Posted by Flavia Serugo

Grace Nanyonga Mugisha was born on 8th October 1984 to the Late Anna Maria Nakisozi and Joseph Kazibwe . She is the second child out of seven and grew up in the outskirts of Banda Kireka. Orphaned at the age of twelve, Grace was left with the responsibility of taking care of her siblings after relatives sold off their property. To fend for the family, she did roast maize and later used the capital to start selling chicken on a sigiri (Local Stove) which earned her a name Chicken by her peers. She has travelled all over the world telling her story and motivating youth and women in entrepreneurship. Currently She is a Rotarian and Inspirational President of the Rotary Club of Mukono Central

The Wave magazine reporter reached out to Grace and below are excerpts of the Interview.

Wave: Who is Grace? Tell us more about your background.

Answer. My name is Grace Nanyonga Mugisha, mother of three and I am the current President of the Rotary Club of Mukono Central. I am the founder and CEO of Grana Fish supplies Ltd and we deal and supply smoked fish. We smoke, season it and make it ready for eating. This started way back when I was still a child. I started by roasting chicken at the road side in Mbuya Kinawataka and the children nicknamed me Chicken during my Primary Seven vacation near my school;

Today my peers are very proud of me. They don’t call me chicken anymore. I am now called the Fish girl because of my business.

Wave. How did you mix school and business?

Answer: I used to work at my location after 5pm. Life wasn’t that easy but that was my only way out to fend for myself and the rest of my siblings. My stall was popular because I welcomed every customer with a smile. I recall one day when I made a huge profit when Lucky Dube visited Uganda and performed at Namboole. I earned Shs. 60,000 profit in a day and I was able to clear a half of my school fees

Wave: What is your turning point and fondest memory as a child?

Answer: - One day there was a 3- day seminar organized by Youth Alive at our school Our Lady of Consolata in Mbuya and the theme was How can you make it in life. When they asked a question on how can you become popular everyone screamed Chicken because I was known in the whole school for roasting chicken. I was a prefect in charge of the trainers’ welfare but they did not know why the children kept on chanting Chicken. Eventually I told them that the chicken noise in the seminar was about me and my business. The training team contacted journalists who came to interview me at my place of work and wrote a story about me. I featured on the Lifestyle pages of the Daily Monitor Newspaper. My story touched thousands of people. And that’s how I got the attention of Mrs. Ruth Kavuma, then headmistress of Gayaza High who took me in as her child and has seen me through to where I am today.

Through her connections she got me a place in a boarding school at Our Lady for Good counsel in Gayaza and because she was Chairperson of Forum for African Women(FAWE), I was a beneficiary of a bursary from senior three to Senior Six. From the school supplies and pocket money I received I was able to reserve some money with my siblings even when I was away.

Wave: So how does Fish Come in?

Answer: During my S6 vacation I asked my mum who was now a member of Parliament to help me find some internship jobs at parliament. She told me how hard it was getting jobs especially at S6 level but encouraged me to try out something I was passionate about (specialized roaster). She told me she would introduce me to Ssese islands to train on smoking fish with value added and then sell to her friends. She introduced me to a friend, Reverend Ddambya who taught me how to bargain and source for the best fish. I also sold fish to her friends in parliament, and Rotarians. After just six months I had raised my tuition fees for Campus where I did a diploma in Archives and Records Management and later I upgraded to a Bachelors of Library and Information Sciences. While at University I was the Publicity secretary of my faculty.

Wave: -And what do you attribute your success to?

Answer: - I attribute my success to m mentore especially my y Mum, Rotarian Ruth Kavuma who always encouraged me to work harder and do my best. My other mentors like Dr. Maggie Kigozi former executive Director of Uganda Investment Authority also encouraged me to seek out for opportunities within the business community

Besides that, I used to volunteer with Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited(UWEAL) in the villages training women to market their small businesses. That opened more opportunities for me because sooner I got an invitation from the Commonwealth Secretariat in the UK in 2007 to present as a young entrepreneur at the conference held at Speke resort Munyonyo. From then on, I have I attended several conferences including Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Newyork as a youth entrepreneur. I was privileged to have been coached by one of the TedEx people, and have met great people like Bill gates, Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama. I also got an invitation to visit the White House in Washington DC

Wave: - Any challenges faced in your business? And How did you overcome them?

Answer: - Like all businesses I encountered some challenges. When I was coming from Sesse Islands I was using a taxi and the whole box of fish fell and smashed to pieces. I lost all my capital and closed. However, I looked for a job and worked for an organization called, THETA (An NGO strengthening collaboration between the traditional and biomedical health care systems). I worked in their resource center and doubled as an advocacy officer. I got my capital from there to restart the fish business. I also lost a lot of money when Nakumatt chain of store closed shop but life goes on but slowly I am recovering.

Wave. And how are you inspiring others?

Answer: I employ three permanent employees and over 20 casual employees in Mukono. I have mentored several women groups both in Kalangala and Mukono and supported them to start a business through smoking fish. Currently I am mentoring Jinja based Rotary Vijana poa youth in tea packaging and branding. I have also been invited to many clubs as a guest speaker especially in the month of the youth services. During my year as president, I will focus on Maternal and child health and as a club we shall equip the facilities with hospital beds.

Through my story, I have been able to touch and inspire people and giving hope to the hopeless. and transformed thousands of youth and women in business. I intend to further share my story as a mother, wife, young entrepreneur and a Rotarian transforming lives in our communities and being an inspiration to others.

 

Grace smoking her fish

President Grace at her installation