Julian Omala, widely known as “Mama’s Cheers” after the popular juice brand “Cheers” produced by her company Delight Uganda, is now planning to expand by building a new factory in the north of the country.
“When I launched my company, Delight Uganda Limited, in 1996, I didn’t know much about running a business. I started from scratch and had to overcome many challenges.
I remember walking for many kilometers, on bad roads, and working in my garden from morning to evening. One of the low points came when my trading partner ran away with all the money I had raised to buy the stock. All I have left is a cart, to take the fruit to the market, and a red dress!
I couldn’t get any banks to fund my business, because I didn’t have any collateral, so raising money for expansion was a daunting task. Like most women in Uganda, I had to rely on savings and invest my profits back into the company.
Four years later, I joined UNCTADEntrepreneur Program, which helped me develop and implement my business growth plan. The course improved my self-confidence, and I learned new skills, such as goal setting, bookkeeping, marketing, setting goals and working efficiently to achieve them. It made me realize that I am a born entrepreneur.
Over the years, I’ve kept in touch with my coaches, honing my entrepreneurial skills. I kept asking questions to help me improve my work, even on the weekends!
With my determination and the skills I learned, I grew the company so much that at one point, we had 60 percent of the juice market in Uganda, with a processing line producing 12,000 liters of fruit-flavored beverage per day. We have also diversified into other business activities, such as poultry farming, maize feed production, flour mill and bakery.
We used to concentrate the important juice, because it was difficult to get high-quality fresh fruit grown locally. But, in 2011, the company acquired 1,700 acres of land to grow fruit trees, such as mangoes, guavas, and citrus, and organized the Nwoya Fruit Growers Cooperative, which has 5,000 members, mostly (3,750) women.
Each of these women owns at least one acre of fruit orchard grown with seasonal short-term crops for income and sustainability. In one season, they can earn up to $1,850 from an acre of land. And through the Delight Farm Institute, we are creating new and decent jobs, and providing improved livelihoods for many.
New factory, new horizons
This year, we received $10 million in funding from the Ugandan government, which will allow us to build a state-of-the-art fresh juice factory, allowing us to add value to the fruits grown by local farmers, and meet the growing market demand for dried fruits, particularly mangoes.
Winning the UNCTAD award motivated me so much! I plan to create a center of excellence, where academics can share their knowledge, help us reach international standards, and export our products all over the world.
I think the reason for our success is our involvement with the community. People in northern Uganda suffered a lot during the civil war, and I believe our success will help them empower and survive.”