Asha’s Story — Women Redefining Business

Asha Namugambe is an alumni of yher Africa, a program designed to support women entrepreneurs on the continent to thrive. Asha generously agreed to share her story as we ask for your help to support more women like her to succeed in business. Read on for Asha’s story, in her own words.

Asha pitching at the yher Africa accelerator bootcamp

Tell us about you — your name, where you’re from, and anything else you want to share.

My name is Asha Namugambe and I live in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Unlike most people that come to the capital for school or business and many other reasons, I was born and raised in the central part of Uganda and both my parents all were born and raised in Kampala.

What experiences have shaped you as a person?

The environment in which I grew up. I was raised in a household where my mother was a nurse. That is the most obvious example of how I got shaped into the person I am today. My mother is so passionate about community healthcare that although she retired, she is still very active in the community as a VHT(Village Health Team) member.

As a young girl, I would carry my mom’s bag everywhere while she would participate in different community activities like Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), mosquito net distributions to reduce malaria, polio vaccinations, HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis awareness, among others. I participated in these activities over the weekend and during holidays with my mother and honestly loved every bit of it.

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I am a former business student (BBA/HRM) from the prestigious Makerere University Kampala. Among many other reasons, that gave me the backbone to be courageous and start Teheca.

The challenges of getting employment in my country are very real. I graduated from University and could not find something to do apart from a few short term gigs. Every year millions of graduates come to the markets to look for employment which takes in just a few. I got desperate to find something to help my family and I imagined many other young people that were going through the same situation as me. I had to do something about it.

Through these clinics we were able to give hope to so many families and I would never trade that experience for anything in this world; it greatly played a role in the person I am today.

What were you doing before the business that led you in this direction?

I worked briefly as a sales representative for a microinsurance company after school but my biggest inspiration was working with an Non Government Organisation called Kawempe Home Care where I did my university internship, and also a place where my mother worked as a volunteer palliative care specialist, nursing people with HIV/AIDS and Cancer. Though I was placed in the finance and admin department for the most time there, my office was mostly in the community outreach clinics. It was such an honour serving there and seeing people who were near death being nursed back to life. Through these clinics we were able to give hope to so many families and I would never trade that experience for anything in this world; it greatly played a role in the person I am today.

About Your Business

Tell us about your business — what it is and what it does.

Teheca is a social enterprise whose focus is reducing the high mortality rates for mothers and infants in Sub-Saharan Africa using technology to offer pre and post birth products and services to families.

We offer in-home post birth nursing care and check ups for both mothers and babies, carried out during the first six weeks after delivery. We also have maternity and parenting products for mothers, and most importantly, the ‘mama kits’ we have designed to help mothers deliver safely and clean with all the necessary content that is needed in the right quantities according to the World Health Organisation.

What is the problem you are trying to solve with your business?

Many deaths that occur in the first six weeks in the life of a newborn are due to lack of proper structures and standards put in place to follow up on mothers after they have been discharged to go home after delivery. In Uganda, a mother is given a follow up visit appointment after six weeks of giving birth. It is during this time while they are home, many complications can arise that could result in their own death or the death of their baby because they have not been detected early.

The absence of post-delivery support in most of our public hospitals is another big contributor to maternal deaths. In my country, mothers need to carry their own items for delivery to help the midwives ease their work. That was the inspiration of our prepared ‘mama kit’ that comes with all the content mothers need to deliver well.

What inspired you to start this business?

My mother! She is a nurse that works tirelessly to serve her community. I have seen her work give so much hope to many families and I am determined to keep her flame burning in every possible way.

What difference do you hope to make with your business?

I want to deliver billions of babies healthy, save more mothers and have happy families in the end. I would also love to be a part of the people disrupting healthcare, how it is offered and breaking the stereotypes around maternal health in Africa by having more male participation.

What has been the biggest hurdle in your business journey so far?

I think the biggest challenge that I have faced is cultural beliefs and barriers. We ventured into a very new space of offering maternal health in Uganda (homecare via technology) and it is because these are activities that were originally offered by friends and family. We have to invest so much in educating our customers (mothers) about the importance of receiving post birth care from professionals (nurses) as opposed to a relative that may not be able to identify danger signs that could result in death.

I wish that I knew that it was alright to fail many times and use the lessons to be better as a person and as a business.

What/who helped you the most in getting to where you are now?

My Co-Founder Daniel Ruyonga. From the time I had the idea when we just both completed University, doing research together, to working on our business plan, investing his time to build our first company website, creating our social media platforms, him investing his salary into the business while I worked full time. I honestly did not know a lot about technology but it was his experience as a software engineer that he came to the table with. I give him all the credit and couldn’t pray for a better business partner.

What resources or knowledge do you wish you had when you first started on your business journey?

I wish that I knew that it was alright to fail many times and use the lessons to be better as a person and as a business.

I also wish that I understood the importance of talking more to customers than assuming to know what the customers want. There is no magic bullet for this; pour yourself out there and listen to them.

Why do you think it’s important for women to be in business?

In Africa women are the backbone of households, from paying for school fees to putting food on the table among many other responsibilities. Very many times they are still the biggest victims of Gender Based Violence. An economically empowered woman will be able to overcome many life challenges and with a bit of financial muscle, they can pass most of these unsafe spaces.

With more women in business, we shall have a generation of economically empowered & happier households, educated children, among many more benefits.

ygap needs your help to support more women like Lilian to thrive in business and transform their communities at the same time. Join us, and help back us to back women entrepreneurs around the world at www.ygap.org/redefine.

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ygap is an international organisation that creates positive change by making entrepreneurship more inclusive. www.ygap.org