Empty plastic bottles (waste) remains a challenge in keeping Kampala and other towns across the country clean. However, Christine Ddamba, 23, a first year student at St. Lawrence University (SLAU) is turning this waste into precious furniture; she makes different types of furniture from empty plastic bottles and paper rolls.
On average, Ddamba earns a net profit of Shs900,000 monthly from her Eco-friendly enterprise.
Ddamba’s entrepreneurial spirit showcased out of the need to win a car for the St. Lawrence University ‘Mr and Miss Job creator’ Challenge.
Organized by SLAU, the award is given to the male and female contenders who come up with best innovative business ideas.
Ddamba, who did History, Fine art and Geography (HAG) in A’ Level at Mpoma Royal College, Mukono two years ago joined SLAU in 2016 after a two-year modeling stint with one of the modeling agencies in Kampala.
She is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Art and Design.
“After A level, I did modeling but I was always cheated,” Ddamba said in an exclusive interview with Business Focus, adding that after quitting modeling she swore never again to be employed.
“When I joined the University, I found the entrepreneurship challenge and decided to participate. I made research about the previous winners and realized most of them had done recycling,” she says, adding that a paper roll from a carpet she had bought for her room was a turning point to her business idea.
“It (the paper roll) was in the corner of the room. When I looked at it, I thought of adding value to it. From it, I made a flower vase and added banana fibers on top. It looked attractive,” she reveals of how her business idea started.
She adds that she wasn’t contented with the first product, so she thought of making tables and chairs from papers and plastic bottles. In the end, she won the SLAU Miss Job creator award and walked away with a brand new car in May this year.
Today, she makes flower vases, cushions, tables, Chairs, jewelry holders and cartulary for both offices and homes.
“To make the plastic bottles and paper rolls attractive, I also add plywood, clothing (kitengi), beads, banana fiber, paint and some sponge,” Ddamba says, adding that she picks empty plastic bottles and paper rolls in town by herself or sometimes hires some youth to pick them for her.
Operating from home in Kabowa along Entebbe road, Ddamba says she doesn’t incur a lot of costs because a set of cushion that go for Shs300,000, she incurs a maximum of Shs100,000.
In a month, she reveals that she can make an average of four sets of cushions and on average, she earns a net profit of Shs900,000 from all her products.
“I normally make cushions on order,” she says, adding that her products are quite strong compared to those on the market. Ddamba largely sells her products through exhibitions.
Asked how she juggles business and studies, Ddamba says she is a day student who studies from 9am-1pm.
“The rest of the time I am researching and focusing on business,” she says.
Ddamba says apart from winning a car, she is often invited to give inspirational speeches to the youth at a fee. Through this, she says, she has been able to network with various people.
Additionally, she says she is able to take care of her personal needs.
“I am also saving in a bank,” she says, adding that she has also embarked on commercial tree planting on her father’s land in Mityana district. She says her father is a businessman and commercial farmer.
“Before getting the car, transport was a big problem” she says, adding: “Sometimes people tease me, but I have to persist.”
Ddamba is yet to formalize her business, but she intends to do so soon.
She adds that she plans to open up a show room in Kampala, employ people and widen on the market.
Advice To The Youth
“I believe everyone has got a talent. The youth should think and put their talents to better use. They should believe in themselves,” she says, adding that fear is a big challenge to many youth. She reveals that she makes all her products herself yet many would think what she is doing is ‘men’s work’.