Success story: investment for Ugandan eco-resort Banana Village

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21 years ago, Jemimah Semakadde started an eco-resort near Entebbe in Uganda. Initially meant as affordable holiday accommodation for local travelers, today Banana Village welcomes visitors from all over the world. With the help of BiD Network, Jemimah was able to find the investment needed to further expand and improve her resort.

Banana Village was founded in 1994. “We bought the place to build a family home. However, the property is quite extensive and this brought us to the idea to start a budget accommodation to cater for our local people who could not afford the more expensive hotels, especially for their honeymoons.”

Around 2000, more and more visitors from outside Uganda and Africa started to discover Uganda and enjoyed their stay at Banana Village. Via the website and Trip Advisor, guests from all around the world find out about the resort and share their recommendations. Still staying within an affordable price range, Banana Village is able to offer a comfortable place to stay in a peaceful and natural environment: “it is what people come here for and what they enjoy most.”

What did you need the investment for?

“From the start, we have been able to reach a domino effect: as we would build one hut, it would provide us with the money to build the next one, and so on. It has been going on like that until I received the investment needed and was enabled to put a much bigger effect on the property.” Before the investment, Banana Village had 21 rooms. The loan made it possible for Jemimah to add another 9 rooms at once, reaching a total of 30 at the moment. “All that is left to do for now is the finishing touches of the new rooms and updating the existing rooms.” The ultimate goal for the resort is to have 50 rooms.

How did BiD Network support you in finding investment?

“In Uganda, it is a problem to receive funding from any organization or bank in the country as the interest rates are very high. As a result, many of us entrepreneurs lag behind as we do not have the financing to help us move forward fast enough to meet the market demand. So when I found out BiD Network is supporting (women) entrepreneurs, I got enthusiastic and hopeful. We are very grateful for the things you are doing for women around the world.”

Jemimah has now been part of our network for 3 years. With the support of BiD Network and local partner IRIS Consulting, she has been able to write and improve her business plan and to compose an attractive business proposal for investors. “It was very important for me to learn how to create a business plan that is presentable to investors.” After that, BiD Network put Banana Village up for matchmaking to an investor. However, during the process Jemimah got in contact with an interested investor herself who was able to provide her with the loan needed. “He has visited us and so actually has been on site to see what was required. He has been coming back to see the progress as well; he is closely involved with developing the business.” The investment process started in November 2014 and the loan will continue for 3 years.

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The swimming pool before and after renovations

How are you different from your competitors?

“The most notable thing is that I am on ground, I have a personal connection with my guests. When they think Banana Village, they think Jemimah.” For Jemimah, it is the reason she does not want to expand. “If I expand too much, I’m going to lose that personal touch.”

“Apart from me as a personality, it is the environment that we provide our guests: it is serene, with still a lot of trees and animals directly surrounding us. Just the sound of nature in the mornings and nights. My experience is that it is exactly that blend that people are looking for to get away from the noise of the city. Competitors are losing much of the trees and nature because of the demand they are getting.”

Banana Village is an eco-resort, meaning it takes the environment in mind. “Our buildings are wooden structures that we have covered with tropical grass, which provides consistent coolness during the day. And we try to do a lot of recycling, especially of plastic and cans and other things that do not degrade well in the ground.”

What are your plans for the coming years?

“First, we have to finish up with the buildings that are yet to be done. Not the buildings itself, but the finishing touches take quite some time. Once that is done, we have to restructure some of the building that are already in place to fit in with the environment.

What are you most proud of?

“Having the perseverance and discipline to put the money in the right place. And my biggest accomplishment would be raising the existing buildings, because they have been the same for the last 10 years and I never had the finance to do it until I found investment.”