Last week, an amount of USD 50,000 was transferred from an European business angel to Waste Masters in Uganda. The transaction was extraordinary, as to date the entrepreneur and the investor have never met each other. Based on business documentation, financial statements and trust built through various email and Skype conversations, the financial deal has been closed.
The entrepreneurial aspirations of Chrispin Lutalo, owner and founder of Waste Masters, became visible when he was following a study course to become a priest. One day, Chrispin made a decision to take a year off and to explore opportunities that would enable him to live a life without poverty. When someone approached him with the request to take care of a plot of land, he started producing vegetables and selling and distributing these door to door in the outskirts of Kampala. At a certain moment, one of his clients asked him if he would be willing to pick up her garbage in return for a payment. This is where the idea for Waste Masters emerged. Within three weeks, he had hired a lorry and started the business. Eighteen months later, Chrispin bought his own truck and the business started to grow.
Today Waste Masters is formally registered. It employs 12 staff members, who are engaged in the collection of garbage, the distribution of garbage bags, customer relations and collection of revenues. Clients pay on average around UGX 20,000 per month, and the business has almost 500 clients and picks up garbage four days a week. With the finance raised, Waste Masters will be able to buy an extra truck, allowing the business to be operational for six days a week and expand its geographical focus. In five years it aims to have 1,200 clients in the surroundings of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, and to run a landfill for garbage recycling. Chrispin continues to grow and distribute vegetables.
Chrispin finds it hard to imagine how the financial deal has come into being. For a long time, Makerere University Business School Entrepreneurship Centre encouraged Chrispin to submit his business plan to the online SME and investor platform bidnetwork.org. In those days, Chrispin was hardly active on the Internet and developed his proposition in Internet cafes. IRIS Consulting and Training and BiD Network continued to collaborate with Chrispin to structure the Waste Masters business and financial plan. He followed various training and workshop sessions on bookkeeping and preparation for finance. Last year, he was invited for the Growing SMEs Investor Marketplace in Rwanda. Around that time, Chrispin had bought a laptop, which made it easier for him to connect on a global scale. An investor from Ondernemers voor Ondernemers, the Belgian Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs network, approached him when he was ready for external finance after having discovered him through the online platform. Apart from the expansion opportunities the investor has offered Waste Masters, the process of reaching an agreement has helped Chrispin to really understand his business.
Nowadays many people approach Chrispin and ask him for advice about their business ideas. Chrispin has offered to become a voluntary business coach for the IFDC CATALIST-Uganda program that will be launched in September. He also receives questions on how Waste Masters has managed to grow. If you would have asked him some years ago about his view on garbage as a business model, Chrispin would have never considered this option. Now he knows this is possible through commitment, good management and resilience. If you have understood this and are running the business accordingly, raising finance will not be the problem, he says.