Alice Kansiime (pictured) is the proprietor of Financial Empowerment Uganda Limited (FINEM), a registered microfinance entity that has been in business for the last 12 years. FINEM is mainly focused on empowering women and the youth and operates by the philosophy that everybody can be financially free.
“Our aim is mainly to empower women and young people because we know the unemployment rate is really high in Uganda. So we think instead of them coming out of school and thinking of a white-collar job, they could instead look into themselves, see what they can do, then get the capital they need to be able to do what they feel they can do best,” Kansiime says.
The business that now boasts of over 2,000 active clients and that has given out more than 7,000 loans since its inception started humbly as a small home garage side business, and as it grew she abandoned her full-time job to focus on this venture.
Kansiime sights her passion, hard work and sheer determination as one of the major factors that have led her to success.
“We rented a small room in Bukoto that was very close to my office. When we would leave the office around lunchtime, as everybody’s going for lunch, we would be going to sit in our small micro-finance office to be able to attend to clients. Clients knew they were supposed to always come in from 1-2PM. That’s how we started growing and four years down the road we recruited the first staff,” Kansiime recalls.
Kansiime, a beneficiary of dfcu’s Rising Woman initiative says the initiative’s title “Rising Woman” captured her attention. It spoke to her because she saw herself as a woman trying to make it in business, get bigger contacts and ultimately try as much as possible to make the world a better place for herself.
The Rising Woman initiative was started last year by dfcu Bank’s Women in Business Program in partnership with Monitor Publication Limited’s (MPL) flagship brand Daily Monitor and Uganda Investment Authority with the specific aim of recognizing, celebrating and promoting a culture of mentorship among women in business. It targets Ugandan businesswomen, small scale investors, entrepreneurs, members of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), members of Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA) and Uganda Manufacturers Association.
As part of the 10 women with the best business proposals, Kansiime along with the other lucky winners got an opportunity to take part in an all-expenses study trip to Nairobi.
They got a chance to learn to interact and network with other businesswomen. One of Alice’s takebacks was the need to constantly look for opportunities, she also says that they were challenged to stop thinking small and aim for the global market.
“We were challenged to stop thinking small If you think you are comfortable with a retail shop you will remain with a retail shop but if you think you can grow from a retail shop to a supermarket, then you need to know, those, who are running supermarkets, what have they done to be able to transition. So for me, that was very key,” she says.
She adds that one of the hindrances women engaged in business face is the lack of spousal support, sighting that most men think that once a woman makes it, she will become disrespectful or even go in for another man.
However, the major problem facing women is the lack of support amongst fellow women. She urges women to celebrate each other and look up to successful women so as to use their strength as a ladder to also further themselves up, instead of constantly tearing each other down.