected in what I pick out for my clients; many who are loyal to a fault.
Teakisi: How do you balance family life and work?
Anita: The biggest struggle with this, is the trips to purchase the merchandise.
The ten days or so when am gone were hard on us all, especially when the children were little. The run up to the travel dates was an emotional roller coaster, but it has gotten easier with time and age. Also with the advancement of technology, social media and online, has greatly eased the need to be up and on the go by a big great deal. Now I can do some of my shopping from select stores, whose quality I trust, without even leaving the comfort of my couch. It wasn’t that easy then.
Most importantly, I have a very amazing assistant at work who I have been with since we opened shop. Her passion and dedication towards the business is commendable. She is the reason I can afford to balance out the time with my family, without the business suffering. I do school runs on selected days, attend all the children’s concerts and activities, and have time to have lunch with my husband on a busy Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s too is a non working day for Harveys, unless on special request for an urgent service. We do work hard, but also work smart so we can enjoy the fruits of the business without sacrificing our family time.
Teakisi: African women have always been the backbone of families and the economies up and down the entire continent. But African cultural and social norms are often not supportive of women’s involvement in business. What do you think should be done to create more supportive networks for women?
Anita: This right here; what you are doing is a huge platform. We need to spread the word. Let our voices be heard. Sensitise the spouses, fathers, and brothers to be supportive as seen through the eyes of women entrepreneurs who are soldiering on. There are so many smart women that would make a huge impact and help bring more support to their homes and communities, through gentle but mighty hands and brains.
Teakisi: What is the number one advice you would give to future female entrepreneurs in Uganda?
Anita: Keep on keeping on. There was a time I wanted to throw in the towel. For one reason or another, those times will be there for some but push on! I now look back and shudder at what would have become of me.
However small the business, if it does make an impact on the lives of your mother, sister, grandfather, child, husband. However small, then it is worth throwing your all into. Do it, love it and nurture it.
Aim for the stars but even if you don’t get there still make the very best of where you reach, and be HONEST as you do it. Do not sell your soul in your quest for wealth, it’s not worth it.
SAVE something, but also spoil and reward yourself and your loved ones from the fruit of your sweat. You will be amazed how that will spur you on.
Okay, that wasn’t one piece of advise! (hahahaha)
Teakisi: Where do you see Harveys in the next five years?
Anita: Bigger and “Blingier” (hehehehhhe)
A bigger brand. That’s my dream for her.
Teakisi: Name 5 African women who inspire you?
Anita: In no particular order
- Dr. Monica Chibita: Uganda Journalist and media Academician. She was my lecturer in University. Smart, intelligent professional and kind. If I had continued along my path, I dreamt of being like her.
- Rev. Diana Nkesiga; one of the first women to be ordained by the Anglican church of Uganda. An absolute go getter, warm hearted and thriving in a world mainly dominated by men.
- Evah Tumuhairwe; mother and grandmother extraordinaire! Friend, wife, super chef, enterprenuer, book keeping expert, disciplinarian (once upon a time), hard as rock and still soft on the inside. Resilient as steel. Kind, beautiful and love itself.
- Yvonne Chaka Chaka: talented, beautiful, constitent over the years. Sings and dances with her soul and traversed a world of entertainment without scandal.
- Winnie Madikizela Mandela: I admired her fighting spirit. Her no nonsense attitude, and the fight she put up for what she believed in. I aspire to have a drive and boldness that she possessed.
Interview conducted by Salha Kaitesi – Twitter: @SalhaKaitesi