Uganda Innovates

Zimba Women: An initiative to grow businesses using technology

Meet Sherifah Tumusiime, a proud techie and founder of Zimba women, a start-up tech company based in East Africa that provides technical and software solutions for Small and Medium Enterprises. At 28 years old, she has worked with over 250 women in creating tailor made solutions for business growth and launched the first annual Zimba women summit that was held on 28th – 29th September 2016 at Sheraton hotel, Kampala under the theme ”breaking business barriers”.

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Sherifah Tumusiime (second from the left), at the Zimba summit.

The inspiration for starting up Zimba women came from running her baby store. Through sharing about her business and watching other people’s businesses thrive through Facebook and other online channels, she was moved to start Zimba women. “Before Zimba I was running a baby store. It went from a physical shop to an online platform. I was sharing my experience about being online versus having a physical store and so many women came to me asking about it. Then, my co founder Peace and I kept getting these requests so we decided to formalise it and create a business out of it” she says.

Zimba women seeks to bridge the gap between SMEs and markets through implementing market access. “We are using business to build businesses. Using technology to build your businesses. Most SMEs aren’t grasping the power of technology as much as they should”.

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Zimba Women seeks to establish a business environment that provides full support to women entrepreneurs using technology. We always begin by doing a needs assessment. We work with any kind of business and with business solutions, no one size fits all. After determining the level of the business, we can prescribe the necessary tools for business growth. We determine how we can merge tech into this business so as to create a bigger reach”

Sherry’s ultimate goal is to work with one million women. “I keep saying that number and people keep saying no, but we are working with 250 women already so we shall get there”. She intends to take Zimba women into Kenya and Kigali next year and eventually throughout Africa so as to reach more entrepreneurs. “Africa is the hub of entrepreneurship. There are more entrepreneurs here than anywhere else”.

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Sherry cites the need for consumer education for people to appreciate what these services are going to bring to their businesses. “For our first year, we doing things pro bono. We needed people to appreciate it enough to pay for it”

After running her baby store in Kampala for a year, she soon realized the bounty of social media wealth through sharing and eventually took her store online, The Baby Store. “With an online shop, you lose the overheads of rent and you get bigger reach. The rent was crazy, and on top of that was many charges, taxes, licenses which causes the products to be priced highly.”

Sherry sites cheaper internet as the one policy change that would positively impact her work with Zimba women. ”The taxes levied on ISPs can be reduced…. internet is a public good that is used by everyone not just in business but in education, health. If they could implement a policy that would cause the price of data to go down, that would be good”

Sherry encourages young entrepreneurs to be patient, to put themselves out there and share but most importantly to read. “Information is key. The only way you can out compete your competitor is by out reading them”. She emphasizes the value of hard work and tenacity in starting up a business.

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