Hakiza is an entrepreneur and co-founder of UgaBus Inc, a tech-travel StartUp based in Kampala-Uganda.
By the age of nine, I was already a front runner for my grandfather, sending me back and forth to his furniture workshop to deliver instruments, logistics but most importantly money. I loved the part of delivering the workers’ wages, because it gave me the chance to see these tired men excited about their day’s pay. If working and getting paid made these men happy, then surely it would make me happy too. That is how I started to cherish the idea of working to put a smile on people’s faces and earn from it. However, to achieve this I needed freedom and entrepreneurship proved to be the only way I could be free at that young age.
In early 2016, it so happened that I had to go to Kisoro for a burial and all the buses that would get me there in time were fully booked . However, a ‘good Samaritan’ or so I thought, decided to give up his place for me but on the grounds that I buy his ticket at a higher cost. I really did not mind until the bus attendants came around asking for tickets only to be notified that I possessed a counterfeit bus ticket. I wondered, how is that even possible? I was so angry and therefore determined to go back to the bus park and look for the man but as I was describing him to people, someone told me that I was not the first and would not be the last to be conned. In fact I was assured how fake ticket transactions were the order of the day.
It then registered in my head that the problem was not with the conmen but the entire ticket and booking system. I realised I had to find a solution to this problem and that is how Ugabus was born.
UgaBus started in 2016, and by then, it was just an idea after a bad encounter with bus booking. I started with just booking tickets for myself and friends and then it became so established that I could book a ticket with just a phone call and even get a discount. However, the numbers became so many, one after the other people called to ask me to book for them because their friends said I could do it. So it hit me, this was actually a business. And my passion is business, waking up trying to solve one problem after another is fun. Therefore to know that I am building something that can be a solution, livelihood, can pay taxes, and make people happy is rewarding.
Starting out I had no idea of what to expect. I knew what I wanted to achieve, I just did not know how to achieve it. As Hakiza the CEO of Ugabus I have learnt to be more humble, organised and ambitious. I am happy when people say, Ugabus saved me or it was so convenient or it made my life better. Even when someone says I am going to use social media and tarnish your name, I am humbled because we even have a name that can be tarnished.
I have had challenges trying to connect the two generations; the older and the younger. The elderly being the bus owners with the money yet with limited tech knowledge, and the young that want services at their convenience. There is a lot of bureaucracy in just trying to meet bus owners and the clients also have demands, “change this feature, add this” which cannot be met immediately. However, my biggest challenge has been trying to create authenticity for people to trust our services. Some people also look at me as inexperienced. They say, “you don’t even know what you are doing” or “you are too small” but one does not need a PhD to know what they want to do.
So far I have travelled 207 towns by bus, Kinshasa inclusive. Travelling by bus gives me the experience of travellers, hence enabling me to have first hand ideas on how to serve better. My dream is to run a continental brand and build my career in entrepreneurship and I am on the journey otherwise with the different challenges I would have given up.
Entrepreneurship is a lonely and painful journey but it eventually pays off. So my advice to young people is, keep going. Have fun solving problems and enjoy even the small victories. For every level you reach, giving up ceases to become an option. An example is, a seven months pregnant woman can’t stop herself from being pregnant, it is already done business.
In 2017 you wouldn’t book a ticket with us and I have come to appreciate that building authenticity takes time.