Asaph Olweny decided to quit his formal job to do what he had always dreamed, and birthed Avant-Garde Distributors (U) Ltd in 2009. The enterprise is a distribution company that operates in a number of sectors including transportation, renewable energy, power and engineering – with the water sector (irrigation, solar water pumping, agricultural/construction accessories and hose pipes) as its flagship.
Avant-Garde Distributors has been in operation for 12 years and currently employs 15 people. Olweny’s ambitious character and attitude were key to starting the business. “Throughout my time in formal employment I wanted to participate in all department activities, but each attempt was a reminder that I was far from achieving my dream and that my job description echoed the fact that I was only trying to reinvent the wheel.”
A year after, resigning from his job gave Olwenyi the freedom to try out pursue his dream, and he has never looked back. “I asked my former employers if I could be an agent and they agreed. The capital I started with was on credit from them,” he narrates, adding that the beginning was tough, especially with access to finance, since most banks were not willing to extend credit to start-ups as they are deemed risky.
Lack of security at the start was a big barrier for the enterprise. However, their resilience opened up doors to their first breakthrough with a local bank that required the enterprise to form a group of five members, get security through powers of attorney in order to access the youth fund by the Ugandan government, and later the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) fund, which set a pace for them to create a good credit history with other lenders.
The enterprise contributes to the environmental conservation by encouraging efficient use of the available water sources, such as rainwater harvesting, streams, hand-dug wells and drilled boreholes, as well as by creating new water sources every year using both surface water and underground water, among others.
Olweny foresees a fully-fledged recycling plant for plastics, making the business more inclusive for people with disabilities, minorities and marginalised groups. He also hopes to build the business to last for generations and attract more customers, as their expertise and confidence will be very clear and unmatched.
The enterprise lead confirms that since they joined the UGEFA programme, his team has generally had a mindset change concerning green practices, which has led them to re-examine their products and renew the resolution to do import substitution.